The inhabitants of Vicenza are jokingly referred to as ‘Cat Eaters’ by other Italians. This goes back to them allegedly eating cats in times of famine…of which there have been many in Vicenza. It is one of the most fought over cities in Italy.
Most aspiring powers, or tyrants, have lorded it over Vicenza at some time including the Romans, the Huns, the Magyars, the Venetians, the Austrians, Napoleon and Hitler (via Mussolini). The Americans are currently taking no chances with Putin having a go, they have a permanent US Army base near there. This possibly explains why Vicenza has an American Football team.
As well as rugged linebackers and quarterbacks (whatever they are), Vicenza also has the architect Andrea Palladio (1508-1580) to cheer about. That’s him below, looking thoughtful about what to build next.
He wasn’t born in Vicenza, he came from Padua just down the road, but he made the city his home and that’s where he created lots of other homes too. He was one of the most influential architects that ever there was. He built the sort of ‘classical’ buildings that our new king, Charles III, would thoroughly approve of. He has had a lot to say about his dislike of modern architecture.
Incidentally, now that he is king, I don’t suppose he’s allowed to have an opinion on architecture anymore, or on anything for that matter. Like his mum before him, he’ll just have to bite his lip and sneak off to the kharzi to swear like a docker.
Vicenza is only a forty-five minute train ride from Venice, so it’s nice for a day out if you’ve had enough of gondolas. Although don’t go on the day that the Venice water-buses are striking, as we did. Although it did make us realise how small Venice actually is. This was when we found that you can walk to the train station quite easily, and quickly, from near St Mark’s without paying the rob-dog prices they currently charge for public transport in Venice.
Vicenza is probably better for food than Venice, we had the best cicchetti (North Italian tapas) we’ve ever had as part of a wonderful lunch at Veneto’s Restaurant. For my main course, I had a toothsome belly pork with polenta, and not a cat’s whisker in sight. I think they trim them off first.
Andrea Palladio, Vicenza’s adopted architect, set the mould for most public buildings across the world, from The White House to The Bank of England (if we still have one after our disastrous economic policies of late).
We got to see three of Palladio’s buildings on our little trip (four if you include the interior of San Giorgio in Venice). So, if you only have a day in Vicenza, I suggest you take in the following:
The Basilica Palladiana
This was a meeting hall and market. Palladio cheated a bit, it had been there for years and all he did was put a fancy shell around it. Like someone else making the cake, and then stepping in to take all the glory with the icing. Still it is quite spectacular, as basilicas go it’s the best I’ve seen.
The Villa La Rotonda
A bus ride out to the edge of town. A building that is the same on all four sides, creating a superbly simple and effective structure. Although, having said that, I did feel a little bit swizzed as three sides of it currently have scaffolding up where they are renovating it. They didn’t mention that at the ticket office. You’ll note that my picture cunningly hides it.
The Teatro Olimpico
Again, a bit of cheating going on with this one too. Although Palladio designed it, another architect built it after Palladio died. This was Vincenzo Scammozi, a student of Palladio. Indeed Scammozi finished off a lot of Palladio’s projects, but seeing as Palladio wrote quite a famous book on architecture he’s the one that gets the credit.
It was Scammozi that actually did the iconic façade of San Giorgio Maggiore (above), the brilliant white church on the little island opposite St Mark’s Square in Venice. However, it is Palladio that gets the kudos for that too.
The Teatro Olimpico is one of only three remaining Renaissance theatres in the world, the other two being based on this one. It also has the oldest surviving stage-set in the world. It is absolutely stunning with its ‘ancient town’ street perspectives. It is ideal for classical plays like ‘Oedipus Rex’. Unfortunately, with its fixed scenery, you’d struggle to put on musicals like ‘Mamma Mia!’ or ‘Cats’.
Although, if you did manage the latter, the inhabitants of Vicenza would probably not turn up as they would think you were taking the piss.