A Brief Itinerary to Discover the Small Venice of the Mainland
Are you on vacation in Veneto and searching for a beautiful city with romantic views? Then read on and discover what to see in Treviso in a day – you’ll be fascinated!
Treviso is a charming city located in the lower Venetian Plain, in an area rich in water resources. This aspect becomes immediately apparent upon arrival in the city. Canals and resurgent rivers cross the city center so much that, unaware of being 30 km from Venice, one might easily be confused. Unlike Venice, Treviso is not overrun by mass tourism, allowing visitors to enjoy its beauty in tranquility.
The city’s origins are ancient, with an initial settlement existing centuries before the Roman conquest of the region. Venetian populations, attracted by the abundance of water, established themselves here. During the Roman period, Treviso served as a crucial commercial center along the Postumia road connecting Genoa to Aquileia. However, its peak development occurred in the medieval era, first as the seat of one of the 36 Lombard duchies, and later contending supremacy in the Veneto with Padua, leading to the construction of the fortress city of Castelfranco on the border.
After a prosperous period as a Signoria, Treviso faced a crisis, leading it to voluntarily submit to Venice in 1339. From then on, Treviso maintained a privileged relationship with Venice, enjoying a long period of peace and prosperity until both cities were incorporated into the Kingdom of Italy.
While much more could be said about Treviso’s history, these details can be discovered by visiting the city. Let’s begin exploring the most interesting places to see in Treviso in a day.
What to See in Treviso: Canals and Rivulets
It may seem unusual to start a list of things to see in Treviso in a day with its canals and not a building or artwork. However, this choice is due to the fact that these waterways give the city its distinctive atmosphere as the “Little Venice of the Mainland.” The canals, called “Cagnani,” originate from the branching of the Botteniga river, flowing into the Sile river.
The largest is the Cagnan Grande, also known as Canale della Pescheria, starting near Ponte de Pria and traversing the city center to touch the Isola della Pescheria. This artificial island remains one of Treviso’s characteristic locations, hosting the vibrant city fish market. The area also offers beautiful views of ancient buildings reflecting in the dark waters and the functional wheel of an old mill.
More evocative and sought-after by tourists is the Cagnan Medio, better known as Canale dei Buranelli (hence our choice for the main article photo). This narrow canal winds through buildings and, at times, seems to disappear, only to reappear shortly after. At certain points, especially near the Buranelli bridge, it feels like crossing a canal in Venice. The canal earned its famous name due to the presence of a warehouse used by merchants from the island of Burano.
Less frequented but equally picturesque is the Cagnan della Roggia or Siletto, flowing through the western wing of the historic center, passing near Piazza Duomo and Piazza Borsa, offering views as enchanting as the first two.
As mentioned, the canals converge into the Sile river after crossing the historic center, flowing along the ancient walls and the Latin Quarter. This beautiful area, ideal for a relaxing stroll, provides views no less enchanting than those offered by the Cagnani.
Of particular interest is the area near the Dante Bridge, where a stele commemorates the long stay of the great poet Dante during his exile from Florence. The choice of this location was deliberate, as Dante himself mentioned it in the Divine Comedy (Paradise, IX, 49). A few meters away is another interesting spot, the Roman Castle. Although not a castle in the traditional sense, having been built in the late 19th century, its dominant position is hard to miss.
What to See in Treviso: Piazza dei Signori and the Loggia dei Cavalieri
The second symbolic location in Treviso that must be visited is Piazza dei Signori, the true cultural, historical, and social center of the city. Two palaces on the square bear witness to Treviso’s significant periods. The first is Palazzo dei Trecento, where the Major Council met, serving both political and judicial roles. The brick-faced palace features a beautiful loggia, a series of trefoils illuminating the inner hall, and an impressive battlement. Its side also boasts a grand staircase offering a splendid view of the surrounding district.
The other building overlooking the square is Palazzo del Podestà, easily recognizable by the Civic Tower standing at 48 meters tall and a series of trefoils and bifores along its facade. As the name suggests, it served as the residence of the Podestà and later various lords who succeeded in governing Treviso during the medieval period. The square is adorned with numerous lions of St. Mark with an open Gospel, a testament to Venice’s long dominance over the city.
A few dozen meters from the square lies another crucial building in Treviso’s history: the Loggia dei Cavalieri. Located at the intersection of via dei Martiri and via Indipendenza, it symbolizes the power held by the nobility during the communal period. Beneath this Romanesque-style loggia, nobles gathered for meetings, games, and conversations. Both inside and outside, the walls feature beautiful painted decorations depicting knights and scenes from the courtly romance Roman de Troie.
What to See in Treviso: The Cathedral
After exploring Piazza dei Signori and traversing Calamaggiore, Treviso’s shopping street, you’ll reach the Cathedral dedicated to Saint Peter. The church has ancient origins, believed to have been built in the 6th century on the remains of an ancient pagan temple. Its current neoclassical appearance dates back to the 19th century, with a facade reminiscent of a Roman temple. Despite the unimposing exterior, the interior houses remarkable paintings.
We recommend entering to admire the noteworthy artworks, mainly concentrated in the Chapel of the Annunciation or Malchiostro, located to the left of the main altar. Before entering this chapel, visitors encounter a vestibule displaying Renaissance paintings by Paris Bordon, Domenico Capriolo, and Girolamo da Treviso. Inside, they step into a highly suggestive environment where the two prominent Venetian painters of the 16th century, Pordenone and Titian, worked. Pordenone adorned the walls and dome with scenes from the Gospel and characters from the church’s history. Titian, on the other hand, created the beautiful Altarpiece of the Annunciation. The scene is exceptionally crafted, with the Virgin caught in the act of observing the angel’s arrival from the background. Noteworthy is also the figure of the patron secretly observing the scene, leaning out from the wall.
What to See in Treviso: Civic Museums
Treviso, as seen, is a city of incredible charm with its wonderful canals and medieval historic center. However, it doesn’t fail to impress with its beautiful and diverse museums. Among these, we recommend the ones we find most artistically and historically interesting: the Civic Museum of Santa Caterina and the Bailo Museum. Both are part of the Civic Museums of Treviso and can be visited with a combined ticket.
Museum of Santa Caterina
In the heart of Treviso’s historic center stands the Museum of Santa Caterina, a crucial place for understanding the city’s extensive history and admiring its productions. We found it so intriguing that we included it in our article on lesser-known art museums to visit in Italy. The museum is located in a former convent with two beautiful cloisters, divided into three main sections.
The first is the Archaeological section, spread across the ground floor and basement, collecting both prehistoric artifacts and refined objects from classical antiquity. Among these, colored glass containers and finely crafted bronze figurines stand out, along with large stone decorations from ancient monuments
On the first floor, the section that impressed us the most, both for the quality of the exhibited works and the fascinating narrative it provides about Treviso. The Medieval, Renaissance, and Modern Art Gallery allows visitors to understand the passion of the people of Treviso for art and beauty over the centuries. With a well-constructed chronological path, visitors can admire magnificent medieval frescoes and Renaissance masterpieces by Lorenzo Lotto, Giovanni Bellini, and Pordenone. The journey continues through Mannerist works by Paris Bordon, Jacopo Bassano, and Titian. Finally, modern works by Giambattista and Giandomenico Tiepolo, Rosalba Carriera, Giovanni Marchiori, and Francesco Guardi complete the collection.
The last section of the museum, no less interesting than the previous ones, is inside the Church of Santa Caterina, hosting the cycle of frescoes depicting the Stories of Saint Ursula. Originating from the church of Santa Margherita agli Eremitani, these were painted by Tommaso da Modena and represent masterpieces of Italian 14th-century art.
To continue the chronological journey through Treviso’s art, one must move from the vicinity of the Cathedral to the Bailo Museum. This museum, also housed in a medieval former convent, underwent significant restructuring in the early 2000s, making it more modern and visitor-friendly. Inside, it hosts works spanning from the mid-19th century to the mid-20th century, covering various artistic movements, from realism to macchiaioli, the Ca’ Pesaro movement, and lively currents that emerged between the two world wars.
The most represented artist is Arturo Martini, whose artistic evolution is followed from youth to maturity. Other artists include Gino Rossi, Ottone Zorlini, Guido Cacciapuoti, Aldo Voltolin, Nino Springolo, and Carlo Conte
What to See in Treviso: Church of San Francesco
In a day, it’s impossible to see everything Treviso has to offer, but there are essential stops on any itinerary. One of these is the Church of San Francesco, a significant building both spiritually and artistically. Founded by a group of Franciscan friars at the beginning of the 13th century, the church reflects the simplicity and austerity of the order, as well as the Romanesque-Gothic style prevalent during that period.
Artistically, the church is crucial, housing some masterpieces of 14th-century art, a vibrant period for Treviso. Above the portal, there’s a Byzantine-style fresco attributed to Marco Veneziano. On the left wall, a later fresco in Romanesque-Byzantine style depicts Saint Christopher. In the apse, frescoes attributed to the Veneto-Emilian school of Tommaso da Modena are present. The church’s true artistic masterpiece, however, is located in the first chapel on the left (Giacomelli Chapel): the fresco of the Madonna and Child with seven saints. This work showcases the refined Gothic style of the Emilian master active in the city at that time.
What to See in Treviso: Church of San Nicolò
Following Tommaso da Modena’s artistic activity leads to the final stop on our itinerary exploring places to see in Treviso in a day. The Church of San Nicolò is another building where the hand of the 14th-century master and his school has left evident marks. The church, as a structure, is imposing, being the largest religious building in the city. Built by the Dominicans in the early 13th century, it represents a grand example of Romanesque-Gothic architecture.
The interior is divided into three naves by sturdy columns supporting a simple wooden roof. On the second column on the left, one can observe some frescoes by Tommaso da Modena depicting Saint Jerome, Saint Agnes, and Saint Romualdo. Along the aisles, there are other frescoes directly attributable to his school, which played a crucial role in the city’s pictorial evolution.
Finally, not tied to 14th-century art but intriguing nonetheless, is the tomb of Senator Agostino Onigo. Built in the 16th century within the presbytery, it was adorned by works of leading artists of the time. Giovanni Buora da Osteno, from the Lombardi workshop, contributed to the sculptural part, while Giovanni Buonconsiglio, known as il Marescalco, is believed to have executed the pictorial part, although some argue it was the work of Lorenzo Lotto.
As mentioned, it’s impossible to explore every corner of an interesting and rich city like Treviso in just one day. However, with this brief itinerary to discover what to see in Treviso in a day, you can get a glimpse of its beauty and perhaps decide to return for a more in-depth exploration. Safe travels!
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