In the beginning of my trip to Italy, Vicenza was another gorgeous destination we traveled to on the numerous day trips we took from Padua. The family I was staying with decided to take a tour with another family so I got to not only experience the city, but also connect with more locals who even had a daughter my age. Luckily, they had an Australian exchange student so they could converse in English, which was much smoother than my broken Italian. They also travel a lot and had great experiences touring parts of the United States.
Before we took our tour, we parked our car (luckily, Vicenza has lots of accessible parking!) and grabbed a bite to eat. I had margarita pizza, which is a definite must in Italy and even got to try a bit of cod, which is certainly not my favorite.
I feel like this a good time to note the significance of dinner in Italian culture. Here in the United States, many households don’t view dinner as an important part of their day, but in Italy I was amazed by the deep connection and social aspect of dinner. There, dinner can last four hours and becomes a time to relate and discuss and grow true human relationships. I absolutely loved it, even though it could be time consuming. Not to mention, the food is superb.
Anyway, back to Vicenza. If you are at all interested in architecture, Vicenza is the place to go. In fact, Andrea Palladio, who was born in Padua during the early sixteenth century and is considered one of the most influential architects of the western world, designed a very large part of the city. He is the one responsible for using the design of the iconic white pillars for in front of many government buildings- including our government. A large part of our tour was centered around this part of history and we were able to see many of his works.
Some of the most impressive sights we saw on our tour and others we did not. However, Luca, our guide, was very helpful in telling us the history of Vicenza in depth. Here’s a list of the main sights and their history:
- Teatro Olimpico: this was the first indoor theater of Europe and was constructed by Palladio himself, which opened in the 1500s with its debut being Oedipus the King by Sophocles. Today, it is still in use (even though it can only hold 400 people) and is known as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Unfortunately, Palladio never saw it finished, but his son continued it for him. The architecture is amazing and this site was the start of our tour. You can purchase a ticket to see it for eight euros, which also allows you into the civics museums.
- Basilica Palladiana: another work by Palladio, this building rests in the Piazza Dei Signori, the main plaza of Vicenza. This building also contains the Torre Bissara, the large clocktower that looms over the square. The exterior arches are beautiful, but also make sure to check out the ceilings as well!
- Corso Palladio: this street runs straight through the town and highlights many of Palladio’s works, including Teatro Olimpico and many of his palaces. Today, there are lots of shops in the remaining buildings, but his architectural work is still there. There are a few cafés nearby that are great for tasting Italian espresso or hot chocolate, which is much richer and tastier than the ones we have here.
- La Colonna di Galeazzo da Roma: this is random, but there is a little engraving at the end of Corso Palladio that reads:
“QUESTO E’ IL LUOGO DOVE ERA LA CASA DEL SCELERATISSIMO GALEAZZO DA ROMA , IL QUAL CUM ISEPPO ALMERCIO ET ALTRI SUI COMPLICI COMMISSERO ATROCISSIMI HOMICIDII IN QUESTA CITA’ . DELLO ANNO MDXLVIII DI III DI LUGLIO.”La Colonna di Galeazzo
This memorial commemorates a dramatic event that happened in mid-sixteenth century, which were the murders of the Valmarana family. According to history (or legend), the sister of a wealthy man, Galeazzo da Roma, Isabetta, loved one of the Valmarana brothers who was named Alberto and refused to marry her, since he didn’t love her back. In anger, Galeazzo came in the home during midday with Leonardo da Roma and Issepo Almerico, and killed Alberto, two of his brothers, and two servants who came to Alberto’s assistance. Galeazzo also relocated and killed a friend of the Valmaranas. Afterwards, he fled to Como, where he could become noble. It is suspected that Leonardo committed more murders and became almost a serial killer, but there isn’t foolproof history to support it. Almerico was the only one who faced criminal charges and was soon hanged in Florence. The sign now hangs below the house of the Valmaranas, which is now part of a bookstore.
Overall, Vicenza is a fantastic place to get a glimpse of Western architecture without the massive crowds of Venice or Rome. I wish we spent more time here because the atmosphere is phenomenal and I thoroughly enjoyed our tour and exploring independently. There are just so many great places to eat and shop, making for a more true Italian culture away from all the tourist attractions. I would totally suggest visiting here on your trip to Venice, Verona, or anywhere in the Veneto region!