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Vicenza is a city located in the Veneto region of Northeast Italy. Although it is often overlooked in favor of its big sisters, Verona and Venice, Vicenza is well-worth a visit if you’re in the region. I may be biased since I lived here for a year, but even UNESCO deemed it very special – in 1994 the city (and its surrounding villas) was included on the UNESCO World Heritage Site list. There are plenty of things to do in Vicenza if you’re visiting for a few days.
The city’s main claim to fame is as ‘The City of Palladio,’ renowned architect Andrea Palladio. Palladio was born in nearby Padua, however, moved to Vicenza where he lived most of his life. Vicenza is home to twenty-three of Palladio’s works, which primarily included villas and churches. Palladio’s works were built during the 16th century.
The city is also responsible for ⅕ of the country’s gold and jewelry production, giving it a cosmopolitan flair.
Table of contents
- teatro olimpico
- garden teatro olimpico
- basilica palladiana
- la rotonda
- villa valmarana ai nani
- corso andrea palladio
- chiesa di santa corona
- la scalette
- santuario di monte berico
- parco querini
- vicenza cathedral
- piazza dei signori
- torre bissara
- ponte san michele
- jewelry museum
- vicenza museo civico
- palazzo chiericate
- gallerie di palazzo leoni montanari
- baccalà alla vicentina
- archaeological museum
- basilica dei santi felice e fortunato
- pin it!
Teatro Olimpico is the final work of Andrea Palladio, and perhaps one of his most influential. At the time of its construction, most performances were taking place at temporary theatres set up outdoors. Teatro Olimpico is among the first in the world to have an indoor, permanent structure. The first production here was the performance of Oedipus Rex.
If you are looking through the archway, you’ll see trompe l’oeil paintings that were designed to look like the streets of Thebes. There weren’t many performances in the theatre initially. Today, you can tour the inside, though performances are a rarity.
garden teatro olimpico
The gardens outside of Teatro Olimpico are nothing short of breathtaking. Gorgeous ivy-covered buildings surround the perimeter of the gardens and courtyard. With ancient statues lining a gravel path and benches tucked away for people-watchers, it makes for a perfect opportunity to sit back, relax, and take in the moment.
Basilica Palladiana is a Renaissance building in the center of Vicenza built by Andrea Palladio. The building features one of the first examples of Palladio’s original architectural concept which came to be known as the ‘Palladian Window’. Today, the city hosts events and exhibits at the Basilica Palladiana.
La Rotonda is a Renaissance villa just outside Vicenza’s city center. The villa is also one of Palladio’s masterpieces, and among his most popular. A former Vatican priest, Paolo Almerico, commissioned the building upon his return to his hometown of Vicenza. The villa (or, more aptly named palazzo) is situated upon a hill and was designed in a way to provide the most light to each room, with each façade facing a cardinal point.
villa valmarana ai nani
Villa Valmarana ai Nani is a set of three large buildings surrounded by rose gardens. The earliest building was built in the late 15th century, the newer two less than one hundred years later. The interior of the buildings are adorned in ornate frescoes by Giambattista and Giandomenico Tiepolo. The theme of the frescoes are all inspired by the favorite books of the son of Giustino Valmarana, commissioner of the villa.
Although the building was erected after his death, there is a large portrait in the villa that features Palladio.
corso andrea palladio
The Corso Andrea Palladio traverses the city center from Teatro Olimpico to Piazza Castello at the city gate. Along the street you’ll see two palaces from Andrea Palladio, to the town hall of Vicenza, down to Piazza Matteotti. From here, you can see Teatro Olimpico and Palazzo Chiericati. Along the street are shops, cafes and restaurants, and the livelihood of the city.
chiesa di santa corona
Santa Corona is a Gothic-style Roman Catholic church in Vicenza. It was the original burial site of Andrea Palladio, but its more interesting claim to fame is that it houses a thorn from the crown of thorns that Jesus was forced to wear. Louis IX of France gave the thorn to Bishop Bartolomeo di Breganze as a gift.
Le scalette (‘the stairs’) are situated underneath a famous archway erected by Palladio. The set of 192 stairs are one of the routes that reach Monte Berico. They are used by Caserma Ederle soldiers as a workout – running up and down the stairs fully-adorned in paratrooper gear! I tried this once – in regular gym clothes – 0/10, do not recommend, but still a unique experience to have in Italy.
santuario di monte berico
After the arduous trek up le scalette, you’ll reach the sanctuary of the Madonna di Monte Berico, located high on a hill that offers sweeping views of the city. In the 15th century, many people in Veneto were greatly suffering from a terrible plague. Allegedly, the Madonna promised the people that she would rid them of the plague if they built a church on top of Monte Berico. Three months later, the people finished the church.
In front of the sanctuary is a small park and Piazzele della Vittoria, where you can take in the views. You can see everything from the foothills of the Dolomites to the Venetian Lagoon, along with many other sites in the Veneto.
Parco Querini is surrounded by the banks of the Bacchiglione river and the expanse of Venetian walls that run the length of Viale Rodolfi. Inside, there is a tree-lined avenue adorned with statues, a small pond surrounding an islet with a small temple, and a fairy-tale like grove. Parco Querini makes for the perfect thing to do in Vicenza if you’re needing some green space and a reprieve from the activities in the city center.
Vicenza Cathedral is a Roman Catholic cathedral that is the seat of the Bishop of Vicenza. Construction began in the late 15th century, and was completed a century later. Andrea Palladio designed its iconic cupola. The building has undergone extensive renovations since all that remained after the bombing of WWII was the original façade.
piazza dei signori
Piazza dei Signori is the main square in Vicenza, and the perfect place for people-watching or enjoying an evening cocktail. Here, you can admire the greatest concentration of Palladio’s work, including the Basilica Palladiana. There are a number of restaurants and cafes with outdoor seating, perfect for a summer evening.
Torre Bissara is a large civic tower in Piazza dei Signori, and one of the tallest buildings in Vicenza at 82 meters high. It dates back to the 12th century, though it was hit in an Anglo-American bombing in 1945. It has since been restored and rebuilt. Its stonework tells the history of Vicenza, and at the top of the tower is a headless statue of the goddess Athena.
ponte san michele
For a picturesque view in a peaceful area of Vicenza, head to the Ponte San Michele. It is located at the south end of Vicenza, near to the Basilica. Be sure to check it out at night as well, when the lights are on and their reflection sparkles in the river water below.
The Jewelry Museum is definitely worthy of a spot on your agenda. Given the city’s status as top gold producer and jewelry manufacturing city in Italy, it’s one of the best things to do in Vicenza. The museum has nine rooms that display jewelry from everywhere – large fashion houses, small goldsmiths, local jewelers in the area, etc. You will learn a lot about the creative process, craftsmanship, and artistic experimentation as you peruse the different exhibits on display.
vicenza museo civico
Museo Civico is an art museum that houses over 35,000 paintings, sculptures, graphics, and other artistic endeavors. There are works that date all the way back to the Middle Ages. You can find some truly breathtaking works of the great masters of Venetian painting, such as Bassano and Veronese. Additionally, famed sculptures of Sansovino and the rock crystals of Valerio Belli. If you’re an art buff, the Museo Civico is a must-add item to your list of things to do in Vicenza.
Palazzo Chiericati is another of Palladio’s architectural gems in the city. The building dates back to the mid 16th century, when Palladio initially started designs, but wasn’t completed until the end of the 17th century. The City of Vicenza obtained it in the mid-19th century, with the intentions of housing an epic art collection. A few years later was the inauguration of the Museo Civico.
gallerie di palazzo leoni montanari
Here is an example of a museum whose building is as beautiful as the art on display. Palazzo Leoni Montanari displays three important art collections – Attic and Magna Graecia Ceramics, Russian icons, and Venetian art from the 18th century. There are also temporary, rotating exhibits displayed.
baccalà alla vicentina
Vicenza’s claim to fame on the foodie scene is Baccalà alla Vicentina, a traditional Italian dish from Vicenza. Its main ingredients are cod, milk, onions, and anchovies. It’s got an unusually sweet flavor (for a fish dish) due to the milk sugars. I’m not usually one for dishes made with stockfish, but this is a must-try if you’re visiting Vicenza.
One of my favorite museums in Vicenza, the Archaeological Museum is separated into two sections – Naturalistic and Archaeological.
The Naturalistic exhibits depict different characteristics of the territory, particularly the Berici hills. Here, you can learn about plants and wildlife that are endemic to the area.
The Archaeological section displays relics, tools, and fossils found in the area dating back to prehistoric times.
basilica dei santi felice e fortunato
This little church is slightly out of the way, but has stunning interior architecture and mosaics dating back to the 4th century – certainly one of the more interesting things to do in Vicenza. Make sure you visit in the morning as it closes around noon each day.