What to see in Vicenza Italy: 5 striking examples of Palladian architecture
Along with the excellent food, wine and weather, a visit to Italy is also a treat for the architectural senses. And one such place where you’ll find all 3 is the northern Italy city of Vicenza. From Renaissance to Palladian architecture, your eyes will marvel at the intricate detailing and overall magnitude.
For anyone wanting to see the best architectural sights in Italy, heading to Rome or Florence is a safe bet. However, there are many other places — and lesser known — that deserve a look-in. Vicenza is a small, yet place of architectural importance in the region of Veneto. Weather in Vicenza tends to adhere to season, and though it gets cold in winter, it also has long summers. It’s lesser known than neighboring Venice, but what it lacks in reputation, it makes up for in architectural delights.
What to see in Vicenza
Vicenza’s famous resident – Andrea Palladio
If you’ve never heard of Andrea Palladio, you’re not alone. He was one of Italy’s most prominent architects, and one of the most influential individuals in the history of architecture. So prolific is Palladio’s legacy, that he also has a style of architecture named after him — Palladian. Today in Vicenza, it’s not uncommon to see students from around the world visiting the city to study his masterpieces.
Palladio was born in nearby Padua in 1508, but spent the majority of his life, and work, in Vicenza. While he started his career as a stonemason, he would become the most sought-after architect in Vicenza and Venice.
Basilica Palladiana – top sights to see in Vicenza
The Basilica Palladiana is probably the most popular Palladio creation. It’s in the heart of the historic center, where you’ll also find some of the best pasticceria and bars.
This Renaissance building is also one of Palladio’s most notable works. Its most famous feature is the loggia, which shows off his architectural talent in the form of the Venetian window. A loggia’s an architectural feature that refers to a covered exterior corridor or gallery. Arches or columns support the loggia feature.
The building was formerly known as the Palazzo della Ragione, and was also the former seat of government. On the lower level were shops, which today still houses jewellery stores. To the side of the Basilica is the Torre della Bissara. This 82m tower actually preceded the Basilica, but is a notable feature in the Piazza dei Signori.
“Teatro Olimpico…holds the title of the oldest surviving stage set.”
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Teatro Olimpico in Vicenza – what to see in Vicenza
The Teatro Olimpico is a must-see sight in Vicenza. It was also Palladio’s last project before he died in 1580, after which his son Silla took the lead. The theater’s based on the model of a building that Palladio had admired for a long time: the Roman theater. Teatro Olimpico was also the first closed theater of its time. To this day, it still holds the title of the oldest surviving stage set.
Vincenzo Scamozzi designed the stunning set with its optical illusion. It consists of 5 wood and plaster streets, which the audience can view through the central arch. There are also 2 architraves that give the audience an in-depth look into the city of Thebes.
However, there’s one aspect of the theater that isn’t true to Palladio’s vision. Its circular roof is painted with a faux sky to give the illusion of an open-air classical theater. It’s unsure whether Palladio would’ve approved this change that was made during the last century.
Top sights to see in Vicenza – Palazzo Chiericati
Many experts consider Palazzo Chiericati to be one of Palladio’s greatest masterpieces.
Nobleman Girolamo Chiericati commissioned Palladio to design the palace. Today, it’s the Civic Art Gallery of Palazzo Chiericati, and is also home to paintings, sculptures, drawings and prints. Palladio created a building with an arcaded façade that also embodies the features of a villa. Palladio was probably inspired by the seaside villas, modelling it on the classical port.
Inside is a central entrance hall, 2 groups of rooms each with a spiral staircase, and grand steps leading to the courtyard. The rooms are also works of art in itself. Sculptor Bartolomeo Ridolfi created the stucco ceilings in one room, while painter Brusasorzi designed the frescoes.
What to see in Vicenza – La Rotonda
Just on the outskirts of the city center is the beautiful Villa Almerico-Capra, also known as La Rotonda. Palladio designed this home for noble priest, Paolo Almerico. The priest requested a building that would amaze and astound the city’s citizens, and Palladio delivered.
Sitting on a green hill, the cube-shaped villa has a circular living area in the center. In fact, the name La Rotonda also derives from this central and circular feature.
One of the most beautiful aspects here is the head of a faun collecting rain water. Palladio designed this to signify the harmony of the sky above, entwined with the circular center, and the earth.
In every room, the doors are precisely on an axis with the windows. This means it’s always possible to view the countryside around the villa. In essence, the building’s perfect symmetry is a prime example of absolute classical beauty.
When walking around the city of Vicenza, you’ll also be able to spot many other buildings in Palladian style. Take a walk down Via Palladio, and look above to see the shop signs.
“Experts consider Palazzo Chiericati as one of Palladio’s greatest masterpieces.”
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You’ll also see buildings following the classic Palladian style, and some not so great reconstructions too.
Villa Pisani-Bonetti – what to see in Vicenza
Palladio designed Villa Pisani-Bonetti for the Pisani — a rich Venetian noble family. Its construction took place between 1542 and 1545. Giovanni Pisani wanted a villa that not only reflected the family’s wealth and status, but also served for farming purposes.
The villa was designed with arcaded service wings (known as barchesse) and a walled and porticoed courtyard. Head to the side facing the river Guà, and you’ll find a 3-arch loggia decorated with wide Doric columns. Above the loggia is the Pisani coat of arms, and below, a semi-circle set of steps leading to the atrium.
Villa Pisani-Bonetti is located in Lonigo, which is in the province of Vicenza, and not the historic center. The best way to visit the villa is by car, with a journey time of around 30 minutes.
What’s more, you also have the opportunity to sleep at the historical Villa Pisani if you wish. The Barchessa di Villa Pisani is a 4-star hotel, converted from its former purpose as a farm building. On site is also the hotel’s restaurant, Osteria del Guà, which is open to the public as well as hotel guests.
Have you seen any of Palladio’s works in Vicenza or around Italy? Let me know in the comments section below. Till next time, happy and safe travels.
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