Vicenza, the underdog of the Veneto region in Northeast Italy. Sure, it’s often overshadowed by its glamorous siblings, Verona and Venice, but if you skip Vicenza, you’re missing out on a hidden gem—literally, because this city cranks out a fifth of Italy’s gold and jewelry. So, while you might go for the culture, you could very well stay for the shopping.

Now, I might be a tad biased because I love Italy but even UNESCO has given it the thumbs up. Back in 1994, the city and its surrounding villas were officially stamped as a World Heritage Site. And let me tell you, they didn’t hand those out with your pizza order.

Vicenza is dubbed ‘The City of Palladio,’ named after the superstar architect Andrea Palladio. This guy wasn’t just a local celebrity; he was born in nearby Padua and decided Vicenza was cool enough to call home for most of his life. The city is peppered with twenty-three of his creations, mostly from the 16th century, including stunning villas and churches that will make you feel like you’ve walked onto the set of a period drama (minus the corsets and massive Instagram potential).

 


Teatro Olimpico

Interior of the Teatro Olimpico by Andrea Palladio, one of the best things to do in Vicenza.

In the enchanting city of Vicenza, where architectural wonders abound, the Teatro Olimpico stands out as Andrea Palladio’s grand finale—and what a finale it is. Before Palladio put his stamp on it, performances were generally a pop-up affair, happening in makeshift outdoor theaters. Enter Teatro Olimpico, one of the world’s first permanent indoor theaters, which might make you rethink any previous notions of “vintage.”

The theater debuted with a bang, or rather, a dramatic cry of ancient Greek tragedy, hosting “Oedipus Rex” as its first production. If you’re visiting and happen to gaze through its archways, prepare for a visual feast. The trompe l’oeil paintings are so cunningly crafted they fool the eye into seeing the streets of Thebes stretching beyond the stage. It’s like virtual reality, without the headset.

Initially, this architectural masterpiece wasn’t exactly bustling with back-to-back bookings. Fast forward to today, and while it doesn’t host a constant stream of performances, the Teatro Olimpico is open for tours. Stepping inside is like walking into a living piece of history where every corner whispers a secret of the theatrical past—just without the sticky floors and overpriced popcorn.

Catching a performance here might be a rarity, but just visiting is enough to make you feel part of the drama. So, if you’re in Vicenza, don’t miss your chance to see where the magic of modern theater began. After all, it’s not every day you get to stand where the audience of 1585 stood, probably wearing much puffier pants.


Garden Teatro Olimpicoteatro-olimpico-garden

Just when you think the Teatro Olimpico has given all its drama inside, step outside to discover a scene so serene it could inspire poets. The gardens of Teatro Olimpico are like a secret act hidden away from the grand architectural performance. These aren’t just any gardens; they’re a lush, ivy-draped sanctuary encircling the theater, where the walls themselves seem to be in a permanent state of awe.

Surrounded by buildings cloaked in gorgeous ivy, these gardens are a feast for the eyes with ancient statues poised along a quaint gravel path—silent spectators to the passing visitors. Benches are strategically tucked away, offering perfect spots for those who love to people-watch or perhaps muse over the play they just witnessed inside.

It’s the kind of place where you can sit back, relax, and truly savor the moment. Whether you’re a local needing a break from the hustle or a traveler catching your breath between sights, these gardens provide a tranquil retreat. Here, amidst the whispering leaves and historical whispers, you can lose yourself in the beauty of Vicenza, one breath at a time. So, grab a gelato, find a bench, and let the gardens of Teatro Olimpico transport you to a slower, more scenic pace of life.

 


Basilica PalladianaShadows and light coming through columns at Basilica Palladiana in Vicenza, Italy.

Right in the heart of Vicenza sits the Basilica Palladiana, a Renaissance masterpiece that’s more than just a pretty face in the cityscape. Crafted by the architectural wizard himself, Andrea Palladio, this building isn’t just a structure—it’s a statement. Known for introducing the world to the ‘Palladian Window,’ Palladio’s design has been inspiring envy and imitation since the Renaissance.

This iconic building isn’t just resting on its historical laurels, though. It’s a living part of the city that continues to pulse with activity, hosting an array of events and exhibits. Whether it’s a cutting-edge art show or a community gathering, the Basilica Palladiana serves as a backdrop that turns any event into a more elegant affair.

Visiting the Basilica Palladiana offers a glimpse into Palladio’s architectural genius while giving you a taste of Vicenza’s vibrant cultural scene. It’s like stepping into a live Pinterest board—every corner and corridor tells a story, and yes, it’s totally Insta-worthy. So, when in Vicenza, make sure to peek through that famed Palladian Window. Who knows? You might just get a view of something spectacular.


La Rotondala-rotonda-vicenza

Just a stone’s throw from the heart of Vicenza lies La Rotonda, a Renaissance villa that’s not merely a home but a masterpiece crafted by the maestro of architecture, Andrea Palladio. Among his creations, La Rotonda stands out as one of the most celebrated, a testament to Palladio’s genius and a bucket list item for architecture aficionados.

The story of La Rotonda begins with Paolo Almerico, a former Vatican priest with an eye for elegance and a desire to retire in style back in his hometown of Vicenza. He commissioned Palladio to create a villa that wasn’t just a residence but a beacon of architectural innovation. And oh, did Palladio deliver!

Positioned regally on a hill, La Rotonda is a marvel of symmetry and light. Designed with each façade facing a cardinal point, the villa captures the sunlight in such a way that each room is bathed in a warm glow as the day progresses. It’s almost as if the villa itself follows the sun, hosting a daily performance of light and shadow.

Visiting La Rotonda is like walking into a living diagram of architectural brilliance. Each view from the villa offers a picturesque scene, harmoniously blending the man-made with the natural. For those lucky enough to step inside, the experience is akin to walking through a perfectly composed symphony of spaces, each note struck by sunlight and shadows.

If you find yourself near Vicenza, a visit to La Rotonda isn’t just recommended; it’s essential. After all, it’s not every day you get to wander through a villa designed by a Renaissance rock star.


Villa Valmarana ai Nanivilla-valmerana

Just when you think Vicenza has revealed all its secrets, along comes Villa Valmarana ai Nani, a picturesque ensemble of historical buildings nestled among rose gardens that look lifted from the pages of a fairytale. This villa isn’t just another beautiful spot; it’s a canvas where art and literature intertwine, thanks to the visionary works of the Tiepolo family.

Constructed in stages, with the oldest part dating back to the late 15th century and its siblings rounding out the family in the century that followed, Villa Valmarana ai Nani is a testament to evolving architectural styles. However, the real magic begins once you step inside. The interiors are a lavish display of frescoes painted by Giambattista and Giandomenico Tiepolo, turning every wall into a narrative journey inspired by the favorite books of Giustino Valmarana’s son, the villa’s commissioner.

These frescoes aren’t just decorations; they are storytelling tools that bring literary classics to life, enveloping visitors in a world where art leaps off the walls and into the imagination. Each room offers a new chapter, each corridor a new verse, making the villa not just a home but a living storybook.

Adding a historical nod to Vicenza’s architectural hero, there’s a significant portrait of Andrea Palladio himself within the villa, linking the past to the present through artistic homage. Though Palladio wasn’t around to see this villa rise from the ground, his influence in the region makes his presence almost expected, like a signature on a masterpiece.

Visiting Villa Valmarana ai Nani provides more than just a glimpse into Italian art history; it offers an immersive experience into a world where art, architecture, and literature meet. So, if you find yourself wandering through Vicenza, make sure to step into this storybook villa and let its frescoes tell you their tales.

 


Corso Andrea Palladiocorso-andrea-palladio

Corso Andrea Palladio isn’t just any street; it’s the pulsating heart of Vicenza, stretching elegantly from the grandeur of Teatro Olimpico to the historic Piazza Castello at the city gate. This bustling artery is more than a mere thoroughfare; it’s a showcase of the city’s rich architectural and cultural tapestry, threaded with the genius of Andrea Palladio himself.

As you amble along Corso Andrea Palladio, the street offers up architectural treats in the form of not one, but two Palladian palaces. These structures stand as stone-clad testaments to the architect’s enduring influence, leading you from one historical highlight to another, down to the bustling Piazza Matteotti. Here, you’re at a prime vantage point to catch glimpses of both Teatro Olimpico and Palazzo Chiericati, forming a sort of architectural runway that models some of Vicenza’s most iconic designs.

But Corso Andrea Palladio isn’t just for the history buffs. Lined with an array of shops, cafes, and restaurants, it’s also the lifeline of the city’s social scene. Whether you’re in the mood for a leisurely espresso, a spot of shopping, or just soaking in the lively ambiance, this street offers a slice of Vicentine life served up with a side of historical flair.


Chiesa di Santa Coronachiesa-di-santa-corona


La ScaletteClimbing le Scalette in Vicenza

In the picture-perfect city of Vicenza, beneath an archway crafted by none other than Andrea Palladio himself, lies Le Scalette—a seemingly innocent set of 192 stairs. Don’t be fooled; these aren’t just any stairs. They are a path to Monte Berico and a test of endurance that even local soldiers from Caserma Ederle use as their personal outdoor gym, sprinting up and down in full paratrooper gear. Talk about taking your workout to new heights!

Now, I gave these stairs a go once, dressed in my finest gym attire (sans the paratrooper gear, thank you very much). Let’s just say, on a scale of one to “never again,” it scored a solid “do not recommend.” However, despite the burn, Le Scalette offers a unique blend of physical challenge and historical charm that makes the pain almost worth it—almost.

Climbing Le Scalette isn’t just about testing your physical limits; it’s about experiencing a piece of Vicenza that combines architectural genius with breathtaking views. Yes, your legs might scream in protest, and yes, you might question your life choices halfway up, but the vista from the top and the satisfaction of conquering Palladio’s stairway are unparalleled.

Read Next:

7 Hidden Gems in Tuscia

19 Essential Italy Travel Tips You Need To Know

21-things-to-do in Vicenza, Italy

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