Vicenza: discovering a city of incredible beauty

Continuing our journey after Verona, we find ourselves in another city in the Veneto region, specifically Vicenza. However, the true essence of this city lies beyond the historic centre, depopulated by the locals and embraced by tourists in the scorching heat of August.

Vicenza centre

Forget about drinking a good local wine or enjoying local charcuterie near the Basilica Palladiana, one of the most important monuments of the world. Instead, we have proposed a French wine or a Chianti, with a usual ham. No offence to these specialities, but we expected to appreciate the local food.

Returning to our journey and the most positive experiences, here are my recommendations for exploring this splendid city in a day:

  • Basilica Palladiana: You can admire its splendour from the outside because it’s empty inside. Unfortunately, this treasure isn’t fully enhanced, as its vast main hall could host significant temporary exhibitions under its wooden vault.
  • Teatro Olimpico, built by Andrea Palladio: A definite must-see.
  • If you’re travelling by car, consider reaching some Venetian villas such as Villa La Rotonda and Villa Valmarana ai Nani, which are within walking distance of each other.

You can purchase a combined ticket. I suggest checking the opening hours on the official website at the end of the article. Regrettably, Villa La Rotonda was only open on weekends, so we could only admire it from the outside. 

The Basilica Palladiana: Renaissance Masterpiece at the Heart of Vicenza’s Architecture

Even in the 1500s, the palaces were undergoing renovation. In 1546, Andrea Palladio (Padua, 1508 – Maser, 1580), the most famous architect of the Venetian Republic in the Renaissance, received the task of renovating and expanding the medieval basilica, already present in the city’s historic centre. Initially, the basilica was a forum for hearings, public assemblies, and legal and administrative functions of the city. The structure included open spaces on the ground floor known as loggias, where commercial activities and markets took place.

Basilica Palladiana – the main room

Palladio balanced the architectural elements, such as Doric and Ionic orders, and an innovative loggia encircling the building on three sides. This space was utilized for public ceremonies and social events and as a place of representation for the nobility.

The architect designed two superimposed loggia levels, characterized by the use of repetitive modules known as “serlianes.” These architectural elements consist of a central round arch framed by two rectangular openings, each delimited by columns.

Even though he didn’t see the project’s completion in 1614, the adjective “Palladiana” was added to the basilica’s name in his honour.

Explore the Teatro Olimpico in Vicenza: Unique History and Fascination

In 1580, at the age of 72, the last year of his life, Palladio received the commission from the Accademia Olimpica, a congregation of significant figures in Vicenza’s arts, sciences, and humanities, of which he was a part, to create a stable theatre venue.

Teatro Olimpico – frontal viewer

The project openly draws inspiration from Roman theatres: an elliptical wooden stepped “cavea“, still the same as in its time, surrounded by a colonnade with statues on the frieze. Opposite, a rectangular stage and a grand proscenium on two architectural levels, opened by three arches and rhythmically adorned with semicolumns, featuring the statues of the academic members.

Teatro Olimpico

Palladio conceived the project just months before his death and wouldn’t live to see it realized; his son Silla took on its execution, delivering the finished theatre to the city in 1583.

Teatro Olimpico – the wooden cavea

The first performance staged within its walls was the Greek tragedy “Oedipus Rex” by Sophocles during the Carnival of 1585. The elaborate set design depicted the seven streets of Thebes, visible through the five apertures of the proscenium, creating a refined perspective play. Palladio’s spiritual adept, Vincenzo Scamozzi, made this design. Its success was such that the set was never dismantled, except to protect it from German bombings during World War II.

Due to the lack of heating and cooling systems, theatrical performances are still played in Spring and Autumn every year.

The old lights

Since 1994, the theatre has been recognized by UNESCO as a protected heritage site, alongside the Basilica Palladiana and the Venetian villas in the Vicenza area. 

Visit Villa Valmarana ai Nani: Where history and magic, art and legends

In 1720, the Valmarana family, Vicenza nobles, acquired this country house dating back to 1669 as a summer residence, seeking refuge from the city’s heat in the hillside.


The villa was meticulously restored by the new owners, and in 1757, Giustino Valmarana asked Giambattista Tiepolo to fresco the villa’s rooms, creating extraordinary masterpieces. His son Gianmaria dedicated his talents, especially to the rooms of the Guest Quarters.

Immerse yourself in the timeless beauty of this magnificent historic structure, where you can stay and live a unique experience.

The legend of the 17 dwarfs

I am not talking about Snow White and the Disney movie. The statues of seventeen dwarfs, once situated in the gardens, greet visitors from the perimeter wall. The presence of these statues has stocked various legends, such as the story of the dwarf princess, Layana. She lived hidden in a castle, surrounded by dwarf servants, and was never aware of her appearance because everyone was like her. One day, Layana visited the tallest tower where she saw a handsome young man riding a horse. At the time, she realized her difference and, overwhelmed by despair, jumped from the tower. The dwarf servants, punished for their neglect, were petrified by a breath of wind and placed on the top of the wall, right next to the road the handsome young man passed by.

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