One of the most charming and therefore most popular itineraries, is, without any doubt, the old town, on the path of the numerous monuments the famous architect Andrea Palladio (1508 – 1580) designed for Vicenza.
The aim of the tour is to illustrate the history of Vicenza through its art, especially the masterpieces of Palladio, undoubtedly one of the greatest architects of the Renaissance, emphasizing the evolution of Vicenza’s town planning, in particular from the XV to the XVI centuries.
At his death, Palladio left a completely different town compared to the one he found when he arrived in Vicenza, in his youth.
The tour, except in the case of particular requests (for example exhibitions, etc…) lasts no more than 2hrs.30.
Normally the monuments included are: the Olimpic Theatre*, Chiericati Palace*, Cà d’oro (a Venetian gothic style building), Piazzetta Santo Stefano with palazzo Sesso-Zen-Fontana, palazzo Negri-De Salvi, palazzo Thiene*, contra’ Porti and its palaces Porto-Festa*, Porto-Colleoni, Porto-Breganze e Barbaran-Porto* (the ones with the asterisk are by Palladio).
We conclude with a visit to the Piazza dei Signori, the main square of Vicenza with the Captain Loggia* and the Palladian Basilica*.
A veritable immersion in the city’s unique Renaissance atmosphere.
Vicenza town also provides a few fascinating museums. In a two and a half hour tour it’s possible to combine a maximum of three (suggested two) of the following with the Olimpic Theatre, the last of Palladio’s works;
– the picture gallery of Palazzo Chiericati, a Palladian building housing the paintings of the most important Veneto masters such as Giambattista Tiepolo, Paolo Veronese, Lorenzo Lotto, Jacopo Tintoretto, Paolo Veneziano, Bartolomeo Montagna, Giulio Carpioni, Gianbattista Piazzetta;
– the Archaeological Museum exhibiting important finds from Vicenza’s Roman and pre-Roman period, among them a prestigious collection of Roman gravestones, and a naturalistic section with the area’s flora and fauna;
– the Galleries of Palazzo Leoni-Montanari: a museum that is also one of the most important baroque palaces of Vicenza (owned by Banca Intesa) and is one of the most prestigious museums of the Veneto region. Within the building, which represents a singularity in the context of Vicenza, are hosted two collections. The first, on the noble level, consists of important paintings from the Veneto’s eighteenth century, among them are prominent the names of Pietro Longhi, Luca Carlevarijs, Canaletto and Francesco Guardi. Here, the contents and that which contains them are finely harmonized.
– The second collection is on the second floor and is the most important permanent collection of Russian icons of Western Europe. A fascinating collection of a distant world that never ceases to surprise.
A short way from Vicenza (about 3km) are two splendid villas,
Villa Valmarana “ai Nani “ and Villa “La Rotonda”, supreme examples of the culture of the Veneto villas. The tour takes about 2hrs.30mins. Because of their nearness, these two villas are often combined with a visit to the old town which can be visited in the morning leaving the villas for the afternoon. Moreover, considering the convenient location of the sites, in the case of a full day’s tour, right after lunch one may also enter the Sanctuary of Monte Berico, on the way to Villa Valmarama.
Villa Valmarana also known as ‘at the dwarfs’ was built in the second half of the sixteen hundreds and is celebrated for its beautiful frescoes by Tiepolo executed in 1757. Moreover only in this villa is it possible to directly compare the style of Giambattista Tiepolo with that of his son Giandomenico who frescoed the guest house.
Villa Valamrana also known as ‘at the dwarfs’ was built in the second half of the sixteen hundreds and is celebrated for its beautiful frescoes by Tiepolo executed in 1757. Moreover only in this villa is it possible to directly compare the style of Giambattista Tiepolo with that of his son Giandomenico who frescoed the guest house.
Close to the Valmarana villa, within walking distance, we find the Rotonda, undoubtedly the most famous villa designed by Palladio. The distinctive feature of this building, one that has marvelled so many tourists and architects from all over the world, is the perfect union of architecture and landscape, the two worlds mingle: nature enters the villa and the villa crowns the hillside below.
The solution adopted by Palladio in creating four identical façades is innovative in the context of a private dwelling. Surmounted by a dome, the villa looks like a classic temple, and not by chance, since the purchaser was a rich prelate. Words are not enough to describe this building that really deserves a visit.
È possibile visitare Vicenza anche sotto un aspetto completamente diverso, andando cioè alla ricerca dei monumenti religiosi più caratteristici della città, tra cui spicca per esempio la chiesa di Santa Corona (con gli importanti dipinti di Giovanni Bellini e Paolo Veronese, rinomati pittori rinascimentali veneti), sede storica dei Domenicani, e la chiesa di San Lorenzo, sede dei Francescani. Ma da non perdere è soprattutto il Santuario di Monte Berico dedicato alla Vergine che proprio in questo luogo apparve nel ‘400. Esso si trova sul colle a sud di Vicenza ed è raggiungibile in soli 5 minuti lungo una strada fiancheggiata da scenografici portici del ‘700. Il Santuario è costituito da una chiesa barocca che ampliò l’originaria chiesetta quattrocentesca. Nel refettorio è conservata una splendida tela di grandi dimensioni di Paolo Veronese. Di fronte al Santuario si apre un largo piazzale dal quale è possibile ammirare la città dall’alto. Nelle giornate di bel tempo è possibile vedere all’orizzonte il teatro delle Prealpi venete sul quale si affaccia Vicenza.
È possibile abbinare una di queste tre chiese all’itinerario precedente (Vicenza: alla scoperta del centro storico palladiano).
Villa Cordellina, in common with the previous villa, is another destination of special interest to those with a penchant for the pictorial art of the great Giambattista Tiepolo.
Designed in the XVIII century by the Venetian architect Giorgio Masari, clearly under the influence of the Palladian style, it was commissioned by Carlo Cordellina, a rich jiurisconsult.
The architectural beauty of the building itself is carried over to the nearby stables which are particularly noteworthy.
This itinerary too takes about 2hrs.30.
ART AND HISTORY
About 45 kilometres from Vicenza we find the town Bassano del Grappa, the second most important in the province, after the aforementioned capital. In recent years Bassano has developed a strong tourist trade. Many are the visitors who come to admire the Brenta river by the Alpini Bridge, also known as the Ponte Vecchio (Old Bridge) and to learn about the art of printing developed to a level of excellence by the Remondini family during the XVIIIth century. But also to see majolica, earthenware, and historical porcelain in the Ceramic Museum: unique and peculiar examples of local craftsmanship starting with the beginning of the XVII century.
Other visitors will be interested in reliving Bassano’s fascinating history, walking around the town’s relaxing streets, beginning with the middle ages, when it was a small feudal settlement belonging to the Ezzelino family, through to the more recent events: the Great War, fascism and World War Two. Many will be tempted by the unique chance to taste the famous grappa at the Nardini distillery itself on the Old Bridge, founded in 1779 or at Poli, a distillery as far back as 1898, a stone’s throw from Nardini.
Those who wish can also visit, before or after Bassano, the little walled town of Marostica, famous for its cherries and for the renowned chess game played with human pieces on the town square, inspired by a colourful medieval legend, a characteristic event not to be missed. The itinerary lasts 2hrs.30mins. For a full day’s tour you can visit Vicenza and its Palladian buildings in the morning and in the afternoon, instead of the villas, Bassano and possibly Marostica.
Not too far from Vicenza town, travelling northwards, one can visit two fascinating villas designed by Andrea Palladio.
The closest is Villa Caldogno. Situated in the village of the same name, it was built for the Caldogno family, one of the most prestigious local families in the XVI century: the interior is decorated with frescoes by Giovanni Antonio Fasolo, a painter influenced by Paolo Veronese and who often worked with Palladio.
Proceeding on we reach Villa Godi Malinverni in Lugo Vicentino. The first ever villa by Andrea Palladio, it was designed in 1542 for the Godi family. It is now owned by the Malinverni family, who manage its upkeep and public access.
In this villa one can admire the wonderful frescoes of Giambattista Zelotti, a contemporary of Paolo Veronese and other minor artists.
The ideal tour to get to grips with the culture of the Veneto villas as it developed during the Fifteen Hundreds and to get an idea of the interior splendour of these wealthy family estates designed by Palladio. This type of itinerary lasts 2.30 hrs.
Those with a little more time (and energy) may wish to visit the Porto Colleoni Castle in Thiene, decorated by the very same artists.
Se scendiamo verso sud della provincia possiamo visitare altre due ville progettate da Andrea Palladio che, grazie anche a recenti interventi di restauro, sono oggi di vero impatto visivo per il visitatore.
La prima che si incontra è Villa Pisani a Lonigo.
Scendendo ancora ed arrivando nel paese di Pojana Maggiore si trova Villa Pojana. A differenza delle ville dell’itinerario precedente queste dimore di campagna sono decorate al loro interno con meno affreschi, ma evidenziano per contro la struttura architettonica dell’edificio così come fu progettata dal Palladio. Inoltre Villa Pojana in particolare permette a differenza delle altre ville di visitare oltre al piano nobile, vale a dire il piano principale, anche il piano interrato e i piani superiori fino al sottotetto, dove si può ammirare la struttura di raccordo dell’edificio, le catene, le capriate, le volte arcuate, ecc. Una visita un po’ diversa dal solito, ma forse proprio per questo di grande fascino.
Un itinerario di questo tipo dura circa 2 ore e 1/2.
È possibile abbinare a questi due edifici la visita di una delle seguenti ville:
– La Rocca Pisana, sempre a Lonigo: villa progettata da Vincenzo Scamozzi (l’architetto che completò il Teatro Olimpico di Vicenza);
– Villa Fracanzan-Piovene a Orgiano (non lontano da Pojana Maggiore), museo della civiltà contadina veneta.
Not very far from the previous, is Villa Emo at Fanzolo di Vedelago. This large villa was the centre of a farming estate designed by Palladio, with frescos by Giambattista Zelotti, a painter influenced by Paolo Veronese who on many occasions worked with Palladio on some of his interiors.
In the province of Treviso are two among the most famous villas designed by Palladio during his long and illustrious career. Villa Barbaro at Maser is unique in that it was designed by Palladio and then frescoed by Paolo Veronese: the only Palladian villa to be decorated by the great painter. Only here can one admire a combined work by two of the greatest masters of Italian art.