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Rivarotta di Pasiano
Vicenza |
Parma | Lucca | Firenze
Lucignano | Spello
Bevagna | Spoleto | Roma


The 11:29 train from Mestre (Venice) was right on time as was our arrival in Vicenza at 12:08. It was just a 5 minute walk along Viale Roma to Hotel Campo Marzio viale Roma, 21. Situated in the center of Vicenza next to the city central park, Campo Marzio, it is an ideal location from which to explore "Palladio's City". Vicenza Waterway

The unpretentious exterior does not do justice to the warmth and comfort of the interior. The reception, lounge and bar are done in dark woods and mirrors complemented by the soft leather upholstery of the sofas and chairs. There is an internet point for guests. The staff was welcoming and efficient.

There are 35 rooms each with a distinctive style. The draped entryway of our room opened to a bedroom rich in art and decoration. The ceiling and walls were pleasantly frescoed and worked nicely with the elegant styles of the fabrics and furnishings. Framed photos of Vicenza architecture adorned the lower part of the walls. The large bathroom featured a whirlpool bath/shower, an attractive 4 legged sink and two heated towel racks. We would be comfortable here.

Vicenza probably has more monumental buildings per inhabitant than any other city in Italy. This remarkable and fascinating architectural achievement is credited to the architect, Andrea Palladio. Between the mid-15th century and the end of the 16th Palladio's genius transformed the Roman-medieval layout of the city to the glorious Renaissance appearance that lives on to this day.

Palladio was born Andrea di Pietro della Gondola in Padua in 1508. He came to Vicenza at a young age leaving a workshop where he had been a stone-cutting apprentice to work for Vicentine masons where he learned the trade. His employers and other influential people who came in contact with him recognized his remarkable talent and aided in his education, professional, and social contacts. Once they were certain of his genius they gave him the classical name of Palladio. Vicenza became his adopted city and both achieved fame as he created the concept and appearance of the urban palace and villa.

We found our way to the complex of four squares that constitute the official center of the city built around Palladio's Basilica. Each is different in size and function but linked to its neighbor while keeping its own identity. The piazzas are dei Signori, delle Biade, delle Erbe and Piazetta Palladio.

We were in the mood for a pizza and salad lunch and found ourselves in front of Gran Caffe Garibaldi in Piazza dei Signori. The pizza Margherita was maxi bad. The mixed salad was okay. Vicenza - Basilica Palladiana
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Dominating the Piazza dei Signori is the Basilica Palladiana, also known as the Palazzo della Ragione, the symbol of Vicenza. The design of two stories of white Piovene stone loggias is brilliant and fascinating. Although it appears to be one continuous structure it was in fact built in two stages so that a series of separate structures are contained in what seems to be a single building. It partially collapsed in 1496 and in 1546 the reconstruction was entrusted to the then 38 year old Andrea Palladio. The construction of his design began in 1549 and was not completed until 1614, 30 years after his death. His design for the loggias, composed of a series of windows, is called Serlian windows.

At the north end of the Basilica the captivating, slender Torre di Piazza, the ancient 12th century tower of the Bissari, extends upwards 82 meters and is responsible for many craned necks.

Vicenza - Loggia dei CapitaniatoOpposite the Basilica is the Loggia dei Capitaniato designed by Palladio in 1571 to replace the medieval residence of the "Capitanio", the Venetian Captain in Vicenza. Four huge half columns define the three bay facade and enclose the lower arches and upper windows. Figures on the facade pouring water symbolize the nearby rivers. Built in red brick and white stone and stucco it is a glorious sight.

Corso Palladio is the main thoroughfare through the center of the city. Starting at Piazza del Castello and ending at Piazza Matteotti it is fronted by a host of architectural delights and shopping pleasures. Two Palladian buildings, the Thiene Bonin Longare Palace and the Capra residence mark the beginning of the street. The Chiese dei Filippini is the work of Giorgio Massari (interior) and Count Antonio Piovene (exterior). The Bissari palace from the end of the 17th century is followed by the 15th century Palazzo Capra, now the offices of a bank… and the beat goes on. The 15th century Palazzo Braschi Brunello with its open gallery, adjacent are 16th, 18th and 19th century palaces - got the message? - great architecture from numerous architects other than Palladio. About halfway down is the Trissino Palace, now the town hall, built by Vincenzo Scamozzi. A bit further along the striking Church of San Gaetano Thiene designed by Gerolamo Frimelica caught our eye.

Corso Palladio ends at Piazza Giacomo Matteotti, home to the Teatro Olimpico and the Palazzo Chiericati from which we would start tomorrow’s adventure. We had walked the north side and now returned on the south side benefiting from both perspectives. It occurred to us that there were some nice shops along the way but we were much more focused on columns, stone, brick, their shapes and colors.
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Vicenza - Corso PalladioAntico Ristorante Agli Schioppi, Contra piazza del Costello 26, was the ideal place to cap off a very stimulating day. The welcoming and friendly tone was set the moment we entered by the cozy seating area and appetizing display of produce and wines directly ahead. Wonderful aromas were emerging from the partially open kitchen to seal our instant favorable impression. There are two inviting dining areas. We were seated in the one to the right featuring a lovely full mural wall. The other cream walls were graced by photos, paintings and decorative plates. Completing the pleasant environment were the fine quality wood tables and chairs and beige tablecloths.

The owner and staff personify the physical aspects, just plain delightful, extremely helpful and understanding in a low key manner. Together we chose a menu that was an award winner both in composition and execution. We could have made an entire meal of the amazing baccala mantecato con polentina bianca brustola appetizer, small pieces of salt cod boiled in a milk stock and whipped with olive oil and garlic, served with white polenta.

In northern Italy the most popular pasta is bigoli (a long thick spaghetti) and we do like to always have the local specialties. We shared one order, with a ragu of meat, tomato, mushrooms and chili pepper. It is a challenge to wrap those long thick noodles around the fork but we had practiced at our previous stop and had begun to develop our technique. The sauce was a dream with just the right amount of heat to enhance the flavor.

We shared a mixed salad of greens, radicchio, cherry tomatoes, olive oil and balsamic - all top notch. Vicenza - Schioppi - Fegato di vitello con polenta

Fegato di vitello (veal liver) is one of Linda's favorites and this preparation, alla Veneziana (with onions) con polenta was not to be missed. Nor was one of my loves, filetto di orata con verdure assortite a vapore (steamed sea bream and assorted vegetables). Both were done to perfection.

We thought we were finished after our fresh fruit, but the owner served us delectable crostoli, in honor of Carnevale, and Torcolato, a marvelous local fruity dessert wine.

Be sure to visit the washrooms where the sinks have been fashioned out of the copper pots used to make polenta.

The prices were very reasonable for the quality. We would find this to be true throughout the trip; the prices at every level were much more reasonable than in Toronto.
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After a very nice buffet breakfast in the hotel restaurant, we walked through town to Piazza Matteotti and the Teatro Olimpico. In 1579 Palladio proposed the construction of a permanent theatre for dramatic presentations. It was accepted and construction began in 1580 in the courtyard of the 13th century territorial castle. Andrea died a few months later and the work was continued by his son, Silla, but was soon turned over to Vicenzo Scamozzi.

Vicenza - Teatro OlimpicoThe Teatro Olimpico was inspired by the design of Roman theatres. Because of limited space, the auditorium is semi-elliptical instead of semi-circular. The stage is in the form of a triumphal arch with a large central arch and 3 smaller arches on either side. It looks like the grand facade of a Palladian Palace. The structure is plastered brick. There is statuary made of plaster. There are seven streets behind each arch that Scamozzi designed to represent the city of Thebes as the permanent stage setting. The main street is only 12 meters long but seems much longer as the floor rises, the sky descends and the buildings, adorned with statues, draw nearer to each other and become smaller and smaller. The other 6 streets have a similar effect. It is an amazing sight. A Corinthian Colonnade runs around the back of the semi-elliptical step seating which is surmounted by a balustrade adorned by statues.

Adjacent to the theatre is the Odeum, the meeting hall of the Accademia Olimpica with a beamed ceiling and frescoed walls by Francesco Maffei. A door leads to the Ante-Odeum also with frescoes. From this hall, a corridor leads directly to the stage. This brief description does not begin to do this last masterpiece of Palladio justice. It must be seen in person and if you’re there in the summer, you could attend a classical drama or concert.
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Palazzo ChiericatiAcross the Piazza is the Palazzo Chiericati, designed by Palladio in 1550. At the time this magnificent building was highly innovative and considered to be one of his greatest achievements. Only a relatively small portion was completed before his death. The remainder was constructed following his general design because the original drawings were lost. The design reversed the traditional arrangement of volumes and spaces. The two-story beauty has a continuous loggia on the ground floor and the upper section has a closed central section, which appears to be suspended over the ground floor, with two lateral loggias. This design was probably chosen in order to emphasize, from the outside, the revolutionary distribution of space inside. The interior is still adorned with 16th century decorations and frescoes. The building is now home to the city art museum.

On nearby Contra Santa Corona is the Tempio di Santa Corona featuring some wonderful art and architecture. The presbytery by Lorenzo da Bologna contains an elaborate high altar, a masterpiece of marble inlay by Francesco Antonio Corberelli, and the beautifully crafted wooden choir-stalls by Pier Antonio dell'Abate. Vicenza - Tempio di Santa Corona

Next to the presbytery are two stunning chapels, the Cappella Thiene with the remarkable St. Peter, St. Paul and Pius V Adoring the Virgin by Giambattista Pittoni and the Cappella della Santa Spina. Numerous other works of art embellish the chapels and alters including the outstanding Altar of San Giovanni Battista by Rocco da Vicenza, adorned with the Baptism of Christ by Giovanni Bellini and the Adoration of the Magi by Paolo Veronese.
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Just a few feet away on Santa Corona is the imposing Gallerie di Palazzo Leoni Montanari. It was once the headquarters of Banca Cattolica del Veneto and since l990 the venue for representative and cultural activities for Banco Ambrosiano Veneto, which was merged in 1998 into the Intesa group. On 8 May l999 the Banca Intesa brought a wonderful cultural undertaking to fruition by opening this incredible architectural complex to the public to view its collection of art treasures. This marriage of architecture and art should not be missed!

We were to learn that the complex as it is today is the result of successive metamorphoses from the core of medieval and renaissance buildings that were reconstructed in the 17th century. The various wings added around the monumental center core were not developed in a straight line (there being no right angles), creating distortions and compensations that were brilliantly masked by elaborate decorative schemes. As we walked through we became aware of the irregularly shaped rooms and at the same time we were awestruck by the beauty of the art decorations framing the doorways, the frescoed walls and ceilings, and the sculptures.

Many changes took place in the late 17th and 18th centuries. In the 1970's the Palazzo presented a Baroque exterior and eclectic 19th century interior when it was radically restored eliminating all 19th century additions bringing to light the original ceilings and beams. This also revealed the upper levels of the 16th and 17th century fresco decoration which had been concealed when the ceilings were lowered in the 19th century.

The monumental main facade of the Palazzo which runs along Contra Santa Corona is fairly sober with string-courses, balconies and pilasters. The high cornice is crowned with statues of gods of classical mythology.

The entrance, to the left facing the edifice, is aligned with a courtyard and a spectacular loggia to the rear. The entrance hall is a blend of Baroque and neo-classical decorations. A group of statuary depicting the "Rape of Persephone" stands at the end of the deep ground floor portico. In the upper loggia the statue of Hercules Slaying the Hydra is crowned by a host of stucco figures interwoven with complex painted decoration depicting mythological motifs. A grand staircase connecting the courtyard and entrance hall to the rest of the Palazzo is also embellished by sculpted decoration.

The three floors of the Palazzo have distinct functions in the overall organization of the museum. The ground floor is used for temporary exhibits. The first floor displays the art collections which are primarily 18th century Venetian paintings. The top floor houses the incredible collection of Russian icons.

We have seen various small collections of Russian icons over the years and frankly were not overwhelmed but today we were. About 120 icons are on display, which were selected from almost 500 that make up the Banca Intesa collection. The works cover a time span from 13th to 19th century. This art is created for religious purposes and not as works of art. The artists are unknown. What is known are the schools and workshops from which they came. There are pieces from renowned schools of Moscow, Novgorod, Vladimir, Tver and Pskov alongside examples from provincial areas of central and northern Russia where workshops were located along the trade routes of the regions bordering the Volga river.
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The icons are organized thematically following a path through sacred Orthodox art. The artistic skill and attention to detail is a joy to behold. There is also a section dedicated to precious metal covers (rize and Basme) which encased and protected the icons. They are masterpieces of the goldsmith's art whose artistic value can exceed that of the icons they embellish.

The collection of 18th century Veneto art was acquired by the Banca Intesa some 20 years ago and is on display on the "piano noble" of the palazzo with its rooms graced with the Baroque frescoes of Giuseppe Alberti and Ludovico Dorigny, the statues of the Marinali brothers and some neoclassical decoration.

The core of the collection is the works of Pietro Longhi which depict scenes of daily life. Also present are the city views and architectural caprices of its leading figure, Antonio Canaletto and some of the most illustrious representatives of the genre such as Michele Marieschi, Francesco Albotto, Luca Carlevarijs and Francesco Guardi. Landscapes are displayed by the last artist along with Bartolomeo Pedon and Antonio Marini. I repeat: be sure to visit Gallerie di Palazzo Leoni Montanari in Vicenza. Vicenza - Casa Montano Barbarano

The prettiest and most fascinating street in the historical center of Vicenza is Contra Porti. Gothic and Palladian residences line its graceful route. The 15th century Porto Breganze palace facade is famous for its four-light window of the "piano noble" and the 16th century portal by Lorenzo da Bologna. Adjacent is the residence of the Porto Colleoni, a interesting example of Gothic-Venetian city architecture. Inside the garden, is a wooden theatre created by Sebastiano Serlio.
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Lorenzo da Bologna designed several other works such as the Thiene family residence now the offices of Banca Popolare Vicentina. Andrea Palladio created the houses of Iseppo da Porto and Montano Barbarano. The latter now houses the offices of the Monuments and Fine Arts Service, the International Andrea Palladio Architecture Center and a museum devoted to Palladio's life and works.

Time for a bit of lunch at Gelaterie Sonia on Corso Palladio 152, a cute little bar/caffe/gelateria where we had delicious toasted prosciutto and mozzarella sandwiches and frittelle ripiene, the latter made during Carnevale period, is a fried dough creation with a variety of fillings (ricotta and chocolate were delicious). The coffee was excellent and the young staff delightful.

Vicenza - La RotondaAfter lunch we boarded bus #8 on viale Roma near our hotel to visit Villa La Rotonda and Villa Valmarana (ai Nani). We asked the driver to let us know when we were at the La Rotonda stop, which he did about 15 minutes out of the city center. There are signs directing the way to both villas. It's a short walk to what is considered Palladio's greatest masterpiece, La Rotunda, which has become the symbol of the villas in the Veneto region. Unfortunately it was closed at this time of year and we had to view it from the street. Fortunately it is sited atop a hill and the leaves were off many trees so we had a pretty good view.
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Strictly speaking it is not a villa, a place where the owner could rest and supervise his estate, but rather a suburban residence built for the wealthy Cardinal Paolo Almerico. The residence is constituted by a square block surmounted by a dome and adorned, on the facades, with four hexastyle porticos in the Ionic order, preceded by a wide staircase. The four facades are identical. The whole structure is symmetrical in relation to the vertical axis passing through the oculus of the dome. The interior is also perfectly symmetrical. Palladio had this thing about square, round and symmetrical.

Villa Valmarana (ai Nani) is a few minute walk along an unsurfaced road, Via Valmarana, which turns off of Via della Rotonda. The signing is good. The name ai Nani is derived from the statues of dwarfs adorning the boundary walls. The complex is made up of 3 buildings located in a large Italian garden: the palazzina, the owner’s house, the foresteria, the guest house, and the stables. The most notable aspect of the villa is the frescoes by Giambattista Tiepolo depicting a cycle of epic love stories. Since the villa was closed for the season we didn't see this masterpiece of art.

Vicenza - Basilica di Monte BericoWe continued the walk to Basilica di Monte Berico sitting above the city. The three Baroque facades of the church are identical, each with a high center marking the end of one of the arms of the cruciform building. There are 42 statues by Orazio Marinalli adorning the facade. The original Gothic building at the western end now serves as the presbytery of the present building.

The interior is built on the Greek-cross plan which has as its religious fulcrum the Madonna of Monte Berico, a Gothic statue by Nicolo da Venezia. Other notable art works are the Pieta by Bartolomeo Montagna and the Supper of St. Gregory the Great by Veronese.

The sanctuary is linked to the city by a long portico consisting of a series of arches in groups of ten.

On our way back to the hotel we stopped to admire the Palazzo Porto Breganze at the end of Piazza del Costello. What captures attention are the 3 huge Corinthian semi-columns that form the 2 bay facade of the narrow building. These were the only two bays built of the 7 Palladio had planned. If the other 5 were built the structure would have physically and visually dominated the square. Even in its small way it impacts the surroundings and is proof of Palladio's artistic ability.

Antica Casa della Malvasia is a popular moderately priced trattoria just off of Corso Palladio leading to Piazza Signori. Our pastas, bigoli al ragu anatra (duck) and tagliolini ai porcini were below average as was our shared Greek salad. The mains were very disappointing. The tagliata di petto d'anatra arancio was overcooked duck breast drowning in a disgusting, thick orange sauce. My baccala alla Vicentina con polenta is a favorite local preparation. This salt cod stew featured tough and chewy pieces of the fish stewed in a tasteless sauce. The polenta was good. Maybe it was just a bad night in the cucina.

Tomorrow Padova!

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Rivarotta di Pasiano
Vicenza |
Parma | Lucca | Firenze
Lucignano | Spello
Bevagna | Spoleto | Roma

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