I love travelling with himself. We do stuff together, but we also do our own thing. I went to the beach one day and he went to Vicenza. This is what he found.
On our recent trip to Northern Italy, on a day when the rest of our party opted to go to the beach, I took a short train ride to see first-hand some of the architectural masterpieces by Renaissance architect, Andrea Palladio.
Vicenza is a city in the Veneto region of northeast Italy. It’s known for the elegant buildings designed by the 16th-century architect Andrea Palladio. These include the Palladian Basilica and the Palazzo Chiericati, now home to an art gallery. Nearby, also by Palladio, the Teatro Olimpico replicates a classic outdoor theatre, indoors. (Wikipedia)
I first became aware of Palladian architecture when I lived for several years near the Casino Marino in Dublin. It’s a small villa designed by Sir William Chambers in the late eighteenth century as a pleasure house for James Caulfeild, 1st Earl of Charlemont. I did the tour and learned that Chambers and Caufeild were both influenced by the architect Andrea Palladio, who lived and worked in and around Vicenza in the sixteenth century. I learned that this neo-classical style influenced the design of many country houses in Ireland built for the aristocracy during the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, including Castletown House, Russborough House, as well as other buildings such as the Bank of Ireland building on College Green – formerly the Irish Parliament – and the Customs House in Dublin. Palladio’s influence can also be seen in buildings and great houses right across Great Britain and the rest of Europe.
From the train station, it’s a short walk through a park to get to one of the old city gates and the tower next to it, the Torrione di Porta Castello. And with no plan, I walked right by the Giardino Salvi, with its pond overlooked by a terrace of Palladian columns. The first ‘next time’ of many things I missed.
The Cattedrale di Santa Maria Annunciata (Cathedral of St Mary of the Annunciation), built in the 1500s, has a Gothic facade, and a dome by Palladio.
Only the facade survived the bombing during World War II; the rest of the building has been reconstructed.
Walking through Vicenza was noticeably quieter than nearby Verona. But that made wandering the ancient streets more pleasant.
After stopping a few times for a coffees and snacks I arrived at Piazza Matteotti, where the Palazzo Chiericati and Teatro Olimpico and the tourist information office are located. What I didn’t know when I started the day I now highly recommend if you are visiting Vicenza. Get yourself to the Tourist Information Office and purchase their 4 Museums Card, €15 when I visited. From the Vicenza tourist website:
The 4 Museums Card is valid for 8 days from the day of issue and grants access to 4 sites of your choosing from the ones included in the museum network.
You can buy the cards in the following offices: Tourist information office IAT (next to the entrance of the Teatro Olimpico) – Gallerie d’Italia Palazzo Leoni Montanari – Palladio Museum – Diocesan Musem – Jewellery Museum – Basilica Palladiana.
The museums are always closed on Monday.
I only managed two venues with the time I had left, but the the ticket was well worth it. First up was Teatro Olimpico, Palladio’s last design. Unfortunately Palladio died six months into the construction of the theatre, and it was completed by his son, Silla, and another famous architect, Vincenzo Scamozzi. They both followed Palladio’s original design, but Scamozzi was responsible for the remarkable set design. It’s hard to describe. The view through three portals looks down three long streets lined with Renaissance era buildings. It is truly amazing. The Teatro is a must see if ever in Vicenza.
Palazzo Chiericati was the second place I visited with my ticket. Palladio was asked to design and build the palazzo by Count Girolamo Chiericati. The building of the palace began in 1550, but wasn’t finished in Palladio’s lifetime. Final work on it was only completed in 1680. It currently houses the city’s art gallery. I love visiting art galleries, and spent several hours exploring the building and viewing the extensive collection.
Leaving the Palazzo, it was time to start heading back to the train station. As I walked back through Piazza dei Signore and past the Paladian Basilica they were setting up for a concert to be held the following evening.
Vicenza may not be as popular with tourists in this part of the world as nearby Verona, Venice, or Padua, but it is very much worth visiting if you get a chance. I know I missed a lot and hope to have opportunity to go back.
And if you happen to be traveling with children you might want to note that there is an interesting looking amusement park between the city gate and the train station.