Vicenza is a city off the beaten tourist path. Because of this, its charm and uniqueness are intact and very accessible. You don’t need to fight hordes of people in its piazzas or restaurants. Rivers run through the city and the balconies flow with beautiful hanging plants.
Vicenza is situated in the northeastern portion of Italy, in the Veneto region. Like most cities in the northeast, it did its time under the rule of Venice. The Venetian lion in the main piazza is a subtle reminder. But as with any city under rule, it remained fierce in trying keeping its identity.
Vicenza is a beautiful city thanks to its favourite architect, Andrea Palladio.
Palladio is responsible for the majority of the architecture in Vicenza. He was an ingenious building, finding ways to create the illusion of marble pillars at a fraction of the cost and therefore was able to get buildings up in half the time. His work is everywhere.
Palladio’s final work was finished by his son. The Teatro Olimpico is an incredible building. The stage is particulary well done. There are 3 alleys that angle off the main stage that are done in perspective so it looks like the street is vanishing into the distance. In some productions, children were used at the far end of the ‘street’ to make it look like people in the distance.
The interior of the theater and stage are lined with statues off all the contributors that helped get the theater built. For those that didn’t warrant statues, they are painted in frescos on the rear wall.
The Accademia Olimpica is a society with a mandate to support arts, sciences and economics. They do so by offering scholarships to study, put on performances and provide Vicenza with a vital musical life.
The people of Vicenza are charming and very proud of their city.
As part of my tour, in every city we went on walking tours. What made the tour of Vicenza so special for me was the people who entertained us. Yes, we had a regular guide but the President of the Accademia Olimpica came along as well. Mr. Gaetano Thiene, whose family has been in this region for over 400 years, was so pleased to show us around. He invited us upstairs to sign the guest book, gave us a book on the Teatro. He then arranged for the St. Croce church to open just for us. After that he had the President of the Palladio Architectural museum open the museum and personally show us around.
To top if off, Mr. Thiene arranged for us to meet in the main piazza for an appertivo after the tours. The only unfortunate part was that I was too exhausted to really enjoy it.
After the guided tour of Vicenza and its wonders, I was starving. We’d been marching all day in 35C heat and now it was 7:30 pm and I was ready to chew my arm off. Who better to offer advice on where to find good food than our illustrious host? So, after thanking him for the personal treatment, I asked for his suggestions. We found ourselves at Mi et Le.
My dinner mate had the Schnitzel and it was good. Myself I had a lovely pasta with fresh tomato sauce and prawns topped with a ice cold glass of wine. Ahhhhh.
A few of my intrepid travelling partners went back to Vicenza after a good nights sleep so we could really enjoy the city. On the Saturday, the city was peaceful and comfortable. Friends met for coffee. In the main piazza, a dance party was going on with many enthusiastic participants.
My travelling partner seemed to be forever hungry. In Italy, you can never be sure a restaurant will be open on Saturday, even if the sign says it is. After wandering fruitlessly, I approached an older gentlemen with a dachshund and asked, in my basic Italian, if he could help us find a place.
“What kind of food? Typical?” he asked, concern on his face. Food is serious business. “Of course,” I replied. “Okay,” he said looking at his phone,”Let’s see what we can find.” He phoned 4 places before he found one for us. And a it was a good one.
Off the Beaten Path
Down from the main piazza, across a stream and a little farther on is Il Cursore.
The food is good, basic and fresh. I had Amatriciana made with fresh noodles. You forget how good sauce made with fresh tomatoes really is. Simple and good.
Ciao for now
When I realise my dream of travelling on the Orient Express I will have Vicenza on the agenda. You can choose to stop or start in more glamorous places, but Vicenza is still herself, unadulterated by hordes of tourists.
Although next time I won’t go in July – it’s just to damn hot!