Vicenza, a city of harmony and beauty
Oct 26, 2009
|Unluckily we had to say goodbye to Marostica because we had booked another hotel in Vicenza. Vicenza is a delightful city, this is what everybody says , but Marostica was already in our heart and we were a little bit sad to leave that peaceful place, that little paradise town.
Vicenza is a lovely city in the heart of Veneto, 25 kilometres from Marostica. The first thing that struck us was the sense of elegance of the city. It is a quite big city for this region, but it’s not chaotic and the downtown is a pedestrian area. The historical centre of the city is absolutely fantastic for its architecture, that’s why UNESCO awarded the city with the title of World Heritage Site. Vicenza is known to be the city of Andrea Palladio, a famous Renaissance architect. He’s considered one of the most important architect in world and you can find buildings in Palladian style in many capitals: the White House in Washington is one of these!
We parked our car easily and quite near to the centre, and this is a positive thing of the city, in comparison with Padova. We started walking watching everything we saw around us. The atmosphere was so nice, there was a lot of life in the city, a lot of people walking but not in a frenetic and stressed way. You could feel relaxed.
Rivers play an important role in creating the beauty of Vicenza.. We walked along a river bank and had some amazing views of historical buildings together with trees that created the impression of being like in a kind of Garden of Eden. We soon arrived to the most important centre of Vicenza: Piazza dei Signori (Lords’ Square). The square is wide and beautiful. On one side you can see the Basilica by Palladio with its tall tower. The basilica was in origin the site were the judges of Vicenza gathered to administer the justice. It was called Palazzo della Ragione (reason’s Palace, because the judges had to administer reasonably the justice). Later Palladio was called by the aristocracy of the city to improve it with a new project of its façade. Palladio called it Basilica from the ancient name during roman emperor that was given to public buildings where politics took place. The Basilica is really nice with all its arches set in two rows, one over the other. It has an extraordinary harmony in its design. The green roof has the shape of an upside-down ship hull. So bad we could not see the Basilica inside because it was at that period undergoing some restoration. We remained outside admiring it. I took many pictures from many points of view. On the other side of the square there is the Loggia del Capitanio (captain’s palace, the captain was the person who represented the republic of Venice in the city). Also the loggia was realized by Palladio. The Loggia is in my opinion even better than the Basilica. On its façade there are amazing low reliefs and sculptures, so beautiful I would have spent an hour watching them. In the Loggia the world cup of football has been hosted to be shown to the public in 2007. Italy won the world cup in 2006. Magnus read that curiosity in some place in the tourist guide. He’s so fanatic with football. He was now wondering if Denmark could ever show a world cup to its people, that means that Denmark should win the world cup. I think this will remain a dream for Magnus and many Danes for a long long time.
Near to Piazza dei Signori there’s another square called Piazza delle Biade (crops square, so called because in the past here there was a market of cereals). This square is divided from Piazza dei Signori by two high columns. One has the Saint Mark’s lion with wings on the top of it; the lion is the symbol of Venice and its republic. The other column has Christ Redeemer on its top. These two columns have a strong correlation with Venice: the same two columns with the lion and Christ are also in Venice is San Marco square. Vicenza was under the dominion of Venice after the 15th century. I wanted so much a picture with the Lion at my back but it was so difficult to make enter in the frame both me and the Lion that was on the top of that high column. Magnus managed a little bit to make something ok, we can say decent. On one side of the Biade square there’s a gracious church from 14th century. The building of the church began in early 1400 but the façade has been finished later in 1531. The church is little and nice. Inside there was a quiet and silent atmosphere and there I began to feel tired and sleepy, maybe because of the low light inside and because I needed a coffee. My wife and Anna instead were very active and watched with interest all the paintings on the walls of the church. I waited for them outside the church and Magnus came with me. He liked standing on that square enjoying the autumn breeze watching around, taking pictures of buildings and of people passing by. After my wife and Anna came out I decided it was time for me to have a coffee.
After I recovered with a strong Espresso in a bar in Piazza dei Signori (with a wonderful view of the Basilica) it was time for us to see another builduing by Andrea Palladio, the Palazzo Barbaran da Porto.
The palace was asked to Palladio by Montano Barbarano. Montano was not only a noble man but also a smart person with a lot of culture, especially in the field of music. Montano was very demanding for his palace: he wanted something beautiful that could also adapt to the pre-existent structure of the old palace that was in that place. What came out of that tough work was a very elegant building. The windows are so beautifully decorated with low reliefs and little statues. I used the zoom function of my camera to see them better and I found them unbelievably fascinating. I also saw over the windows many needles and I wandered what they were there for. Magnus found the correct answer to my curiosity: the needles were there to avoid that the pigeons sit on the windows and let there their guano that could ruin the building. I found it a cruel way to treat the pigeons, but otherwise I can understand pigeons can be a serious hazard for Italian historical monuments. Inside the palazzo there is the Palladio museum where there are some wooden models that explain how the architect used to create his masterpieces. The inside of the palazzo is beautiful and elegant. There’s a very nice internal yard that resembles very much to a roman yard. The ceilings of the rooms are wonderfully decorated with little low reliefs and frescoes. Anna was again day-dreaming of living in such a beautiful house and to be treated like a queen by her man . Magnus is surely not a king and maybe he’s not so charming with women, but he’s kind and gentle and I think Anna should be satisfied with her man . My wife was also interested in watching the ceilings and observed very well every particular of the sculptures. I was at one moment afraid she was thinking to have something similar also in our house ceiling .
Our visit to the Palazzo was interesting but we had to hurry up because we had so many other things to see in Vicenza. We decided to have a quick lunch at a small restaurant near Palazzo Barbaran. The lunch was really good. We all tasted the Baccalà alla Vicentina, which is cod fish cooked in a particular way. It is really, really good. I had two portions of that while the others preferred to eat oven cooked rabbit with olives. They appreciated the rabbit and made many compliments to the cooker. The waiter said us a little curiosity about rabbit. There’s a legend in Veneto that says that people from Vicenza eat cats (“Vicentini magna gati”). He said that many people from Veneto when eating rabbit in Vicenza they ask joking if they are eating cat or rabbit. What a stupid joke. How can a person even think to eat a cat. That’s a horrible idea!!
We started again our visit to the city and started walking again through the streets of Vicenza. The streets are beautiful, every building seems to be old here and to have some special history that has just to be discovered. There are many porticoes under which you can walk and observe the little shops and maybe decide to buy something. We saw some shops of golden jewels and found out in the guide that Vicenza is an important area for the gold industry. My wife was so interested in watching golden stuff and I was almost ready to buy her some jewel if she would have asked me. Fortunately, she didn’t
We liked so much walking on those crowded streets, to see the life of city flowing restless that we almost forgot we had to see other monuments.
Our next stage was Palazzo Chiericati, another palace by Andrea Palladio.
What a lovely building this Palazzo is. It looks really similar to an ancient Greek building in its style, but I would say I like this one better than the ancient ones. It communicates an extraordinary sense of harmony and peace. Many statues are set on the border of the roof giving a charming elegance to the Palazzo. Its façade is made of two rows of high columns in the two floors. At the first floor at the sides of the building behind the columns there are two terraces. The palazzo now hosts the Vicenza’s art gallery. It was great to see many beautiful paintings in that atmosphere of quiet and elegance, but the lights are awful!. Many paintings were of religious theme. One I liked was by the painter Battista da Vicenza, representing a Pope (don’t remember the name) that manages to turn a dragon quiet. I loved of this painting the contrast between the golden background and the red building and clothes shown in it. Another one I liked was one painting showing Jesus Christ bringing the cross. It has a dark theme and atmosphere and it communicates very well the sufferance of Christ. A beautiful painting showed a warrior together with a child, a fabulous contrast of strength and delicacy: very nice!! My favourite was though the painting by Pietro della Vecchia showing a fortune-teller reading the hand of a man. Here again I appreciated the dark atmosphere and the absolutely genial contrast of dark background with colours. WOW!! Magnus was quite bored of Palazzo Chiericati and the paintings, he’s an action man, he can’t stand a lot of time contemplating something. I promised him in the night we would have gone me and him to drink some Italian beers in a pub in the city. He likes a lot to hang out with friends drinking beer!!
Our last visit of the day was to what is considered the masterpiece of Palladio: the teatro Olimpico (Olympic Theatre). The name Olympic comes from the Olympic Academy, a group of people who were promoting cultural activities in Vicenza, especially theatre activities.
The theatre is really a jewel of beauty. It has the typical semicircular shape of the ancient Greek theatre. On the back of the seats there are many columns set in semicircular shape and over them there’s a terrace from which you can see the theatre show. On the banister of the terrace there is a row of statues: the scenic effect is great!! Absolutely wonderful is the stage, so beautiful decorated with niches and statue and a big arch in the middle. I could hardly talk because I was completely taken by the beauty of the place. Magnus that usually doesn’t like architecture and art admitted the theatre was beautiful. After that piece of art we could go to the hotel really satisfied by our day in Vicenza.
The name of the Hotel was Due Mori like the one in Marostica. I don’t know if it is a chain of hotels under the same property. I just know the Due Mori in Marostica is much better then the one in Vicenza. At dinner we had a pizza in a typical pizzeria of Vicenza. I love the authentic Italian pizza. I had one with Gorgonzola cheese (a green spicy-sweet cheese, delicious) and speck ( a kind of smoked ham from the northern part of Italy, near Austria). My wife had one with bresaola (another kind of ham, with a delicate taste), rucola (a kind of strong taste salad, rocket in English) and Grana cheese ( a kind of Parmesan). Magnus had one with capers and anchovies (he said it was great) and Anna one with red chicory from Treviso and sausages (also Anna said her pizza was great).
Later in the evening the two women went to the hotel and me and Magnus stopped in a pub to have some beers. We wanted to taste Italian beers because we did not know them at all. We started with a beer from the mountain area of Veneto: the Mazarol beer. The name comes from the legend of a pixy who lived in the mountains of Veneto. He’s got wooden clogs. Men have to pay attention while walking in the woods because if one steps over the Mazzarol’s footprint he will become slave of the Mazzarol’s willings, forgetting everything about his own business. Once a man has become slave of the Mazzarol he is forced to help him producing cheese. The legends says it is thanks to the Mazzarol that men in the mountains are able in cheese-making. This is the legend that the owner of the pub told us. A curious and funny legend. The Mazzarol beer was not so good otherwise. We then tried a red beer aromatized with chestnuts. It was a good and strong beer. Magnus was happy of that beer.