Visit Vicenza, a city in Veneto that’s a bit off the beaten track but rich with history, culture and authenticity
Vicenza is a captivating city in the Veneto region of northeast Italy, the capital of the province with the same name (Vicenza).
It is located at the base of Monte Berico, a hill to the south with a Roman Catholic shrine on top that overlooks the city.
Vicenza, Italy, is best known as the epicenter of Palladian architecture (both for the well-preserved buildings in the historic center and the villas in the countryside), for the city’s long history and traditions in crafting gold, and for its wine production.
With a population estimated at about 110,000, it is the fourth most populous city in the region, after Padua, Verona and Treviso (all in Veneto).
If you are planning a visit to uber-popular, always crowded Venice, it would be a mistake to miss visiting Vicenza, only a one-hour drive or an inexpensive, 35-minute ride away by train.
If you have the time, the city’s architectural, historical, cultural and culinary charms are worthy of a lengthier stay.
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12 Things to Do When Visiting Vicenza
Here are some unique attractions in Vicenza:
Visit the epicenter of Palladian architecture
The pedestrian-friendly historic center of Vincenza (along with the city’s Palladian villas) was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1994. Because Renaissance architect Andrea Palladio was born in Vicenza and played such a prominent role in defining its character, Vicenza is known as la città di Palladio.
The city center has 23 well-preserved Palladian buildings and another 24 Palladian villas in the surrounding countryside. In short, this city is the ideal place to learn about the man and his work.
Palladian architecture, which emphasizes symmetry and proportion, has had a significant influence on the field of architecture across the world.
Visit Palladian villas
Palladian villas, such as the Villa Rotonda (the most famous villa in Vicenza), are set on beautifully landscaped grounds making them more than worthy of a day trip from Vicenza.
Other nearby villa visits: Villa Barbaro (also called Villa di Maser), which is in the nearby province of Treviso, about one hour from Vicenza. Villa Angarano is in Bassano del Grappa, about 30 minutes away.
Also, just seven miles away from Vicenza is the town of Montecchio Maggiore. Although nearby Verona is best known for the Romeo and Juliet balcony, this is the town that first inspired the Shakespearean masterpiece.
A nobleman, Luigi da Porto, wrote a novel based on his own tragic love story. Published by someone else in 1530 after his death, the tale eventually became the premise of the famous story of the lovers. Two hilltop castles in the Montecchio Maggiore are called the Romeo and Juliet castles.
- Check out this Viator Walking Tour of must-see sites in Vicenza.
- Check out this Viator private e-bike tour of Palladian villas.
Sit in the world’s oldest closed theater
The magnificent Olympic Theater (Teatro Olimpico)—the oldest closed theater in the world—was Palladio’s last masterpiece and is considered one of his greatest. The project was begun in 1560 and wasn’t completed until five years after his death in 1580.
Vincenzo Scamozzi designed the trompe-l’oeil scenery. The colorful street scenes painted on the stage look as though they lead to a distant horizon; the high ceiling of the theater depicts a blue sky.
Still used for concerts, the theater offers 10-minute sound and light shows throughout the day so tourists can experience the feel of sitting in this historic setting.
Explore a museum set in a palace
Dedicated to the life and work of Andrea Palladio, the Palladio Museum is housed in Palazzo Barbarano, a 16th-century palace designed by the architect himself.
The museum exhibits explain the significance of Palladio’s achievements to non-architects, including explanations of his works by renowned experts.
Themed rooms showcase the artist’s tools, drawings, models and paintings of his projects. Also included is a library of books and manuscripts about Palladian architecture and its impact.
Walk beside the Basilica Palladiana
Also designed by Palladio in the 16th century, this iconic green domed Renaissance building was originally a market and meeting place. It offers one of the first examples of the iconic Palladian window.
Protected as part of the UNESCO World Heritage site, the building was painstakingly restored in 2007 and won the European Union Prize for Cultural Heritage in 2014.
The building’s distinctive loggias and design make it a focal point of the city. Historic shops (including that of gold artisans) still sit under the building’s magnificent arcade.
Shop in the “City of Gold”
Vicenza has been dubbed the “City of Gold” because of its 700-year-old history of artisans skilled in fine jewelry making.
The town is home to The Jewelry Museum (Museo dei Gioiello), the first museum of its kind in Italy, which is located in the medieval square. At the museum, nine rooms of Italian jewelry showcase exhibits from large, medium and small companies in the area’s gold district. The museum also sponsors themed activities for families with children.
Other artisans with workshops on the city’s cobbled streets include coppersmiths, leather crafters, lithographers, and ceramicists. If you are shopping for gifts, the prices in Vicenza would tend to be more favorable than those in Venice.
Walk over the bridges of Vicenza
With picturesque railings decorated with flowers (reminiscent of the bridges of Strasbourg, France), Saint Michael’s Bridge (Ponte San Michele) and St. Paul’s Bridge (Ponte San Paolo) are scenic stone bridges in Vicenza. Both are scenic tourist attractions.
Some say the classic design of St. Michael’s Bridge was created by Palladio; other historians attribute the design to his student, Vincenzo Scamozzi. Decorated with statues of angels and saints, the bridge with five arches is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Built in the 14th century, Ponte San Paolo crosses the Retrone River. An example of Gothic architecture, it is characterized by its pointed arches and its ribbed vaulting.
Catch a flick at a historic film theater
Film buffs will want to make a pilgrimage to the historic Cinema Odeon, the longest-lived film theater in Italy. It has been in operation in Vicenza since 1907 and has screened some 17,000 movies.
The theater is housed in a building that was originally one of the seven oldest churches in the city; the original structure dates back to at least the year 1000.
Relax and sip an aperitivo at the Piazza dei Signori
The Piazza dei Signori is a public square in the historic center of Vicenza, the virtual living room of the city.
Restaurants, bars and some of the city’s most important buildings sit on the square, including the impressive Basilica Palladiana, the Loggia del Capitaniato, and the Palazzo del Comune.
Designed by Palladio, the square features classic columns and porticoes; it’s a perfect place to admire the architecture and people-watch. Street performers are often part of the sidewalk entertainment.
Savor the local cuisine of Vicenza
The region’s rich agricultural bounty influences much of the city’s cuisine. Visitors would be remiss not to experience some of the specialty dishes of Vincenza at local restaurants. You can also find many interesting food and wine products at the shops in town.
Some popular traditional dishes include:
Baccala alla Vicentina, the signature dish of the city, dried codfish soaked and poached in milk and white wine with onions, garlic and herbs
Polenta, made from ground cornmeal, is a staple of the region.
Bigoli con le Sarde, thick egg noodles (similar to spaghetti) tossed with a ragu of sardines, pine nuts, raisins and onion.
Gnocchi di Malga, fluffy potato dumplings served with butter, sage and grated cheese
Cassoeula, a hearty stew with pork, cabbage and beans
Sopressa Vicentina, cured sausage made with pork shoulder, belly and spices that is considered the most famous Venetian cold cut
Asparagus di Bassano, distinctive white asparagus cultivated underground in the nearby Bassano del Grappa region
Torta Bertolina, a traditional dessert of cake made with almonds, eggs, and lemon zest from the nearby town of Bertolina
Fugassa, a sweet bread topped with sugar, almonds or candied fruits that is popular at festivals and other celebrations
There are also several PDO (Protected Designation of Origin) and PGI (Protected Geographical Indication) products for which Vincenza is known, including Asiago PDO and Montasio PDO cheeses, Sopressa Vicentina PDO, Bianco Perla Pears PGI, and Verona Rice PGI.
Visit vineyards producing Veneto wines
Vicenza is in the geographical center of the “three Vs,” Verona, Vicenza and Venezia, the region that is responsible for the bulk of wines produced in Veneto.
Tastings at the Enoteca of the Consorzio Tutela Vini DOC Colli Berici e Vicenza allow wine lovers to discover the nuances of this unique terroir. Established in 2011, the 28-member Consorzio works to improve the production and promote the wines of both the Colli Berici and Vicenza denominations.
Indigenous Tai Rosso and Bordeaux blend wines are the symbols of the Berici Hills. The wines are fruity and floral with mineral scents from the rocky terroir.
Many individual wineries offer tastings and tours so you can learn about other regional wines of Veneto. It’s prudent to make reservations in advance of your visit.
In addition to the exceptional wines, a visit to these wineries provides a chance to discover the picturesque hills adorned with olive trees and vineyards, as well as the charming villages, retreats, and convents nestled in the countryside.
Some of the most important wines to enjoy and pair with your foods include:
- Colli Berici DOC, a full-bodied, fruity red wine
- Gambellara DOC, a light-bodied white wine made from Garganega grapes
- Breganze DOC, red, white and sweet wines produced in this wine region of Vicenza
- Torcolato, a sweet dessert wine that is a specialty of the region
When is the best time of year to visit Vicenza?
There is no one best time to visit Vicenza. Planning your visit depends on your schedule and interests because each season holds special attractions.
Summer is the most popular time to visit when the weather is warm and sunny. But attractions can be crowded because so many people, including Italians, visit Veneto during summer.
The spring and autumn shoulder seasons can be ideal. During spring, the fields will be blooming with flowers. If you are a wine enthusiast, a visit during autumn allows you to enjoy the beauty of the leaves changing colors as the grapes are harvested.
You may encounter cold weather and some snow in winter but the city is particularly beautiful this time of year, adorned with holiday lights and decorations.
What special events take place in Vicenza?
The Vicenza Opera Festival, held in the Teatro Olimpico, takes place each October featuring opera, ballet and classical music. Other performances take place throughout the year.
Visiting Italy in October? See some other ideas of what to see and do.
The first Sunday in September is a holiday in Vicenza when locals celebrate the patron saint of Vicenza, the Virgin Mary of Monte Berico. The Festa di Monte Berico includes religious processions, food stalls and traditional music.
Perarock is a rock music festival held in July in the town of Perarolo in the Berici Hills.
The Chalices Under the Walls (Calici sotto le Mura) festival features wine tastings from the Veneto region. It is held in the Piazza dei Signori and all the proceeds are donated to charity.
Vicenzaoro, Europe’s largest exhibition dedicated to gold and jewelry, takes place in Vicenza each year in September. Only open to the trade, hotels can be very busy at this time.
Is Vicenza a safe destination?
Compared to large cities, crime rates are low in Vicenza, but tourists should always be careful about their safety and belongings.
Visiting Vicenza: How to get there
Close to Venice, Verona and the picturesque small towns around Lake Garda, Vicenza offers an interesting but low-key base for exploring the Veneto region. It is only two hour east of Milan,
Vicenza is accessible by car, train or plane. The city is accessible from major highways and having a car will allow you to explore the beautiful countryside.
The two closest airports for international flights are Venice Marco Polo Airport (VCE), about 40 miles away, and Verona Villafranca Airport (VRN), about 37 miles west of Verona, which necessitates a car, bus or train from Verona to Vicenza.
You can catch a train to Vicenza from major cities like Milan (two hours), Florence (3 hours) and Rome (5 hours).
Where to Stay
Check out these VRBO properties in and around Vicenza.
Hotels in Vicenza on Hotels.com
IF YOU GO
- Description of UNESCO World Heritage Site in Vicenza