I came to an upsetting realisation a couple of weeks ago: that I have seen all the major cities within a two hour train ride from my place on Lake Garda. I have ticked off Milan, Bergamo, Venice, Verona and Padova, and even gone further south for Florence and Rome. Many of the remaining places I would like to visit are ones which require saving some money, both for the train and a possible overnight stay. So it was that I found myself with a free Sunday, forty euros and a craving for a new city…but none to go to.
Thankfully, Google Earth exists. After zooming our from my own village a few times, I discovered several potential new destinations, Vicenza among them (Parma and Bologna, you’re next).
As with Padova, I think Vicenza is often overlooked due to its vicinity to Venice. When I mentioned my intention to go there, the general response was “Vicenza? What’s in Vicenza?” Not encouraging, but a google search had assured me of some attractions to be found there; churches, palaces, castles – the usual marks of an Italian city. And I can now assure you that it is worth a visit, even being relatively tourist friendly.
Almost as well sign posted as Padova, you can find a tourist map on exiting the train station, and from there it is only a five minute walk down a straight road to reach the castle, city centre, and one of my personal favourite parks. Okay, the castle is not so grand a sight as many others in Italy, being simply a turret and archway. But the real beauty is in the park just beside it. If you’re walking from the train station you will find yourself surrounded on both sides by Campo Marzo – also a beautiful area to relax in. Keep walking and you will arrive with the castle archways on your right, and Giardino Salvi straight in front. It was here, ten minutes after arriving at the station, that I fell in love with Vicenza.
There are plenty of benches available to relax on, or else a beautiful landscape to take a quick walk round. Though the statues and fountains are beautiful, it is the small river bordering it that perfects this personally beloved reading spot.
You can find a list of tourist attractions on any of the maps placed around the city, but quite honestly it is just as useful to wander round – the centre is not at all large, and unless you spend time exploring the insides of museums, you can see the majority within a couple of hours. Myself and my two fellow explorers did so, sticking with the cheap option of admiring buildings only from the outside: the downfall of Vicenza is that there is an entrance fee for the majority of places, so make sure to do some research before visiting. Though individually not that costly (the Olympic Theatre, for example, is 11 euros, or 8 for students and pensioners), the expense will add up if you go to every place: if on a budget, it may be wise to prioritise a few places.
My personal recommendation would be the Olympic Theatre (or Teatro Olimpico), due to its rich history and beauty. Unfortunately I only saw it from the outside, and had no idea what I was missing out on by avoiding the entrance fee (that said, the piazza outside is only beautiful, as shown in the picture below).
Created by the Italian architect Andrea Palladio in the late sixteenth century, it is both one of the first indoor theatres in Europe, and one of the few remaining Renaissance theatres. If you have any interest in art, literature, theatre, history, or simply beautiful buildings, I highly recommend a visit here (I will be returning to Vicenza shortly simply to go here).
There are also plenty of places to be found, some of which you can enter for a small fee, and several of which were also designed by Andrea Palladio: Palazzo Porto Breganze, Palazzo Thiene Bonin Longare, Palazzo Capra, and Palazzo Braschi to name a few.
Of course, being an Italian city, every building pours out history and beauty, which is perfect for those who wish to simply wander. I found this stunning house among a normal set of terraces.
If you are looking simply for a walk, I would also recommend finding the bridges alone the Bacchiglione River; though the bridges themselves aren’t grand, they provide beautiful views of the buildings along the river.
I visited on a Sunday, what I believe to be market day by the numerous streets crowded with stalls. This gives a certain extra to your walk around the city, providing a true feeling of the “real” Italy. Just try not to be too distracted by the cheap dining sets and miss the churches, palaces and statues surrounding them!
As you can probably guess from the pictures and my tone, I fell in love with this city almost as much as I did with Padova, and I hope to revisit it alone so as to take in even more of what it has to offer (though travelling with friends is fun, it means I’m often too distracted by conversation and where we’re going for ice cream to notice as much as I might otherwise). Though perhaps it does not hold as many grand attractions as some of its neighbouring cities, I would recommend visiting just for a morning or afternoon if you happen to be nearby.