Vicenza in half day

This is an excerpt from the book “Venice and the Veneto

Villa Capra “La Rotonda” – Photo © Giav
Villa Capra “La Rotonda” – Photo © Giav

VICENZA, which after evolving historically in much the same way as Verona, blossomed anew under Venice (from 1404). While Verona has a largely medieval aspect, Vicenza appears as a distinctly Renaissance town, mostly due to the efforts of its most important son, Andrea Palladio.

We enter the city, pass the Salvi Gardens (be beyond the gardens, the Loggia Valmarana and the Loggia dei Longhena), through the turreted Ports Castello and find ourselves in Corso Palladio, a fine street cutting Vicenza from one end to the other.

To the left is the Palazzo Bonin (formerly Thiene), designed by Scamozzi; across the way, Palazzo Bizzarri-Malvezzi. Turning left into Corso Fogazzaro, we come to the Franciscan Romanesque-Gothic church of S. Lorenzo, with an interesting doorway and a well-lit interior, its various chapels adorned with ancient frescoes and tombs of San Biagio illustrious citizens.

Following Contra Pedemuro-San Biagio we arrive in Contra Porti, with its magnificent palaces: to the right the Gothic Casa Porto-Scaroni and Palazzo Biego now Porto Festa (1552) designed by Palladio (Inside, frescoes by Tiepolo), and the Venetian-Gothic Palazzo Colleoni-Porto; to the left, Casa Trissino, now Sperotti, restored after air-raid damage in World War II the most beautiful Gothic palace in the town, and the Renaissance palace, Casa Porto, rebuilt after air-raid damage.

Then to the right again, comes Palazzo Thiene, with its terracotta doorway. After this introduction to the architecture of Vicenza, we come into the extraordinary Piazza dei Signori with the famous Basilica, designed by Palladio (1549), the charming Loggia dei Capitanio, also by Palladio, and the long Lombard palace of the Monte di Pieta’, which incorporates the Baroque facade of S. Vincenzo.

Palazzo Thiene – Photo © machilin
Palazzo Thiene – Photo © machilin

Two columns support, in the Venetian manner, one a statue of the Saint and the other the Lion of St. Mark, emblem of the Venetian Republic. Passing along one side of the Basilica, we come to Piazza delle Erbe. with its medieval Tower, and then, to Piazza delle Biade, with the Gothic church of S. Maria dei Servi.

We come back and turn right up Corso Palladio (to the left, on the corner is the Gothic Palazzo da Schio) and into Contra Santa Corona, with the Romanesque church of Santa Corona, of brick with an imposing marble doorway. Inside, we see a Baptism of Christ by Giovanni Bellini, an Adoration of the Magi by Veronese and the magnificent Valmarana Chapel by Palladio.

After a short walk we come to two of Palladio’s most inspired creations, in the square at the far end of the Corso- The first of these is the Teatro Olimpico, which he began shortly before his death and which was complete roofed by Scamozzi (1583), and which is the first theatre of modern times; and the second is the Palazzo Chiericati (1550), containing the two principal collections of the city: the important Archaeological Collection (with a magnificent Bacchus, of the school of Praxiteles) and the Art Gallery, which contains, besides a fine collection of works by local painters (Montagna, Buonconsigli, Mattei, etc.), some important canvases by Cima da Conegliano, Lotto, Veronese, Bassano, Tintoretto, Van Dyck, the wonderful Diana by Pittoni, pictures by Tiepolo (the lmmacolata) and Piazzetta, and a Flemish masterpiece: Calvary by Hans Memling.

By way of Via J. Cabianea, we reach Palazzo Godi, designed by Scamozzi (1569), and, from here, the Casa Pigafetta, a magnificent example of florid Gothic architecture, where the famous navigator was born. We then continue down to the Piazaz del Duomo, to the Gothic Cathedral with a dome by Palladio (inside, a Polyptych by L. Veneziano) and to the courtyard of the Bishop’s Palace, with its elegant Renaissance Loggia.

Leaving the city, we now climb the hill upon which stands the Basilica di Monte Berice, in order to admire, in the Refectory, a masterpiece by Veronese: The Banquet of Gregory the Great (1572). Leaving Monte Barico, and turning right, after some 500 yards., we come to the 17th century Villa Valmarana where Tiepolo painted (1757) what is one of the most important series of frescoes of the 18th century. Nearby is the Rotondo, Palladio’s most beautiful villa, which has been the model for hundreds of neoclassical buildings in France, England and America.
Itinerary courtesy of ENIT

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