Venetian splendour and Palladian architecture put on their best show for us as we drove into the UNESCO world heritage city of Vicenza in Northern Italy. Bathed in the late afternoon sun, the elegant colonnaded walkway along the tree lined avenue of Viale X Giugno up to Monte Berico, shadows cast across its arches, was a gracious and impressive sight. This was just the start and we were immediately excited to see the rest of it.
The L shaped arcade or Portici begins at the bottom of the hill and lines the street for a full 700m, in an L shape consisting of 150 arches with a small chapel after every 10. At the top, overlooking the city, proudly stands the dazzling white stone and copper domed Church of St Mary, home to several precious works of art. We had planned to park the motorhome at the top of the hill in the semi-circular car park with magnificent viewing terrace at Piazzale della Vittoria, but it was full to capacity and there was definitely no space to squeeze in a 7m motorhome! With views over the Venetian plain through to the Alps in the distance this is a superb spot to enjoy the outlook but for parking it was not to be.
Making our way back down the hill we were lucky to find a kind Italian just leaving who ushered us into his very large newly vacated space which also happened to be nice and shady, just how Buzz likes it, and free too – perfect! The bus into the centre of the old town left from the top of Monte Berico so we walked back up taking time to gaze out at the far reaching views over the city from the terrace, helping out a group of cyclists (of which there were many) with a photo. You can see the whole of the old town centre from here including the distinctive dome of the cathedral. Upwards Monte Berico itself is a cypress clad green area, away from the heat of the city with many fine country estates dotted among the hills.
The city bus which operates on a loop up and down Monte Berico dropped us off at the park and a short walk later we arrived in the centre to discover it was market day. Not a food market this time but one selling just about everything else from furniture to fashion amongst many other varied collectables and not so collectables. The open air market was spread far and wide street after street and seemed almost never ending, filling up pavements and piazzas bustling with people creating a lively, sociable ambience throughout the city. The market was centred on the Piazza de Signori surrounded by elegant buildings and overlooked by the stunning Palladian Basilica, a celebrated building and a fine example of Palladio’s best work (adapted and used as a town hall). Practising with our new selfie stick we attempted our own masterpiece with the Basilica in the background but unfortunately it was not to be one of OUR finest works and will not be appearing in the gallery – more practice needed we think!
Once part of the Venetian empire Vicenza remains one of the wealthiest cities in the Veneto region having prospered since the times of Roman rule. The distinctive architectural influence of Andrea Palladio, once one of the greatest architects of his time, is represented throughout the area. In fact nowhere has a greater concentration of his works than the beautiful city of Vicenza and admirers travel far and wide to marvel at the Palladian buildings, palazzos and casas that he designed and created, such is its importance which is reflected around the world from the White House to Buckingham Palace.
Although Vicenza is a fairly small and compact city it’s hard work exploring on a hot day so we stopped in a nice little cafe in the expansive Piazza Duomo, one of the many large town squares, for a refreshing beer and toasted pannini. We love to just sit and look around, sipping a cool drink, watching people come and go and getting a real feel for a place from the comfort of our cafe table! Large, spacious piazzas seem the hub of many an Itlalian town and are used for festivals, concerts and exhibitions as well as markets like today. If you go to a town without a piazza, you can’t be in Italy!