Vicenza, in northern Italy’s Veneto region, is known for Renaissance architect Andrea Palladio who designed 23 of the buildings in town. The Palladian architecture gives the city UNESCO World Heritage status. Palladio designed San Giorgio Maggiore Church in Venice and several Palladian villas can be seen in the countryside between Vicenza and Venice also.
What to See in Vicenza
Vicenza’s small historic center is partially enclosed by its medieval walls. Enter the center through the gate by Piazza Castello where you can see a castle tower. You’ll be on the main street, Corso Andrea Palladio. Note that Vicenza’s monuments and museums are closed on Mondays
Start your visit at the Palladio Museum in Palazzo Barbaran da Porto for an introduction to Palladio’s architecture. It’s usually open Tuesday through Sunday, 10:00 to 18:00 but check the web site for updated hours. Ask for a map showing the sites of Palladio’s architecture, most of which can only be seen from the outside.
The city’s top sight is the Basilica Palladiana, considered to be Palladio’s masterpiece. In 1549 Palladio redesigned the 15th century Palazzo della Ragione, town hall, adding the impressive loggia with its classical marble columns based on ancient Roman architecture. Special exhibits are held inside. Head to the rooftop terrace, where there’s a bar open in the evening, for great views of the city. The Basilica is on Piazza dei Signori, the main square which was once the Roman Forum, and is open from late April through the end of October.
The Olympic Theater, completed in 1585 after Palladio’s death, was the last building designed by Palladio. It’s usually open to visitors all day except on Monday.
Palladio designed the dome and a side door of the Cathedral which contains a number of art works by artists from Vicenza. Several important art works can be seen in the Church of Santa Corona, built in 1261 to house the relic of the Holy Thorn. In the crypt is a chapel designed by Palladio.
Also in the city are the Natural History and Archaeological Museum, the Civic Art Gallery of Palazzo Chiericati, and the Museum of the Risorgimento and Resistance.
For a tour of 4 nearby towns and a Palladian Villa, take the full day guided excursion, Off the Beaten Path in Veneto, that includes transportation to and from Vicenza.
Where to Eat and Stay
At Gastronomia Il Ceppo, Corso Andrea Palladio 196, you can have a very good lunch in the wine cellar below the gourmet deli (closed Mondays). Part of the excavations below the cellar are visible through a window in the floor. Across from the Basilica Palladiana in Piazza dei Signori is a nice bar where you can sit on one of the small balconies to admire the Basilica.
These well-rated hotels are in or near the historic center of Vicenza:
- Antico Hotel Vicenza is by the Basilica Palladiana and has a terrace with city views.
- Campo Marzio, Vicenza is a 4-star hotel just outside the historic center on Viale Roma, the main street leading into town from the railway station, a 5-minute walk from Basilica Palladiana.
- Le Dimore del Conte, Vicenza, close to the cathedral and Basilica Palladiana, has 7 apartments with kitchen.
Vicenza can easily be visited as a day trip from Padua (or Padova), a city known for the Basilica of Saint Anthony of Padua, its old university and medical school, and Giottoâ€™s fresco cycle inside the Scrovegni Chapel. Padua makes a great base for visiting the area. More: Vicenza and Padua 48 Hour Itinerary.
How to Get to Vicenza
Vicenza, a good stop on the rail line between Venice and Milan can be reached by train from Padova (a 15 minute train ride), Verona, or Venice. From the train station it’s a short walk up Via Roma to the Salvi Garden, then take a right to Piazza del Castello, the beginning of the historic center. Book train tickets on Rail Europe in US dollars.
If you’re arriving by car, you’ll have to park in a lot outside the historic center which is a limited traffic zone. Parking Matteotti, in piazza Matteotti, is just outside the center.
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