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River Bacchiglione, Vicenza

Loggia Valmarana, near Vicenza

Columns in Piazza dei Signori, Vicenza

Teatro Olympico, Vicenza

Welcome to Vicenza
From Jesse's Journeys in Italy

Population: 113,483 (2004)
Official website:
Wikipedia: Vicenza
Map: MapQuest

Vicenza, in the Veneto Region, was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1994.  And for good reason.  It is a beautiful small city with an engaging atmosphere and a plethora of buildings and monuments that are at turns, interesting, important and compelling.  Foremost among these buildings, in Vicenza and in the surrounding area, are works designed by the inimitable but powerfully influential Italian architect Andrea Palladio, who worked here in the mid-16th century.

The city sits on the highway half way between Padova and Verona at the foot of Monte Barico and at the convergence of the Retrone and Bacchiglione rivers.  Today, it is a busy and prosperous tourist town and a center of light industry based on traditional activities such as cotton and paper production, gold jewelry design and other crafts.  Lately, Vicenza has also become an important center for the production of computer components.

Vicenza's history is as complicated and difficult as any in northern Italy.  It was originally settled during the Bronze Age, probably by a tribe known as Euganei.  These people's were displaced by the Gauls, who were conquered by the Romans (157 BC) who named it Viceta or  Vincentia.  In 49 BC, the city became a Roman municipium - a city whose people enjoyed Roman citizenship.  Remnants of the Roman period can be found in the Criptoportico, mosaic floors, the Berga theatre, the Lobia acqueduct, and the ruins of various bridges.

As Rome declined, Vicenza, like most cities in northern and central Italy,  for a period of some centuries,  became vulnerable to a succession of invaders from the north including the Goths, Longobards and Franks.  From about 1000 AD, Vicenza  settled into existence as a "free  comune", then as a comune dominated by a string of tyrants, who often made war with other cities in the region.

In 1404 Vicenza was absorbed into the Republic of Venice and experienced a long period of relative calm, during which the city achieved great prosperity and wealth.  The leading citizens, aristocrats of church and state and rich merchants were given to displays of wealth, which was expressed, as in Tuscany, through humanism and a resort to Roman classicism.  It is during this time that Palladio architected the villas and other buildings that are now under the UNESCO World Heritage designation.

The Veneto ultimately came under Austrian control, and remained there, except for a brief interlude during the Napoleonic conquest, until the region was annexed into the Kingdom of Italy in 1866.

To the traveler of today, we can say that Vicenza is another of those wonderful Italian cities whose whole - in its atmosphere, ambiance and amiability - is far greater than the sum of its parts.  And yet those parts are in and of themselves interesting and at times glorious and sometimes sublime.

But as to its particulars, among the "must see" sites in and around Vicenza, there are to begin with, a number of Palladian villas, including the most famous, La Rotunda, which Palladio designed and built for a papal prelate in 1556.  La Rotunda sits on a hill and has a square plan with four porticos  facing the four points of the compass.  (The UNESCO list of Palladian villas includes La Rotunda and twenty-three other Palladian buildings in and around Vicenza.)

Palladio also designed and built what is probably the most important public buidling in Vicenza, the Basilica Palladiana located on the Piazza dei Signori. Like other works of Palladio, it is built on classical Roman themes, but with "renaissance" decoration typical of Palladio's style. The Basilica was badly damaged by Allied bombing during WW2, but has been "perfectly" restored.

Vicenza's cathedral - or Duomo - dating from the 11th century, but subject to major restoration in the 13th, 16th and 19th centuries, is also situated on the Piazza dei Signori.  It was almost totally destroyed during WW2, but has since been rebuilt.

If you can, you should make a serious attempt to see the interior of the remarkable Teatro Olimpico, started by Palladio in 1580, but finished after his death by Scamozzi for its opening in 1585.  The amphitheater style auditorium is surmounted by a colonnade of Roman columns with classical statuary, the proscenium is fronted by a Roman street scene and the stage's foundation consists of a spectacular carving of the City of Thebes in miniature.

The civic museum, which boasts a number of interesting artifacts, statues and paintings dating from Vicenza's earliest day is housed in another Palladian building, the Palazzo Chiericati.  The Vincenza's art gallery - the Pinocoteca - is devoted to the works of local artists.

As always, in genial Italy, there are any number of cafes, trattorias, and restaurants, many of them very good, and a lot of shops and boutiques, some of them top drawer.  Vicenzo, like Treviso, Verona and Venice itself can be "taken" in a day, but it should be savoured - and that takes more time.

By Vian Andrews, August 16, 2006

Region of Veneto

45.33N  11.32E


Padova - 37 km;
Verona -  63 km;
Venice - 71 km;
Treviso - 89 km;
Ferrara -  120 km;
Brescia -121 km;
Modena - 161 km;
Bologna - 160 km:
Parma -  199 km;
Milan -  220 km



Vicenza Coat of Arms

The town's Coat of Arms is decorated with a gold medal awarded by the President of Italy in 1994 in recognition of the partisan activities of Vicenza people during WW2.

Loggia Valmarana, near Vicenza

Contributions: If you would like to contribute information about Vicenza, we'd love to hear from you.  Talk Italy Forums


Other churches in Vicenza worth seeing,  include: SS. Felice and Fortunato (8th century); Santa Croce (1179); SS. Filippo and Giacomo (12th century); S. Lorenzo of the Friars Minor (1280, Gothic style) containing the tombs of many illustrious Vicentines;  the Church of the Ara Coeli (1244), formerly belonging to the Clarisses, with paintings by Tieoplo and statutes by Cassetti and Marinali and Cassetti; the Churches of the Carmine (1372) and St. Catherine (1292); S. Corona (1260) built by the Dominicans with  pictures by Montagna; S. Maria of the Servites (1319) - with a lovely cloister.