Around Vicenza, open-air museum

Fuori confineAround Vicenza, open-air museum

Vicenza is known as the city of Andrea Palladio, an artist who began as a humble stonemason and became the most influential architect of his time.
Walking through the center it is fascinating to observe the evolution of the distinctive style of this artist who, born in Padua, left his most beautiful projects in Vicenza, turning them into an open-air museum.

Strolling in the city of Palladio


Piazza dei Signori is bordered by imposing buildings of the fifteenth century, including the thin brick Torre di Piazza built in the twelfth century and raised in 1311 and 1444, and the monumental Basilica that Palladio changed into a town hall.
The Basilica is the symbolic monument of the city, as well as included in the Unesco list of world heritage assets and since 2014 also a National Monument.


On the first floor is the grandiose Council room, 52 meters long and 25 meters high with a wooden ceiling in the shape of a majestic upturned ship hull, now used for the preparation of exhibitions and conferences.

On the second floor, the “Domus Comestabilis” room gives access to the large upper terrace from which you can admire the whole city and which overlooks the monument to Andrea Palladio, often surrounded by the stalls of the market which also takes place in Piazza delle Erbe, dominated from the Torre del Tormento, a torture chamber from the 13th century.


Beyond the three squares that surround the Basilica, Piazza dei Signori, Piazza delle Erbe and Piazza delle Biade, there are the elegant streets of the center on which the palaces that Palladio designed for the wealthy inhabitants of the city stand.


In one of these, indeed in the most important because it was commissioned to the architect by the richest family in the city, the Valmarana, we spent our nights in Vicenza.
Palazzo Valmarana Braga stands out imposingly on Corso Fogazzaro and in the original project it should have been larger. But Leonardo Valmarana, son of Isabella Nogarola Valmarana and Giovanni Alvise who chose Palladio as the designer of the family palace, did not want to continue its construction which remained partial compared to the initial idea and was only completed in 1680, one hundred years after his death. of the architect.
The Palace is included in the list of 23 Palladian monuments of the city which is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

We had breakfast in Piazza dei Signori at the Gran Caffè Garibaldi, adjacent to the Loggia del Capitano, also by Palladio, with the splendid view of the Palazzo della Ragione, called the “Basilica” with a green copper roof in the shape of an upturned boat.

In Vicenza the streets are called Contrà or Contrade and in Contrà Porti there are some of the most elegant city buildings.
A short distance away another of the jewels of the Venetian city, the Olympic Theater, the oldest existing covered theater. Designed by Palladio in 1579 but not completed due to his sudden death the following year, it was carried out by his pupil Vincenzo Scamozzi who completed it in time for the opening performance, “Oedipus Re” by Sophocles, on March 3, 1585.


It is accessed from the Porta dell’Armamentario through a courtyard full of sculptures donated by members of the Accademia degli Olimpici, the Renaissance association that had the theater built. From here you pass by the room called Odeon, used for musical performances and decorated with frescoes with the gods of Olympus. Then a corridor leads to the cavea designed by Palladio to imitate the open-air theaters of ancient Greece and Rome with the ceiling with a painted sky.


The scenes, which are due to Scamozzi, are fixed and represent the seven streets of the Greek city of Thebes: the streets, skilfully depicted in perspective, converge in the center to give the effect of length. The space is not large but is dilated by the perspective effect that can be appreciated through the five openings of the proscenium.

A little stunned by the beauty of this elegant and perfect structure in wood and stucco painted to look like marble, I joined Michele and Otto who waited for me in the courtyard, passing through the Antiodeon, whose frescoes depict the opening representation of the theater and where the oil lamps of the original scenes are exhibited.


Almost in front of the Porta dell’Armamentario stands the grandiose Palazzo Chiericati, designed in 1550 by Andrea Palladio with a harmonious facade structured in two superimposed orders with a crown of statues.
The Municipality of Vicenza acquired it in 1839 from the noble Chiericati family to make it home to the Civic Museum which now houses a large collection of paintings, sculptures and applied arts, ranging from the thirteenth century to the early 2000s.
The restoration of the building is still in progress and at the moment the exhibition itinerary from the thirteenth to the seventeenth century and the Giuseppe Roi legacy are open to the public.


We postponed the visit to a next time and all three of us headed towards L’ombra al Campanile, a historic place in Piazza delle Poste with benches near the bell tower and three barrels outside while the interiors are made of wood with vintage bottles. The prices of “ombre” and cutting boards are from another time and are perfect for an aperitif in the center of Vicenza.

Info and tickets by Basilica Palladiana, Teatro Olimpico and Museo Civico di Palazzo Chiericati on

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