The Lesser-Known Haven Of History: 15 Things To Do In Vicenza, Italy

things to do in Vicenza

Situated between Milan and Venice, the cosmopolitan city of Vicenza can sometimes be overlooked in favor of its more popular neighbors. A center for art in the Veneto region of northeastern Italy, Vicenza is rife with elegant piazzas, villas, churches, museums, and art galleries. The Palladian Villas, established as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994, are arguably the city’s most famous inhabitants. Aside from its evident cultural importance, Vicenza is also Italy’s third largest industrial center making it one of the country’s wealthiest cities. It has established textile, steel, and computer engineering industries with the microprocessor’s co-founder Federico Faggin coming from Vicenza.

The city used to be called Vicetia or Vincentia, a name given by the Romans which means “victorious”. Before eventually becoming part of the Kingdom of Italy in 1866, the city came under the rule of Venice, Napoleon, and the Austrian Empire. Vicenza’s area became a major combat site during World War One, and after the second World War the city was the most heavily damaged by Allied bombings in the Veneto region. Staying true to its name, Vicenza rose victorious and rebuilt itself from the rubble. As of 2014, the city has a population of around 113,627.

Italy has a rich culture that is not limited to Rome, Venice, and Milan. This gem of a city is one to visit if you want to delve deeper into Italy’s aristocratic culture outside the major cities. Teeming with elegance and sophistication, the city of Vicenza is truly victorious in more ways than one.

1. Watch performances at the Teatro Olimpico

Teatro Olimpico
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Didier Descouens used under CC BY-SA 4.0

Built in 1589 to imitate Roman amphitheaters, this elliptical theater still holds some musical and theatrical performances despite its age. Teatro Olimpico was designed by renowned architect Andrea Palladio, who died before its completion. Established as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994, it is one of the only remaining Renaissance theaters in the world.

To avoid damage, the theater can only accommodate around 400 people. It also becomes the venue for the Vicenza Jazz Festival in spring and the Season of Classical Performances in autumn.

Teatro Olimpico

Address: Teatro Olimpico, Piazza Matteotti 11, Vicenza, Italy

Opening hours: 9 am to 5 pm (Tuesday to Sunday)

Entrance fee: 13.22 USD (11 EUR). Discounts are available

Contact: +39 0444320854 / 964380, [email protected]

Website: Teatro Olimpico

2. Visit the amazing Villa Capra

Villa Capra Sarcedo
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Marcok used under CC BY 2.5

Also known as La Rotonda, this magnificent villa has been visited by artists, poets, statesmen, and many other wonder-seeking travelers. Designed by the city’s famous architect Andrea Palladio, the villa obtained the name “Capra” after the Capra brothers who completed it in 1592. It was originally commissioned by Paolo Almerico, a Vicenzan priest who retired from the Vatican. Part of the Palladian Villas which obtained UNESCO World Heritage Site status, Villa Capra houses elaborate trompe l'œil frescoes and has even inspired the design of many buildings including the home of former American president Thomas Jefferson.

There is a bus from the city’s train station that takes visitors to Villa Capra. Visitors can also choose from a tour of both the interior and garden or just the exterior of the villa.

Villa Capra

Address: Via della Rotonda 45, Vicenza, Italy

Opening hours: 10 am to 12 pm & 3 pm to 6 pm (March 14 to November 4, Tuesday to Sunday), 10 am to 12 pm & 2:30 pm to 5 pm (November to March, Tuesday to Sunday). Interior visits are only allowed on Wednesday and Saturday

Entrance fee: 12.03 USD (10 EUR), 6.02 USD (5 EUR) for exterior visits only

Contact: +39 0498791380 (fax), [email protected]

Website: Villa Rotonda

3. View exhibitions at the Basilica Palladiana

Basilica Palladiana
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Federico used under CC BY-SA 4.0

Another one of Andrea Palladio’s masterpieces is this 15th-century palazzo which once housed law courts and the Council of Four Hundred. One of its most striking features is a copper dome which looks like the hull of an upturned ship. Its porticoes and loggias underwent constant reconstruction until its completion in 1614.

The basilica contains three rooms reserved for exhibitions. It is also the location of the Museo del Gioiello, which contains a collection of historic jewelry.

Basilica Palladiana

Address: Piazza dei Signori, Vicenza, Italy

Opening hours: 10:00 am to 1:00 pm, 5:00 pm to 12:00 am

Entrance fee: 2.39 USD (2 EUR)

Website: Museo Civizi Vicenza

Museo del Gioiello

Address: Basilica Palladiana, Piazza Dei Signori, Vicenza, Italy

Opening hours: 3 pm to 7 pm (Tuesday to Friday), 11 am to 7 pm (Weekends)

Entrance fee: 7.18 USD (6 EUR), 4.79 USD (4 EUR) - reduced ticket

Contact: +39 0444320799, [email protected]

Website: Museo del Gioiello

4. View art at the Palazzo Leoni Montanari

Palazzo leoni montanari
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user sailko used under CC BY-SA 3.0

This palace from the late Baroque period is a must-see for art enthusiasts. Aside from a vast collection of ancient pottery, it also contains a collection of 400 Russian icons, numerous paintings, and even elaborate depictions carved into marble.

Palazzo Leoni Montanari

Address: Contrà di Santa Corona 25, Vicenza, Italy

Opening hours: 9:30 am to 7:30 pm (Tuesday to Sunday), 9:30 am to 10:30 pm (Thursday)

Entrance fee: 11.95 USD (10 EUR), 9.56 USD (8 EUR) - reduced

Website: Gallerie d'Italia

5. Learn about the city's architectural history at the Palladio Museum

Editor's Note: There's no photo available at the time of writing

Dedicated to the life and work of Andrea Palladio, this modern museum showcases all that you need to know about the brilliant Vicenzan architect. It contains various historical artifacts including Palladio’s 16th-century Quattro Libri dell'Architettura (Four Books of Architecture). Decked in frescoes, the museum also has architectural models of Palladio’s famed palazzi and villas.

Palladio Museum

Address: Contrà Porti 11, Vicenza, Italy

Opening hours: 10 am to 6 pm (Tuesday to Sunday)

Entrance fee: 9.56 USD (8 EUR), 7.17 USD (6 EUR) - reduced

Contact: +39 0444323014, +39 0444322869 (fax)

Website: Palladio Museum

6. Stroll around Corso Andrea Palladio

Corso Andrea Palladio
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Giorgio Galeotti used under CC BY 4.0

Lined with many Renaissance-era palaces and mansions, walking through Vicenza’s main street feels like a dream. Aside from architectural masterpieces, visitors will pass by a variety of restaurants and shops perfect for a gastro-tour of the historic city.

Corso Andrea Palladio

Address: Corso Andrea Palladio, Vicenza, Italy

Opening hours: All day

Entrance fee: None

7. Admire history at the Chiesa di Santa Corona

Vicenza, santa corona, interno 01
Source: Photo by user sailko used under CC BY-SA 3.0

This Gothic church built in 1251 houses a variety of paintings and frescoes dating back to the early 15th-century. Truly a historic as well as architectural marvel, it unsurprisingly has something to do with Vicenza’s famous architect. The church, aside from containing the Palladio-designed Valmarana chapel from 1576, is also the final resting place of Andrea Palladio.

Although the church is open for tours, visits are suspended during religious services. The tours provide visitors with a free digital guide accessible via smartphones and tablets.

Chiesa di Santa Corona

Address: Contrà Santa Corona 2, Vicenza, Italy

Opening hours: 9 am to 12 pm and 3 pm to 6 pm (Tuesday to Sunday)

Entrance fee: None

Website: Città di Vicenza

8. Visit the Palazzo Chiericati

It shouldn’t be surprising that Vicenza has a wealth of palaces that contain vital pieces of history. This Renaissance-era palace, designed by Andrea Palladio in 1550, was only completed at the end of the 17th-century. It was restored and opened as a museum during the 19th-century.

Visitors are treated to a plethora of paintings, frescoes, sculptures, and other pieces of art dating back to the 16th and 17th centuries.

Palazzo Chiericati

Address: Piazza Giacomo Matteotti, 37/39, Vicenza, Italy

Opening hours: 10 am to 6 pm (Tuesday to Sunday)

Entrance fee: Visitors can get a Museum Card (from 11.95 USD or 10 EUR) which allows visits to the Palazzo as well as other museums

Contact: +39 0444222811

Website: Musei Civici Vicenza

9. Tour the romantic Villa Valmarana ai Nani

Villa Valmarana ai Nani front2
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user used under CC BY-SA 2.5

This stunning fairy tale-like villa is both a place you can visit and stay in. Built in 1669, the villa contains 17 stone sculptures of dwarves as well as frescoes depicting scenes from famous Greek and Italian literature. The palace is divided into three parts: the Palazzina (Owners’ Residence), the Foresteria (Guesthouse) and the Scuderia (Stables). There is also a cafe and footpath that leads to La Rotonda, Vicenza’s most famous villa. The gardens and formal reception rooms are open to the public, and sometimes weddings are also held in the estate.

Villa Valmarana (Ai Nani)

Address: Via dei Nani 8, Vicenza, Italy

Opening hours: 10 am to 6 pm (March 3 to November 5), 10 am to 4 pm (November 6 to March 2)

Entrance fee: 11.95 USD (10 EUR). Discounts are available

Contact: +39 0444321803, [email protected]

Website: Villa Valmarana ai Nani

10. Discover the hidden wonders of the Roman Criptoportico

Criptoportico Vicenza
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Mpiva used under CC0

Vicenza has a lot of wonders not limited to the world above. Discovered in 1954, this first century Roman criptoportico is known as the only private criptoportico in northern Italy that has been unearthed so far. It is located six meters (19.68 feet) below ground and contains a three-sided passageway, terracotta flooring, and a medieval well. It also has a heavy door which archaeologists believe once guarded valuable items.

Roman Criptoportico

Address: Piazza del Duomo 6, Vicenza, Italy

Opening hours: 3 pm to 5 pm (Saturday), 10 am to 12 pm (Sunday)

Entrance fee: None

11. See the wondrous Chiesa di San Lorenzo

Chiesa di San Lorenzo a Vicenza - Interno - Altare Piovene
Source: Photo by user Didier Descouens used under CC BY-SA 4.0

Truly a sight to behold, this Gothic church was built by the Franciscans during the 13th-century. Aside from a stunning marble portal, the church also contains fountains, tombs, and a fresco.

Chiesa di San Lorenzo

Address: Piazza San Lorenzo 6, Vicenza, Italy

Opening hours: 7 am to 12 pm, 3:30 pm to 7 pm

Entrance fee: None

12. Check out the historic Vicenza Cathedral

Cathedral (Vicenza)
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Didier Descouens used under CC BY-SA 4.0

Mostly known for its distinct pink hue and its cupola inspired by the Pantheon, this cathedral was designed by Lorenzo di Bologna during the late 15th-century. By the mid 16th-century, Andrea Palladio added finishing touches to the incomplete building. Heavily bombed during World War Two, the cathedral underwent a near-complete reconstruction with its facade being the only surviving part of the original cathedral. Inside, the cathedral contains a 14th-century triptych by Lorenzo Veneziano.

Vicenza Cathedral

Address: Piazza del Duomo, Vicenza, Italy

Opening hours: 7:30 am to 8 pm

Entrance fee: None

13. Watch the world go by at the Piazza dei Signori

Piazza dei Signori (Vicenza)
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Didier Descouens used under CC BY-SA 4.0

The center of activity in Vicenza, a walk around the piazza feels like stepping back into the past. Lined with palaces, churches and mansions, the piazza provides a window not only to the past but also to the daily life of Vincenza’s residents. Aside from architectural masterpieces, there are also a lot of dining and shopping establishments in the area.

Piazza dei Signori

Address: Piazza dei Signori, Vicenza, Italy

Opening hours: All day

Entrance fee: None

Website: Piazza dei Signori

14. Pass by the Palazzo Valmarana Braga Rosa

Palazzo Valmarana
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Andrea Palladio used under CC BY-SA 3.0

Although it has suffered much damage from Allied bombings during World War Two, this patrician palace still has its original facade intact. This elegant marvel of architecture was designed by Andrea Palladio during the 1560s for a noblewoman named Isabella Nogarola Valmarana. Aside from its original decor, the palace also contains some Valmarana family heirlooms.

Palazzo Valmarana Braga Rosa

Address: Corso Antonio Fogazzaro 16, Vicenza, Italy

Opening hours: 10 am to 1 pm (Monday to Friday)

Entrance fee: 8.36 USD (7 EUR). Discounts are available

Contact: +39 3477204658, [email protected]

Website: Palazzo Valmarana Braga Rosa

15. Take a peek of the Palazzo del Capitaniato

Palazzo del Capitanio - Vicenza
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Marcok used under CC BY-SA 3.0

Because the town council holds their meetings here, this palace is not entirely open to the public. Built during the 16th-century, it was designed by Andrea Palladio and decorated by Lorenzo Rubini. Its interiors are decked with elaborate frescoes by Giovanni Antonio Fasolo, a renowned artist whose work has become a staple in Palladio’s creations. As with other Palladian buildings, the palace was highly inspired by classic Roman architecture.

Palazzo del Capitaniato (Loggia del Capitaniato)

Address: Piazza dei Signori, Vicenza, Italy

Opening hours: Not open to the public

Step back into the past

Vicenza-la Piazza dei Signori
Source: Photo by user [Unknown] used under CC BY-SA 2.5

Words and pictures are not enough to capture the beauty of Vicenza. As you stroll around its historic streets, you can feel the past living through its richly decorated buildings. Truly a gem of Italy, this city is a beautiful and vital piece of history worth preserving for future generations.

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