Cosa vedere a Vicenza- Giardini Salvi- Torre del Castello Scaligero- Busto di Bartolomeo Montagna- Alberi

A Brief Itinerary to Discover the City Embellished by the Genius of Andrea Palladio

Thinking about a trip to Veneto but unsure about including Vicenza? Read on and discover what to see in Vicenza, the city of Palladio.

Vicenza, forming an ideal triangle with Padua and Treviso, represents the westernmost vertex. Its beauty is no less than the other two cities, leaving visitors truly speechless. The city’s history, marked by various historical phases, can be simplistically divided into pre and post-Palladio eras. The architect, born in Padua, transformed the city’s appearance, making it splendid. His innovative classical-inspired designs were so revolutionary that many architects drew inspiration from them in the centuries that followed. Consequently, in 1994, Vicenza’s historic center with its palaces was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

However, Vicenza’s history predates Palladio’s arrival. Initially, it was a settlement of a proto-Venetian population before becoming a prosperous Roman city on the Via Gallica. In the Middle Ages, it was one of the first Lombard duchies and subsequently became a major center of influence in the region. The pivotal moment for Vicenza occurred in 1414 when it voluntarily submitted to Venice, becoming part of the Republic of St. Mark. This decision brought four centuries of peace and prosperity, leading to elevated arts and economic prosperity.

After this brief prologue, let’s embark on our journey to discover what to see in Vicenza with a useful tip.

The Vicenza Card

In our itinerary, we’ll explore the most beautiful and significant places in Vicenza. As with any city visit, we’ll point out both free and ticketed attractions. To maximize our experience while minimizing costs, we’ve obtained the Vicenza Card from the Vicenza Tourist Information Office (IAT). Priced at €20, this cumulative ticket allows entry to 10 sites, providing substantial savings. If you plan to follow our itinerary, we recommend purchasing it.

What to see in Vicenza: Piazza dei Signori and its Palaces

Vicenza’s historic center is a succession of exceptional streets and squares surrounded by beautiful Renaissance palaces designed by Palladio and his successors. Despite this, our preferred starting point for exploring Vicenza is Piazza dei Signori. This square has been the city’s most representative and famous place, the focal point of civic life throughout history. It served as the Roman forum and later became the seat of the city market and important institutional buildings. Notable landmarks include the Basilica Palladiana with the Torre Bissara, the Loggia del Capitanio, and the Palazzo del Monte di Pietà. Throughout the year, this splendid setting hosts numerous events and shows, enlivening Vicenza’s historic center.

What to see in Vicenza - Piazza dei Signori - Basilica Palladiana - Palazzo del Monte di Pietà - Palazzo del Capitanio - Torre Bissara
Piazza dei Signori (Credit to Matteo Marongiu)

Basilica Palladiana and Torre Bissara

The most imposing palace on the square is the Basilica Palladiana, closely associated with Andrea Palladio. Palladio’s design of the double loggia showcased his talent to the public, introducing the innovative use of the serliana architectural element. This solution allowed the building to maintain its medieval core inspired by Padua’s Palazzo della Ragione but with a more ordered Renaissance-style loggia.

During the Venetian Republic, the Basilica housed not only political and judicial activities but also economic functions. Following recent renovations, its three spacious exhibition areas now host architecture and art exhibitions. In its underground spaces lies the Archaeological Area of Corte dei Bissari, depicting Vicenza’s evolution from its foundation to the Renaissance. On the ground floor, the Jewelry Museum, Italy’s first of its kind, offers a unique experience exploring an ancient and culturally rooted object.

Adjacent to the Basilica rises the ancient Torre Bissara, constructed by the Bissari family, owners of the palace that formed the original core of the Palazzo della Ragione. Standing over 82 meters tall, it is the city’s tallest building, adorned over the centuries with statues, reliefs, and a beautiful cobalt blue lunar clock.

Palazzo del Capitanio

On the opposite side of Piazza dei Signori, two other palaces dominate the scene, revealing more about Vicenza’s history. The first is Palazzo del Capitanio, designed by Andrea Palladio as the residence of Venice’s representative in the city. Notably, the entire structure is made of exposed bricks, an unusual choice in the 16th century.

Palladio’s original idea was to highlight the large columns dominating the façade by covering them in white plaster. However, this idea remained only on paper after Palladio’s death. The contrast between the white plaster and the red bricks is evident in other elements, such as Istrian stone decorations depicting river personifications. The building’s first floor, adorned with frescoes, now houses the Vicenza City Council meetings, while under the impressive loggia, plaques commemorate Vicenza’s war casualties.

Palazzo del Capitanio - Piazza dei Signori - statues - loggia
Palazzo del Capitanio (Credit to Matteo Marongiu)

Palazzo del Monte di Pietà

The other significant building on this side of Piazza dei Signori is Palazzo del Monte di Pietà. Built at the end of the 15th century, after the expulsion of Jews from the city, it served as a place where citizens could borrow money at more favorable rates than before. Initially smaller, the palace gradually expanded to accommodate the numerous items pawned by people. It grew to encompass the 14th-century Church of San Vincenzo, which underwent a Baroque-style renovation..

Piazza dei Signori - Palazzo del Monte di Pietà - Church of San Vincenzo
Palazzo del Monte di Pietà (Credit to Didier Descouens)

The two wings of the palace now present harmonious lines, with subtle differences reflecting the restructuring of existing late medieval buildings in the right wing. Above the ground-floor shops, late 15th-century windows are noticeable, grouped regularly in mullioned windows on the right side and occasionally divided into mullioned and transomed windows on the left. The upper levels adhere to 16th-century standards with classical windows equipped with grates.

Between Palazzo del Monte di Pietà and Basilica Palladiana, enriching the square, stand two tall columns. One supports a large Lion of St. Mark, symbolizing the power of the Venetian Republic, while the other holds a statue of Christ the Redeemer..

What to see in Vicenza: Teatro Olimpico

Another renowned venue in Vicenza is the Teatro Olimpico. Having visited it, we can confirm its inclusion in a list of things to see in Vicenza is a must. Describing its fascination merely with words is challenging, but we hope to convey some of the emotions experienced during our visit. Firstly, it is the oldest surviving Renaissance theater and notably the last project conceived by Palladio. Construction began in 1580, the year of Palladio’s death, and was continued by his son and Vincenzo Scamozzi. The theater emerged on the ruins of an old castle and fully embodies the classical theater canons extensively studied by Palladio.

Upon entering, visitors are immediately immersed in a bygone era. The wooden auditorium with a balustrade adorned with statues allows for a serene and attentive view of the beautiful stage inspired by Roman triumphal arches. Eleven panels depict the labors of Hercules, along with a panel portraying a chariot race, symbolizing the Olympic Academy.

What to see in Vicenza - Olympic Theater - Stage - Statues - scenography
Stage of the Teatro Olimpico (Credit to Matteo Marongiu)

From the arches, one can glimpse wooden scenes, a perfect example of perspectival illusionism designed by Vincenzo Scamozzi. These scenes represent the streets of Thebes, serving as the backdrop for Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex, the first play performed in the theater. Imagining the excitement of witnessing a performance in this environment is truly captivating!

What to see in Vicenza: Palazzo Chiericati and the Civic Art Gallery

A short walk from the Teatro Olimpico, still on the same square, stands another famous example of Palladio’s work in Vicenza: Palazzo Chiericati. This grand building is undoubtedly one of the city’s most beautiful, both externally and internally. Entering reveals that both the ground floor and the main floor are a succession of decorations and frescoes created by the best Vicentine artists of the time.

What to see in Vicenza - Palazzo Chiericati - Civic Art Gallery - Columns - Statues - Renaissance
Exterior of Palazzo Chiericati (Credit to Matteo Marongiu)

The main reason to visit is the rich collection of paintings and sculptures owned by the City of Vicenza. The path traces the city’s history through the works of artists who made it a cultural hub from the 13th to the 20th century.

Among the many masterpieces are works by Bassano, Tintoretto, Veronese, and the Vicentine Bartolomeo Montagna. Two rooms are particularly striking. The first, known as the “Seven Lunettoni,” displays large paintings depicting the city’s golden period between the 16th and 17th centuries.

Civic art gallery - Palazzo Chiericati - Hall of the seven Lunettoni - Civic lunettoni
Hall of the Seven Lunettoni (Credit to Matteo Marongiu)

The second room showcases the decoration from the destroyed Church of S. Bartolomeo, including significant altarpieces by Montagna and Cima da Conegliano.

Civic Art Gallery - Altarpieces - Palazzo Chiericati - Church of San Bartolomeo
Hall of the Altarpieces of the Church of San Bartolomeo (Credit to Matteo Marongiu)

The attic rooms with the bequest of Marquis Giuseppe Roi are also captivating. Here, his interesting collection of paintings, drawings, and engravings from the 15th to the 20th century is displayed as it was in his studio.

What to see in Vicenza: the Cathedral

In an itinerary following Palladio’s work, an important stop is the Cathedral. This church has a long history dating back to the 8th century, but its current appearance dates back to the 16th century. Although predominantly Gothic, Palladio’s intervention with classical elements is unmistakable. Approaching the building, one immediately notices the imposing green dome supported by a red apse interspersed with white pilasters. Another sign of Palladio’s work is the northern door, where he seemingly drew inspiration from the Temple of Fortuna Virile in Rome.

What to see in Vicenza - Cathedral - Duomo - Palladio's Dome - Venetian Gothic
The Cathedral (Credit to Matteo Marongiu)

The Cathedral’s value extends beyond Palladio’s designs. Inside, many works by artists active in Vicenza during the 16th century can be found. Notable among them are Bartolomeo Montagna, with his paintings, and Giulio Romano, the author of the funerary monument to Lavinia Thiene. Take a few minutes to observe the Chapel of SS. Giacomo and Antonio Abate, housing a beautiful polyptych by Lorenzo Veneziano, restored a few years ago.

Other Palladian Sites in the Historic Center

Certainly, there are numerous places to admire, and each visitor must decide what to include in their itinerary. If you have time and wish to explore more places linked to Andrea Palladio, here are two other fascinating locations. The first is the Valmarana Chapel, located in a side street off Corso Palladio within the Church of Santa Corona. While not very large, the chapel, thanks to the architect’s talent, becomes a monumental work directly inspired by ancient Roman funerary monuments. Palladio’s extraordinary idea was to overcome space constraints by constructing two high apses, featuring four oculi and two windows, providing light and space to the entire structure

The second place is the Valmarana Loggia, located within the picturesque Giardini Salvi, a short walk from the Torrione del Castello Scaligero. Much debate surrounds the attribution of this building to Palladio or one of his disciples, but it was eventually included in the UNESCO-protected assets. The structure closely resembles a Doric temple, with added charm due to its placement along a canal. This serene location was designed to facilitate discussions among the most prominent scholars and academics of the time.

What to see in Vicenza - Loggia Valmarana - Salvi Gardens - Canale
Loggia Valmarana (Credit to Matteo Marongiu)

The Palladio Museum

Finally, if Andrea Palladio’s figure captivates you, consider visiting the Palladio Museum. Housed in one of Palladio’s most beautiful urban residences, Palazzo Barbaran da Porto, the museum is designed to emotionally guide visitors through the life of Andrea Palladio and his era. It allows everyone to deepen their knowledge of the architect’s masterpieces scattered throughout the Veneto region.

What to see in Vicenza - Palazzo Barbaran from Porto - Palladio Museum
Facade of Palazzo Barbaran da Porto (Credit to Matteo Marongiu)

What to see in Vicenza: the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Monte Berico

In any guide about what to see in Vicenza, the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Monte Berico is a must-visit. Although located atop a hill and slightly outside the historic center, it takes just over twenty minutes to walk there and enjoy the panoramic view of Vicenza from above.

There are two main paths, both very scenic, so we recommend taking one for the journey and the other for the return. The older route dates back to the sanctuary’s foundation and starts from the Arco delle Scalette, a grand triumphal arch of classical inspiration. Many attribute it to Palladio, although some have debated this attribution. The path consists of 192 steps ascending the ridge, serving as the sole access to the mount until the 18th century. At that time, another path was built on a different side, shorter and more comfortable for pilgrims departing from the historic center. Architect Francesco Muttoni designed 700 meters of porticoes, providing a covered route in all weather conditions.

Regardless of the chosen path, upon reaching the summit, your eyes will immediately be drawn to one of the Baroque facades topped by a large dome. Next to one of the facades, you’ll notice a neo-Gothic style. The Sanctuary complex results from the integration of two churches built in different eras.

What to see in Vicenza - Sanctuary of Monte Berico - Baroque - Dome - Bell tower
Sanctuary of Monte Berico (Credit to Maurizio Martinelli CC BY SA)

Apart from being a place of great devotion for the residents of Vicenza, we discovered that it also houses works by great Venetian painters. Inside the Basilica, with its central plan, are works by Palma il Giovane, Giulio Carpioni, and the Vicentine Bartolomeo Montagna. Passing through the beautiful 15th-century cloister, you can admire, in the refectory, the fascinating fresco depicting the Last Supper by Paolo Veronese.

What to See in Vicenza: Exploring the Gallerie d’Italia

Our final stop in this itinerary is no less captivating than the previous ones, although we’ve saved it for last as it is not directly tied to Palladio’s legacy but represents a later era. Palazzo Leoni Montanari, now home to the Gallerie d’Italia in Vicenza, is an opulent Baroque residence from the late 1600s. The main floor boasts exquisite frescoes, stuccos, and statues, all inspired by the theme of wonder.

What to see in Vicenza - Palazzo Leoni Montanari - Gallerie d'Italia - frescoes - stuccos
A decoration of a ceiling on the main floor (Credit to Matteo Marongiu)

The Collections

If the aesthetics alone aren’t enticing enough, this exhibition space houses three unique collections that diverge significantly from anything else in the city. The first collection features Attic and Magna Graecia vases, showcasing masterpieces, with particular attention drawn to the Attic kalpis by the Painter of Leningrad, depicting a ceramic workshop scene.

Moving to the eighteenth century, the second collection encapsulates the flourishing period of Venetian painting. It includes works spanning various genres, from magnificent views by Canaletto, Luca Carlevarijs, and Francesco Guardi to paintings by Pietro Longhi and his followers, skillfully portraying Venetian society with vibrant colors and a keen eye for detail.

The last collection, somewhat unrelated to the local context, surprises with its Russian Icons. Unexpected in this setting, it provides a unique opportunity for those curious about the evolution of Russian sacred painting from the 13th to the 19th century.

Final Recommendations

Now that you’re acquainted with Vicenza’s most captivating spots, consider adding it to your Veneto itinerary and experiencing it firsthand. If you plan to stay, check out the best accommodations by clicking here for optimal prices!

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What to see in Vicenza
"Planning a Veneto trip? Unsure about Vicenza? Explore 'What to See in Vicenza' with us for a memorable experience!"
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