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Basilica Palladiana is a palace in Vicenza, overlooking Piazza dei Signori, inextricably linked to the Renaissance architect Andrea Palladio. The architect redesigned the Gothic Palazzo della Ragione by adding the loggias with the famous white marble serliane.
A serliana, also known as a Palladian window, is an architectural motif popularized by Andrea Palladio, which consists of a window with three openings, the central one arched and wider than the lateral rectangular ones.
Once the seat of the public magistrates of Vicenza, the Palladian Basilica is today equipped with three independent spaces, used to host architecture and art exhibitions. The building was included in 1994 in the UNESCO World Heritage Site City of Vicenza and the Palladian Villas of the Veneto.
Palazzo della Ragione was built around the middle of the 15th century according to a project by Domenico da Venezia, incorporating two pre-existing public buildings. The Gothic facade of the palace was made of diamond-shaped red and yellow Verona marble, still visible behind the loggias.
The building was the seat of the public magistrates of Vicenza and, on the ground floor, it housed a shop gallery. Adjacent to the building is the Bissara Tower, 82 meters in height, built starting with 1174.
Between 1481 and 1494, the architect Tommaso Formenton surrounded the ancient palace with a double order of loggias. Two years after the end of the construction site, the southwest corner collapsed, and for over 40 years the building remained untouched.
In 1546, the city council became interested by the project of a young local architect, Andrea Palladio. After another three years of discussions, Palladio’s project was definitively approved in May 1549.
The construction developed slowly. The first order of the northern and western facades was completed in 1561, the second level, started in 1564, was completed in 1597, 17 years after Palladio’s death, and the facade on Piazza delle Erbe in 1614.
During the Second World War, on March 18, 1945, the Basilica was badly damaged during a bombing, together with the Bissara Tower. An incendiary bomb destroyed the original roof of the Basilica, which was rebuilt immediately after the war in its original form.
Since the beginning of 2007, important restoration works were carried out on the monument. The roof was repaired and the facades were cleaned and consolidated. The restoration works were officially completed on October 6, 2012, coinciding with the reopening of the Basilica. Following the restoration, the upper terrace was again accessible, and was definitively opened to the public in 2014.
ART AND ARCHITECTURE
The loggias on the ground floor are built in Doric order, while the loggias of the upper floor are in Ionic order, with a continuous frieze entablature. Each bay of the loggias is composed of an arch flanked by lintels supported by columns.
The roof, resembling an overturned ship’s hull, covered with copper plates, partly raised by large archivolts, was inspired by the one built in 1306 for the Palazzo della Ragione of Padua. The balustraded parapet on top of the Basilica is decorated with statues by Giovanni Battista Albanese, Grazioli and Lorenzo Rubini.
The upper floor of the Basilica is entirely occupied by a huge hall without intermediate supports, known as the Hall of the Council of the Four Hundred, built in the 15th century.
HOW TO GET THERE
Basilica Palladiana is located about 800 meters away from the Vicenza railway station. The closest bus stop is in Piazzetta Largo Neri Pozza, about 80 meters away, on the bus Line 10.
Vicenza – more than a Palladian masterpiece
I t is Thursday morning, market day in Vicenza, and I am walking through crowds of stallholders and shoppers in the Piazza dei Signori, a grand square dominated by the immense Basilica Palladiana, just restored to its former splendour after six years of renovation that cost a whopping €20m.
At Pasticceria Soraru, I sit down for a cappuccino with Howard Burns, the world's foremost expert on the architecture of Andrea Palladio, whose statue looks down on our table somewhat forbiddingly. In the same way Shakespeare looms over everything in Stratford-upon-Avon, so Vicenza is dominated by its most famous citizen, whose buildings here, alongside his iconic villas in the surrounding Veneto countryside, are recognised as a Unesco World Heritage Site.
"What would Palladio have made of all this today?" I ask Burns.
"Well, in the 16th century, there would not have been a market here," he says. "The Piazza was the privileged hangout of the city's nobles. The Basilica Palladio created was basically a shopping mall on the ground floor, with stores stocked with luxury goods – silks, jewels, textiles, books. It was all in the tradition of the Rialto in Venice, Istanbul's bazaar, even the souk of Aleppo, which is sadly burning as we talk now."
The luxury shops are still here, but the immense Grand Hall above, designed for civic meetings and law courts, is now hosting a blockbuster art exhibition, Raffaello verso Picasso, which even before its inauguration attracted 100,000 advance bookings. The exhibition is just one of a host of new events that risk transforming Vicenza from a sleepy tourist backwater into a serious destination that will finally bring it out of the shadow of its more famous neighbours, Venice and Verona.
It is rare for a town off the classic tourist trail like Vicenza to stage such an illustrious exhibition as Raffaello verso Picasso, but this show is definitely going to put it on the cultural map. It is spectacular walking through the Grand Hall of the Basilica, where curator Marco Goldin has put together a stunning collection of 85 paintings, spanning Old Masters such as Botticelli, Titian and Giorgione, Rembrandt, El Greco and Caravaggio, Gauguin, Van Gogh, Renoir and Cézanne, through to modernist paintings by Francis Bacon, Lucian Freud and Andrew Wyeth. While the exhibition will run until the end of January, the Basilica Palladiana will become a permanent venue for cultural events, and there are several newly opened museums that make it worth spending a long weekend in Vicenza, rather than just stopping off for a day trip to whizz round the 20 palaces, villas and the visionary Teatro Olimpico that mark the official Palladio itinerary.
Vicenza seen from the Bacchiglione river. Photograph: John Brunton for the Guardian
The grandiose Palazzo Chiericati has been beautifully renovated to showcase the municipal art collection, with the current exhibition of historical portraits creatively displayed underground in the ancient kitchens and cellars. A three-year restoration of the 13th-century Chiesa di Santa Corona has just finished, meaning two masterpieces by Veronese and Bellini are now on view again. And a new Palladio Museum has been created by Howard Burns, with the aim, he says, "of explaining the genius of Palladio to a larger audience than just architecture enthusiasts". What is really surprising about Vicenza, however, is that there is a lot more to it than just sightseeing and museums.
Although there are only around 120,000 residents, this is one of Italy's wealthiest cities after Turin and Milan, and the elegant historic centre is full not just of ancient osterias, family-run trattorias and historic cafés, but also cool lounge bars, innovative gourmet restaurants and designer boutiques.
I start by exploring the traditional side of the city, beginning at the Fiaschetteria Da Renzo, a hole-in-the-wall bar hidden down a narrow sidestreet just off the Piazza dei Signori. There's a steady stream of locals popping in all morning for a quick glass of wine and one of their famous "tartine" – delicious bite-sized open sandwiches filled with anything from boiled egg and anchovy to tuna and red pepper. The owner, Fabio, reckons to make at least 1,000 tartine a day, all using secret family recipes.
Next stop is Osteria al Campanile, one of Vicenza's oldest watering holes, located right by the towering cathedral. Three generations of the same family serve behind the bar, and this is the perfect place to sample little-known wines from local vineyards – a crisp, white Vespaiolo, the light, pale-red Tai Rosso and the surprising sparkling Durello, which makes a welcome change from the usual bubbly, Prosecco.
Just next door to the Campanile is another institution, Righetti, housed in a 17th-century palace and a brilliant place for a cheap and delicious lunch. The place is always jam-packed, as this is an Italian take on a self-service cafeteria, where the chefs serve up steaming plates of freshly cooked pasta or risotto for €4-5, while plates of tasty grilled vegetables or salads cost only €2-3. Amazingly, the whole place runs on trust: no one notes down what you order, and diners just tell the cashier what they have eaten and drunk when they queue up to pay.
Vicenza market: great architecture and a vibrant atmosphere. Photograph: Observer
Vicenza has been an important centre of Italy's gold and silver industry for centuries, but I find the ancient stores lining the ground floor of the Basilica Palladiana are classics in their design, with prices aimed at a seriously wealthy clientele. The region here boasts some of Italy's most famous fashion names and fashionistas will find all these and more in the smart boutiques that line the main shopping drag, Corso Andrea Palladio. Right at the end, I discover the ultimate foodie address, Il Ceppo. This "gastronomia" is an enticing Aladdin's cave stocked with every Vicentina speciality, from "baccalà" stockfish and succulent "sopressa" salamis to asiago cheese and giant jars of "jardiniere" – crunchy raw vegetables pickled in light vinegar.
From around 6pm the whole of Vicenza seems to come to a stop, and the serious business of "aperitivo" gets under way, with bars and cafés quickly filling up, and generous buffets laid out to be served free with the obligatory spritz cocktail. The design and ambience of these bars is far more modern than the traditional osteria – especially places like the Pullmanbar, which has a lively riverside terrace, Caffè Commercio on the Piazza dei Signori, and the ultra-hip Julien, whose clientele look as if they are competing for a place on Milan's fashion runway.
For my last evening, everyone has been telling me I must try the famous "baccalà alla vicentina", preferably prepared in the Antico Ristorante agli Schioppi. The dining room is filled with prosperous-looking Vincentini (the economic crisis doesn't appear to have hit here yet), and the "baccalà", served on a bed of creamy polenta, is out of this world. What's more, even a complex dish like this – the dried cod has been imported from Norway's Lofoten Islands since the 15th century and takes hours of preparation – is reasonably priced at €15.
After dinner, clubbing is not on the agenda in Vicenza, but plenty of bars are open until 2am with live music or DJ sets. I wander back to the Basilica Palladiana, which is even more impressive when it is lit up at night. Hidden in the bowels is Il Grottino, its crowds spilling out and sprawling across the steps of the Basilica. It's a great place for a last drink, but somehow I'm not sure Palladio would have approved.
The Basilica Palladiana is the main work of the artist Andrea Palladio and one of the most impressive and most beautiful buildings in all of Veneto. Originally a large Gothic brick building it served as a meeting hall of the Great Council. On account of the aesthetically impoverished façade a competition for renovation was announced, which Palladio won. Through decades of work Palladio covered the old walls with a two-story portico with marble columns, which was ultimately his artistic breakthrough.
The name Basilica, by the way, comes from Palladio himself. In the 16 th century Basilica did not refer to church, but rather to a meeting room and courtroom. It&rsquos a marvel to witness the huge scale of the imposing building from the inside. The large hall on the first floor gives a good impression of the size of the building. Temporary exhibitions take place here which can be visited.
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Vicenza Walks: Basilica Palladiana
Widely considered to be the most influential individual in the history of Western architecture, Renaissance master builder Andrea Palladio created an architectural style known the world over as Palladianism .
The epicenter of his life’s work is stunningly on display in Vicenza — City of Palladio — in the Veneto region of northeastern Italy.
I can’t think of a better way to show you around my adopted hometown than via a “virtual” walking tour. Are you up for it? Great! Let’s head out.
Within the historic city walls, 23 individual buildings or sections of buildings were designed, reconstructed or attributed to Palladio . Among these is the just-restored Basilica Palladiana . We’ll stop here now, and save the other 22 sites for future passeggiate (walks).
Standing ornate alongside Vicenza’s “living room” — Piazza dei Signori — the Basilica was originally constructed in the 15th century as the Palazzo della Ragione where it housed the seat of government on the mezzanine and private enterprise on the ground floor. When part of the building collapsed, Palladio was commissioned by the Council of One Hundred , in 1549, to breath new life into it.
He redesigned the structure, adding a new outer-shell of columns and arches in the classic Roman style, a loggia and a portico. These refinements covered completely the building’s original Gothic appearance. Unfortunately, the massive renovation project was not finished until 1614, nearly 35-years after Palladio’s death.
Fast-forward 500 years, and today the Basilica looks as good as new. After another restoration project, this time around lasting ONLY five years, but costing nearly $30 million dollars, Vicenza finally reopened the master’s palace to much fanfare.
In honor of Palladio , a once-in-a-lifetime exhibition of 90 pieces of priceless art – Raffaello verso Picasso – is on display inside the Basilica until January 20, 2013. Along with original works by the two headliners, the exhibition also features masterpieces by Botticelli , Veronese , El Greco , Rembrandt and Van Gogh , just to name a few.
It’s really hard to imagine that before Palladio’s passage through Vicenza, it was arguably one of the more downtrodden and esthetically lacking cities of the old Republic of Venice .
Today, thanks to that young stonemason, the City of Palladio is a UNESCO World Heritage Site , and the Basilica Palladiana is one of her crown jewels.
Now, are there any questions?
What do you say we go and get ourselves a gelato ? There’s a great place just past the bell tower…
Andrea Palladio in Vicenza
Andrea Palladio, one of the most influential architects in world history, was born in 1508 and died in 1580. All the buildings that he designed are located in what was then the Republic of Venice and is today the Veneto region of Italy. His most famous churches – the San Giorgio Maggiore and Il Redentore – can be found in Venice. His villas are dotted over the Veneto countryside. The city of Vicenza houses his most famous city palaces and public buildings, such as the Basilica Palladiana and the Teatro Olimpico. In contrast to the relatively small geographical area where his works are located, his teachings reached a wide international following in the following centuries, largely thanks to his Quattro libri dell’architettura (Four Books of Architecture). Most of his works are now recognised as UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
My portfolio contains photos of the most important buildings designed by Palladio in Vicenza. It also includes his most famous country villa, the Rotonda, which is located on the outskirts of the city. The buildings are presented in chronological order. I took all the photos on November 29, 2016.
You will find the locations of the mentioned buildings on the map below:
1. Palazzo Iseppo da Porto
Contrà Porti 21
Andrea Palladio planned around 1546, built in 1546-1552
This is one of the two palazzi that Palladio designed for the Porto family, one of the rich and powerful families of Vicenza. It was commissioned by Iseppo da Porto. Palladio developed a close friendship with him, which, given Porto’s high position in the town council, would help him win several important public commissions later on.
Palladio originally planned two distinct residential blocks for the palazzo. In the Quattro libri dell’architettura, the two blocks are interconnected by a majestic courtyard with four enormous composite columns. Eventually, only the block overlooking the street was completed. Its façade is notable for the unusual height of the lowest order, coming from the Vicentine custom of living on the ground floor of a building. Interesting ornamental details include big mascarons above the windows and the statues of Iseppo da Porto and his son Leonida, depicted as ancient Romans, guarding the entrance from the attic.
The palazzo shows young Palladio’s acquaintance with both antique and contemporary architecture. It is a reinterpretation of Bramante’s Palazzo Caprini, which Palladio had seen some years before in Rome. The four-columned atrium shows Palladio’s knowledge of Vitruvian spaces.
The two rooms to the left of the atrium were frescoed by Paolo Veronese and Domenico Brusasorzi. The stuccoes were made by Bartolomeo Ridolfi.
2. Basilica Palladiana
Piazza dei Signori
Andrea Palladio planned in 1546-1549, built in 1549-1614
This structure stands in the most representative place in Vicenza, on the Piazza dei Signori. Its oldest part is the leaning tower, known as the Torre Bissara. Dating from 1172 (if not earlier), it reached its current height of 82 metres in 1444.
From the mid-15th century also dates the original Palazzo della Ragione. It served as the seat of the city’s government but also housed a number of shops on the ground floor. It was a Gothic structure with a façade made of red and yellow Verona marble. Parts of this structure are still visible.
The upper floor of the Palazzo della Ragione is entirely occupied by a large hall, raised by large archivolts and with no intermediate supports. It is covered with copper plates and resembles an overturned hull. It was inspired by the Palazzo della Ragione in the nearby Padua (1306, 1420), which, at the time, had the largest roof unsupported by columns in Europe.
In 1481-1494, local architect Tommaso Formenton surrounded the Palazzo della Ragione by a double order of columns. Two years later the south-western corner of the new structure collapsed. It was only in the late-1540s that a competition for the rejuvenation of the town hall was organised. Young Andrea Palladio, working under the supervision of Giovanni di Giacomo da Porlezza at the time, won the competition. He subsequently become the architect of the city of Vicenza.
Palladio hid the original Gothic structure by adding an outer shell of a loggia and a portico. These show one of the first examples of what has come to be known as the Palladian window (or the Serlian window, the serliana, or the Venetian window). Palladio’s addition is a repetitive structure in which round arches are flanked by two rectangular openings of different sizes, in order to match the variable size of the internal bay (because of the presence of an older building).
Palladio’s scheme was named after Sebastiano Serlio, who had described it in a treatise on architecture in 1537. It had already been used by Donato Bramante in the Basilica of Santa Maria del Popolo in Rome (1505-1510), and by Jacopo Sansovino in the Biblioteca Marciana in Venice (1537-1553). However, the direct referent for Palladio was the church of the Abbey of San Benedetto in Polirone (1539-1544). Its architect was Giulio Romano, who had used the serlianas to absorb the differences in width of the spans of the pre-existing church. In Palladio’s building, the effect becomes especially visible at the corner arcades.
The columns on the ground floor of Palladio’s building are in Tuscan order. The entablature is decorated with a frieze of alternating metopes and triglyphs. The upper-floor loggias are in Ionic order. The parapets are adorned with statues. The material used was white stone from Piovene Rocchette.
Palladio called his work a basilica, after the type of building in ancient Rome where politics and businesses were run.
The Basilica Palladiana was heavily bombed in World War Two. In recent years it has mostly been used for exhibitions (if not to mention the goldsmiths’ shops on the ground floor).
3. Palazzo Chiericati
Piazza Giacomo Matteotti 37/39
Andrea Palladio planned in 1550, built in 1551-1557, completed in 1680
Palazzo Chiericati is the most spectacular civilian residence designed by Palladio. It was designed for Count Girolamo Chiericati, the commissioner of Palladio’s Basilica and his enthusiastic supporter. In the planning of Palazzo Chiericati the close friendship also meant that Palladio was given relatively free hands in artistic terms.
The palazzo was built on an islet, surrounded by the Retrone and Bacchiglione rivers and called Piazza dell’Isola (the Island Square). It hosted the city’s wood and cattle market. The open space provided by this location was very unique among the palazzi of Palladio, which usually had a very restricted road perspective. Thus, Palazzo Chiericati can almost be seen as a country villa.
Palladio placed the building on a podium, like an ancient temple, to underline its importance but also to protect it from frequent flooding. Finding inspiration from the architecture of the Roman Forum, he made the façade half-open, a suitable choice for the open space in front of it. He used two overlapping orders, a solution which had already been used by Baldassare Peruzzi in Palazzo Massimo alle Colonne in Rome (1532-1536), and by Andrea Moroni in the Old Courtyard of the Palazzo del Bo in Padua (1552), but which, in terms of expressiveness and elegance, can only be seen as properly born here.
The façade is composed of three bays, with the central bay projecting slightly. On the level of the piano nobile, the central bay is closed, while the bays on the sides have a loggia. Here appears for the first time the closure of the side of a loggia with a wall in which an arch is opened. This solution was borrowed from the Porticus Octaviae in Rome and became a common feature in the villa architecture.
The sculptures on the roof are additions unrelated to Palladio’s project.
In 1557, when Girolamo Chiericati died, only four bays out of eleven were built. For more than a century the palazzo looked like the unfinished Palazzo Porto in Piazza Castello now. The building was completed in 1680.
Today the palazzo houses the art gallery of the city, with a collection ranging from the 13th to the 19th century, including works by artists such as Veronese, Tintoretto, and Tiepolo.
4. Loggia Valmarana
Uncertain attribution to Andrea Palladio planned and built after 1556
The Loggia Valmarana was constructed outside the city walls of Vicenza in a garden that belonged to the Valmarana family (today known as the Salvi Gardens). It was intended as a meeting point for academics and intellectuals. It is adorned with six Tuscan columns supporting a tympanum. It is a pleasant piece of work by an artist that respected Palladio’s teachings, if not even by Palladio himself (even though strong reservations have been made against the latter hypothesis).
5. Vicenza Cathedral: the dome and the north portal
The dome – planned in 1558 and built in 1558-1559 and 1564-1566 the north portal – planned in 1564 and built in 1564-1565
The Cathedral of Vicenza stands on a site formerly occupied by a Roman house and a domus ecclesia, and then by a Paleochristian church, a Romanesque church, and a Gothic church. The bell tower is from the 12th century, the main body of the church dates from the 1430s, and the polychrome-marble façade is from the 1460s.
In the 1550s, canon Paolo Almerico invited Palladio to design the dome of the cathedral and a portal on the north side on the site of a chapel dedicated to St. John the Evangelist. (Some years later that canon turned to Palladio again, with a request to build his country house outside Vicenza. That building came to be known as Villa La Rotonda and is Palladio’s most influential work.)
The dome of the cathedral is similar to some ancient temples with a central plan that Palladio had studied. The lantern of the dome is very simple, without decorations, almost abstract, a feature that Palladio would use again on the Church of San Giorgio Maggiore in Venice in 1565.
The north portal of the cathedral is formed by two Corinthian pilasters and a high entablature adorned with a mascaron and festoons. It is similar to the side portals of the Venetian Church of San Pietro di Castello, the façade of which was designed by Palladio around the same time.
In addition to the dome and the north portal, the monument of Girolamo Bencucci, Bishop of Vaison, located in the cathedral, is attributed to Palladio (with Girolamo Pittoni, 1537).
The Cathedral suffered from heavy bombing during World War Two. Only the façade survived. The rest, including Palladio’s additions, has been reconstructed.
6. Casa Cogollo
Corso Andrea Palladio 165/167
Attributed to Andrea Palladio planned in 1559, built in 1559-1562
This small palazzo stands in contrast with the more monumental palazzi that Palladio designed in Vicenza. Known as the House of Palladio, it has actually no connection with the residence of the architect. In fact, its owner was notary Pietro Cogollo, who had been forced by the town council to remodel the façade of his Quattrocento palazzo as a contribution to the ‘decorum of the town’ – a condition of their positive response to his request for Vicentine citizenship.
There is no documentary evidence to suggest that Palladio designed the palazzo, but the intelligence seen in the plan and the design of the details make it difficult to refer to any other architect. Another proof can be found at the entrance, which consists of an arch flanked by two rectangular spaces, forming a Serlian window, a trademark of Palladio since the Basilica Palladiana.
The architect had to take into account the constraints posed by a narrow space and the impossibility of opening windows at the centre of the piano nobile (because of an existing fireplace and its flue). So the space between the windows is filled with a now barely visible fresco by Giovanni Antonio Fasolo.
7. Loggia del Capitaniato / Palazzo del Capitaniato / Loggia Bernarda
Piazza dei Signori 1
Andrea Palladio planned in 1565, built in 1571-1572
This building was the seat of the military representative of the Republic of Venice in Vicenza. It was also called Loggia Bernarda after Giovanni Battista Bernardo, the Venetian captain who commissioned it. It is located on the Piazza dei Signori opposite the Basilica Palladiana, which Palladio designed almost twenty years before and the construction of which was still in progress in the 1560s. Eventually, only three bays of the loggia were built instead of the five or seven initially planned.
The pompous Loggia stands in contrast with the plain Basilica. Its main façade consists of three large arches and a giant order of four semi-columns topped by big composite capitals. The side façade overlooking the narrow Contrà del Monte has four lower semi-columns. Because of the conspicuous change in rhythm between the main and the side façade, with results that do not fall within the classical code, the building can be considered as Mannerist.
The façade displays an exuberant decoration of stucco and Istrian marble, obviously conceived for much bigger dimensions. On the main façade some figures pouring water can be found. The trabeation features the inscription: ‘Jo Baptistae Bernardo Praefecto‘, to commemorate the commissioner of the building. The side façade, the design of which is based on that of Roman triumphal arches, features the allegorical statues of the goddesses of victory and peace, to commemorate the victory of Venice and Spain over the Ottoman Empire in the Battle of Lepanto in 1571. On the bases of the statues the following Latin phrases can be found: ‘Palmam genuere carinae‘ (‘The ships determined the victory’) and ‘Belli secura quiesco‘ (‘Rest safe from the war’). Above the arch there are four other statues, representing the values that guaranteed the victory and peace: Virtue, Faith, Piety, and Honour.
On both façades the bricks of the shafts of the columns are exposed, creating an interesting chromatic contrast. This, however, is not how Palladio intended it: the columns were originally covered with light plaster, traces of which are only visible at the bases of the capitals.
Today the building is used by the town council of Vicenza.
8. Palazzo Valmarana Braga Rosa
Corso Antonio Fogazzaro 16
Andrea Palladio planned 1565, built 1566-1580
This palazzo was designed in 1565 for the Valmarana family, one of the most powerful families in Vicenza, who had supported Palladio since the beginning of his career.
The palazzo was innovative in that its entire vertical expanse is embraced by a giant order. Six composite pilasters on a high ashlar base seem to be superimposed on a minor order of Corinthian pilasters, which frame the openings and decorative panels. The higher pilasters are absent at the edges, revealing the underlying order, which supports two bas-reliefs of a soldier bearing the coat of arms of the Valmarana family. Such a superimposition was experimented by Palladio on the façades of several religious buildings, such as the Church of San Francesco della Vigna in Venice (1564), where the nave and the aisles are projected on the same plane, guaranteeing the integrity of the church’s interior and exterior. This, together with the intense light and shade effects, makes the façade stand out on the street in spite of the restricted visual angle.
The palazzo was heavily damaged during World War Two. Its façade, however, remained intact, and today represents a rare example of a façade surviving with its original plaster and marmorino. In 1960, it was sold by the Valmarana family to Vittor Luigi Braga Rosa.
9. Villa Almerico Capra Valmarana / La Rotonda
Via della Rotonda 45
Andrea Palladio planned in 1566-1567, built in 1657-1605, and completed by Vincenzo Scamozzi
Villa La Rotonda is Palladio’s most famous work and one of the masterpieces of world architecture. It stands outside the city of Vicenza in the countryside stretching from the banks of the Bacchiglione River to the Berici Hills. It was built for canon Paolo Almerico, who, some years before, had asked Palladio to design the dome and the north portal of the Cathedral of Vicenza. The canon left the papal court in 1565, returned to Vicenza, and wanted to settle down in a quiet country house.
The villa is a completely symmetrical building with a square plan and four façades. Each façade has a projecting portico with steps leading up to it. The porticoes consist of six Ionic columns that support the tympanums graced by the statues of classical deities.
Each portico opens via a small cabinet or corridor to the circular central hall, from which the name La Rotonda is derived. Here, Palladio faced the theme of the central plan, which until then had been reserved for religious architecture. Following the model of the Pantheon in Rome, he covered the hall with a dome. It was the first time that the dome was applied to a residential building.
The dome is surrounded by a balcony and access corridors and corner rooms on two levels. All the rooms were proportioned with mathematical precision. In order for each room to have some sun, the design was rotated 45° from the cardinal points of the compass. Among the four principal rooms on the piano nobile are the West Salon, or the Holy Room (because of the religious nature of its frescoes and ceiling), and the East Salon (containing an allegorical biography of Paolo Almerico in fresco). The frescoes were made by Alessandro and Giovanni Battista Maganza and Anselmo Canera. The basement is dedicated to the service rooms.
The Rotonda was also designed to be in perfect harmony with the landscape. Even though it looks perfectly symmetrical, it actually has certain variations (such as in the façades or in the width of steps), designed to allow each façade to complement the surrounding landscape. This was in complete contrast with buildings such as Giacomo Barozzi da Vignola’s Villa Farnese (planned in 1556-1559), which clearly dominates over the landscape in Caprarola near Rome.
Originally, the main entrance was the one towards the river. The current entrance faces the northwest portico. The entrance way is between the service blocks, commissioned by the Capra brothers and built by Scamozzi. When approaching the villa from this side, one might think that one is ascending from below to a temple on a hilltop.
The construction of the villa took almost forty years to complete, and both the architect and his client died before they could see the work done. The property was overtaken by the brothers Odorico and Mario Capra, and Palladio’s work was finalized by Vincenzo Scamozzi, his spiritual heir. Since 1912 the villa belongs to the Valmarana family.
The Villa La Rotonda has been imitated many times over the centuries, particularly in England and the United States. Famous examples include Lord Burlington and William Kent’s Chiswick House in London (1725-1729), Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello in Charlottesville, Virginia (1768-1809), and James Hoban’s White House in Washington, D.C. (1792-1800). The villa has also been famous among writers. Goethe, for example, visited it several times and said that Palladio had succeeded in designing a Greek temple suitable for living. To me it was Hofmannsthal’s beautiful description of the villa at the end of an essay about his trip to Italy that made me want to go Vicenza in the first place.
10. Palazzo Barbaran da Porto
Contrà Porti 11
Andrea Palladio planned in 1569, built in 1570-1575
This is the only palazzo in Vicenza that Palladio succeeded in executing in entirety. He designed it for the Vicentine nobleman Montano Barbarano. The client purchased another building at an advanced state of the project, and Palladio’s task was to blend the pre-existing structures into a unified edifice.
It was quite a difficult job to do. For example, it was impossible to position the entrance portal with the atrium in the centre of the façade. Palladio had to restore a symmetrical appearance compromised by the oblique course of the perimeter walls of the existing houses. Also, he had to figure out how to support the floor of the great hall of the piano nobile.
Palladio departed from the model of the wings of the Theatre of Marcellus in Rome. He divided the atrium into three aisles, and he placed centrally four Ionic columns, which allowed the reduction of the span of the central cross-vaults, set against lateral barrel vaults. In this way he achieved a framework capable of bearing the hall above it with no difficulty.
The central columns were tied to the perimeter walls by fragments of rectilinear entablature, which absorb the irregularities of the atrium plan. As a result, a Serlian window was born, just like in the loggias of the earlier Basilica. Furthermore, Palladio borrowed from the Temple of Saturn in the Roman Forum the unusual type of the Ionic capital with angled volutes. This permitted him to mask the rotations necessary for the alignment of the columns and half-columns.
The façade of the palazzo stretches over nine bays, with the Ionic order on the ground floor and the Corinthian order with festoons on the piano nobile. On the inside, there is a courtyard surrounded by a majestic arcade on two orders. The interiors are exquisitely decorated.
Today the palazzo houses the Palladio Museum and the Andrea Palladio International Centre for the Study of Architecture (CISA).
11. Palazzo Porto Breganze
Piazza Castello 18
Andrea Palladio planned around 1571, built in 1572-1785, completed in 1615 by Vincenzo Scamozzi
This project seems to have been initiated immediately after the publication of Quattro libri dell’architettura in 1570, since its design does not appear in the book. Like most buildings in Vicenza designed by Palladio, it was left incomplete. Only two bays were ever built. These stand next to the Quattrocento house of the Porto family, which was originally destined to be demolished along with the construction of the new building. It is not known why the patron, Alessandro da Porto, did not carry on with the project.
The completed façade reveals a very ambitious design for the palazzo. The giant order of composite half-columns stands on socles higher than a human being. The entablature is high, too, decorated with oak garlands hung from the capitals, and pierced with windows in the manner of Baldassare Peruzzi (to give light to the rooms of the mezzanine). There are windows between the columns. The design is typical of Mannerism because of the strong light and shade effect created by the closeness of the columns and the neat horizontal division.
At the rear of the building evidence of a grand exedra can be found, likely designed to embellish the courtyard.
12. Palazzo Thiene Bonin Longare
Corso Andrea Palladio 13
Planned in around 1572 by Andrea Palladio built in 1586-1610 by Vincenzo Scamozzi
This huge palazzo at the corner of the Piazza del Castello is one of the two palazzi of the Thiene family that Palladio worked on. Its main façade, overlooking the Corso, is, on the ground floor as well as on the piano nobile, adorned with eight half-columns, which create a neat light and shade effect. The back façade is structured in the same way and has a great double-storey loggia. This makes it similar to the Palazzo Barbaran da Porto, which Palladio had planned just some time before. Palladio died in 1580, before the construction of the palazzo started, and the project passed to his spiritual heir, Vincenzo Scamozzi, whose work is the façade overlooking the piazza and probably the atrium as well. In the 19th century, the palazzo was acquired by Lelio Bonin Longare.
13. Church of Santa Corona: Valmarana Chapel
Contrà Santa Corona 2
Andrea Palladio planned in 1576, built in 1576-1580
The Santa Corona is a Gothic church built in 1261-1270 to house the crown of thorns that Jesus wore during the Passion. Many side chapels were added to it in the 15th century. In 1481-1489 the church was significantly altered by Lorenzo da Bologna. His works include the construction of a crypt for the interment of the members of the Valmarana family.
The Valmarana Chapel is thought to have been designed by Palladio in 1576, after the death of Antonio Valmarana, one of his patrons. Even though it occupies a very small space, it is a monumental work. To give breadth to the chapel, Palladio built two high apses on the sides. To these he added two large windows and four oculi. The apses are harmonised with the central space from the base strip and the cornice, above which a cross vault rises. The result is a sophisticated quotation of the tablinum of an ancient Roman house.
Palladio was working on the side chapels of the Venetian Church of the Redeemer (Il Redentore) at that time. The arrangement of spaces in them is almost identical to the Valmarana Chapel, making the latter a sort of a prototype.
The church has a very rich artistic heritage, the most famous examples being the Baptism of Christ by Giovanni Bellini (1500-1502), and the Adoration of the Magiby Paolo Veronese (1573).
In 1580, when Palladio died, he was buried in this church. In the mid-19th century, his remains were moved to the Cimitero Maggiore, where the famous people of Vicenza rest.
14. Church of Santa Maria Nova
Contrà Santa Maria Nova
Attributed to Andrea Palladio planned in 1578, built in 1588-1590
In 1578, Lodovico Trento, a Vicentine nobleman, funded the reconstruction of a church adjacent to the Augustinian Convent of Santa Maria Nova to the west of the city. The church is thought to have been constructed by the master builder Domenico Groppino on the basis of a project of Palladio.
In Vicenza, Palladio had designed the portal of the Church of Santa Maria dei Servi (in 1531), the dome (in 1558) and the north portal (in 1564) of the Cathedral, and the Valmarana Chapel in the Church of Santa Corona (in 1576). The Church of Santa Maria Nova is the only complete church design in Vicenza attributed to Palladio.
The façade of the church is defined by four columns resting on a high plinth and supporting trabeations and a triangular tympanum. The surfaces between the columns are enlivened by shallow niches and blind windows. In the middle of the tympanum there is a circular window, which is now blinded but which originally gave light to the tribune.
The interior is like the cella of an ancient temple. It consists of a single hall, surrounded by a row of Corinthian semi-columns on high bases (cf. the Maison Carrée of Nîmes). The walls have excellent stucco decorations, and the ceiling is coffered.
15. Teatro Olimpico
Piazza Giacomo Matteotti 11
Planned in 1580 by Andrea Palladio, built in 1580-1585 by Vincenzo Scamozzi
The Teatro Olimpico, one of the wonders of Vicenza, was the last design of Palladio. It was commissioned in 1580, when Palladio was 71 years old, by the Accademia Olimpica, a cultural association which he himself had helped to found in 1555. In 1579 the Academy had obtained rights to build a permanent theatre on the site of an old fortress.
The design of the Teatro Olimpico is clearly inspired by Roman theatres as described by Vitruvius. The stage is surrounded by a terraced auditorium, framed by a colonnade and frieze adorned with statues. In order to fit the stage and the seating area into the wide space, it was necessary for Palladio to flatten the semicircular seating area typical of the Roman theatre into an ellipse.
The rectangular stage has a majestic scaenae frons with a central archway (also known as the Porta Reggia), smaller side openings, columns and semi-columns, aedicules with statues, and panels with bas-reliefs. The progressive diminishing of the front with height is visually compensated by the protrusion of the statues. The intense light and shade effect and the increased sense of depth that are thus achieved are typical of Mannerist architecture.
In August 1580, six months after the beginning of the construction of the theatre, Palladio died. Vincenzo Scamozzi, another prominent Vicentine architect, was called to complete the project.
Palladio’s design of the scaenae frons permitted perspective views through its openings but he left no indication about how exactly these should be carried out. Scamozzi undertook the work and designed the now-famous trompe-l’œil scenery. It gives the appearance of seven long streets of an antique city receding to a distant horizon. (That city was Thebes, the setting of Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex, with which the theatre was opened on March 3, 1585.) The make-believe streets were made of wood and stucco imitating marble, and their lighting with glass oil lamps was carefully designed. These perspectives are extraordinarily realistic, even though in reality they only recede a few metres. At least one perspective view can be seen from every seat in the auditorium.
Because the theatre was virtually abandoned after a few productions, the stage set was left the way it was and is today in relatively good condition. It is the oldest surviving stage set in existence. Scamozzi’s lighting system, too, has survived, having been used only a few times.
Scamozzi also designed the entrance arch of the theatre. Its rusticated look can be explained by the fact that it was inserted into the medieval city wall, located in front of the theatre. Its shape and size, however, are the same as those of the Porta Reggia of the scaenae frons on the stage. The visitors were so guided from the medieval to the classical surroundings.
Some authors have stated that the Teatro Olimpico was the first purpose-built theatre in Europe over a thousand years. In reality, such theatres already existed in several Italian cities before 1580. Today, the Teatro Olimpico is one of only three Renaissance theatres remaining in existence, the other two being Vincenzo Scamozzi’s Teatro all’Antica in Sabbioneta (1588-1590) and Giovanni Battista Aleotti’s Teatro Farnese in Parma (1618). Both these theatres were based, to a large extent, on the Teatro Olimpico.
Today, the Teatro Olimpico is still used for plays and musical performances, but it is not equipped with heating and air conditioning and audience sizes are limited for conservation reasons.
Statue of Palladio by Vincenzo Gajassi from 1859 next to the Basilica Palladiana
The Basilica Palladiana is a Renaissance building in the central Piazza dei Signori in Vicenza. The most notable feature of the edifice is the loggia, which shows one of the first examples of what have come to be known as the Palladian window, designed by a young Andrea Palladio, whose work in architecture was to have a significant effect on the field during the Renaissance and later periods.
The building was originally constructed in the 15th century and was known as the Palazzo della Ragione. The building, which was in the Gothic style, served as the seat of government and also housed a number of shops on the ground floor. The 82-metre tall tower Torre della Bissara precedes this structure, as it is known from as early as 1172 however, its height was increased on this occasion, and its pinnacle was finished in 1444. The 15th-century edifice had an upside-down cover, partly supported by large archivolts, inspired by the one built in 1306 for the eponymous building of Padua. The Gothic façade was in red and gialletto marble of Verona, and is still visible behind the Palladio addition.
A double order of columns was built by Tommaso Formenton in 1481-1494 to surround the palace. However, two years after its completion, the south-western corner collapsed. In the following decades, the Vicentine government called in architects to propose a reconstruction plan. However, in 1546 the Council of One Hundred chose a young local architect, Palladio, to reconstruct the building starting from April 1549. Palladio added a new outer shell of marble classical forms, a loggia and a portico that now obscure the original Gothic architecture. He also dubbed the building a basilica, after the ancient Roman civil structures of that name.
In 1614, thirty years after Palladio&aposs death, the building was completed, with the finishing of the main façade on Piazza delle Erbe.
Since 1994 the Basilica has been protected as part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site also including the other Palladian buildings of Vicenza. The building now often hosts exhibitions in its large hall used for civic events.
Good Sights: Italy – Vicenza’s Basilica Palladiana (video)
Widely considered to be the most influential individual in the history of Western architecture, Renaissance master builder Andrea Palladio created an architectural style known the world over as Palladianism.
The pulse of his life’s work is stunningly on display in Vicenza, the City of Palladio, in the Veneto region of northeastern Italy. Within the historic city walls, 23 individual buildings or sections of buildings were designed, reconstructed or attributed to Palladio. Among these is the just-restored Basilica Palladiana (f.n.a. Palazzo della Ragione).
Standing ornate alongside Vicenza’s “living room” — Piazza dei Signori — the Basilica was originally constructed in the 15th century and served as the seat of government. When part of the building collapsed, Palladio was commissioned, in 1549, to put it back into shape.
He redesigned the structure, adding a new outer-shell of columns in the classic Roman style, a loggia and a portico. These refinements covered completely the building’s original Gothic style. Unfortunately, the renovation project was not finished until 1614, nearly 35-years after Palladio’s death.
Flash forward 500 years, and today the Basilica is as good as new. After a five-year restoration project, at a cost of nearly $30 million dollars, Vicenza recently reopened the master’s palace to much fanfare.
In honor of Palladio, a once-in-a-lifetime exhibition of 90 pieces of priceless art – Raffaello towards Picasso – is on display inside the Basilica until January 20, 2013. Along with works from the two titlists, the exhibition features masterpieces by Botticelli, Veronese, El Greco, Rembrandt and Van Gogh, just to name a few.
It’s really hard to imagine that before Palladio’s passage through Vicenza, it was arguably one of the more downtrodden and esthetically lacking cities of the old Republic of Venice. Today, thanks to that young stonemason, the City of Palladio is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Enjoy the short video on La Basilica Palladiana.
©The Palladian Traveler
City of Vicenza – A gem in architectural history of mankind (1/2)
What is Vicenza famous for? Well, this city is not famous for a specific building or monument. Instead, it’s famous for a person, who became the inspiration for a movement without parallel in architectural history. Now I’ll give you a brief introduction and you can try to guess who he is.
He was born in Padua in 1508 and first gained his working experience as a stonecutter in the sculpture laboratory of Bartolomeo Cavazza da Sossano. However, because of the hard working condition there, he decided to run away to Vicenza, where he worked in the sculpture laboratory of Pedemuro San Biagio. Between 1535 and 1538, the meeting between him and Giangiorgio Trissino changed his life. It was Giangiorgio Trissino, a poet and humanist, who christened him “(his most popular name, which is also a reference to the Greek Goddess of wisdom, Pallas Athena)”, and guided him through his education, which was mainly based on the study of classical buildings. Giangiorgio Trissino even took him to Rome several times so that he could not only observe in reality the classical monuments, study their materials, their building techniques and their spacial ratios, but also meet the great people of his time such as Michelangelo, Sebastian Serlio, Giulio Romano, Bramante and so on.
In around 1540 he started his own building business and designed works such as Palazzo Civena in Ponte Furo and Villa Godi in Lonedo. In 1549, another great opportunity made him famous and popular not only among the noble families in Vicenza but also in Venice, which was the reconstruction of the loggias of the Vicenza Basilica to replace the original ones from the 14th century. In fact, it might be improper to say that an opportunity made him so because it sounds like he got the project because of luck. I believe he already proved his talent at that point because some of the competitors for the same project were Serlio, Sansovino, Sanmicheli and Giulio Romano, who were all renowned Italian architects during the Renaissance period. Right after this point, the busiest period of his career came and he designed many spectacular buildings from Palazzo Chiericati to Villa Barbaro di Maser, from Villa “Malcontenta” in Mira to the well-known “Villa Rotonda” and to the Venetian churches of the Santissimo Redentore and of San Giorgio Maggiore, which ensured his position in history as one of the greatest and most influential architects. In 1570, he also published his treatise, “The Four Books of Architecture“, expressing his ideas and experience. His final design is the Teatro Olimpico, which was requested by the Accademia Olimpica to perform classic tragedies. The construction work started between February and March in 1580 but unfortunately he passed away on 19th August in same year and wasn’t able to see the completion of the theatre, which is nowadays one of only three Renaissance theatres remaining in existence.
If you can pick up the key clues in the brief introduction above I believe you can guess who he is already. If not, I’ll give you one last clue. The style of architecture, “Palladianism“, based on the writings and buildings of this architect and theorist, is named after his surname (and the only architectural style in history which is named after an architect’s surname). Yes, he is Andrea Palladio, a great architect who influenced generations of artists and architects not only in Europe but also around the world.
2. What’s the connection between Palladio and Vicenza?
Founded in the 2nd century B.C. in northern Italy, Vicenza prospered under Venetian rule from the early 15th to the end of the 18th century. The work of Andrea Palladio (1508–80), based on a detailed study of classical Roman architecture, gives the city its unique appearance. Palladio’s urban buildings, as well as his villas, scattered throughout the Veneto region, had a decisive influence on the development of architecture. His work inspired a distinct architectural style known as Palladian, which spread to England and other European countries, and also to North America.
Now I believe you have the same question as I did when I first googled about Vicenza on the internet: why is this specific city so closely connected to Andrea Palladio? Well, first of all, Vicenza is commonly known as the city of Palladio because it has the highest number of works designed by him as well as the ones inscribed in the UNESCO World Heritage. For example, in 1994, 23 monuments, palaces, public and religious buildings in the town center together with 3 villas outside the city wall comprised the original list. In 1996, 21 villas (of course also designed by him) in several provinces in Veneto were also added as an extension to the the general property. You might have heard about a lot of Palladian villas but please note that many of them were not designed by Andrea Palladio himself, instead, they were actually designed by the followers of him who were inspired and deeply influenced by his style. It is only in the Vicenza province and the Veneto region that you can find Palladio’s original designs, or in other words, the models and source of Palladianism.
The second reason why Vicenza is closely connected to Palladio is that it’s the birthplace of an movement without parallel in architectural history after his intimate study of classical Roman architecture. It was him who designed the town houses in the medieval city and fitted them to the urban texture. It was him who created the picturesque ensembles and continuous façades and harmoniously combined the Veneto Gothic style with his own Classicism. It was also him who, while designing the country villas, “synthesized both figuratively and materially the functional aspects of management of the land and the aristocratic self-gloration of the owner”. All in all, the survival of Palladio’s originally buildings in the city center as well as in the Veneto region (mostly villas) is the survival of a “humanist concept based on a living interpretation of antiquity“, which has been applied to both rural and urban contexts.
Last but not least, what’s also noteworthy is that the movement started in Vicenza and was later spread all over the world. For example, scholars such as Inigo Jones and Thomas Jefferson (one of the Founding Fathers of the United States and the principal author of the Declaration of Independence, who once even referred to Palladio’s book “Quattro Libri” as his bible) were enlightened by the main principles emphasized by Palladio, under which the branches such as English Palladian architecture, Irish Palladianism and North American Palladianism also developed. It was said that for the competition to design the President’s House in Washington DC, Thomas Jefferson anonymously submitted a design that was a variation on the Villa Rotonda (designed by Palladio as the picture shows below). What’s more, the East facade of the Stourhead House, the Woburn Abbey designed by Burlington’s student Henry Flitcroft, the Chiswick House designed by Richard Boyle and William Kent, the Russborough House in Ireland designed by the German architecture Richard Cassels, the former Irish Houses of Parliament in Dublin designed by Sir Edward Lovett Pearce, the Rotunda at the University of Virginia designed by Thomas Jefferson, the Hammond-Harwood House in Annapolis, Maryland, the palaces of St. Petersburg and many other examples all testify to the ingenious architectural concepts brought up by Andrea Palladio.
3. A general introduction to my posts about Vicenza
Having learnt so much about Andrea Palladio and his relation to the city of Vicenza, I’m sure that you can’t wait anymore to see his original buildings in the historic city center as well as his villas in the Veneto region. In the following four posts about Vicenza, I’m gonna introduce to you first of all a planned route to visit all the 23 works (In fact, as shown on the official brochure of the itinerary and as I experienced by myself, there are only 22 works in the city center, but I read from the official website of the UNESCO that there are in total 23. My guess is that maybe the cupola and the portal of the cathedral count as two works) in the city center designed by Palladio and inscribed in the UNESCO World Heritage list. In the second post, I’m gonna take you to have a close look at three of the buildings (Teatro Olimpico, Pinacoteca di Palazzo Chiericati and Palazzo Barbaran da Porta, also hosting the Palladio Museum) because you can visit the interior of them. Also in this post, I’m gonna write about the Valmarana Chapel, which is designed by Palladio and is located inside the church of Santa Corona. Please note that the church itself is also worth visiting because it was built to house the relic of the Holy Thorn and some works of art by Giovanni Bellini, Paolo Veronese and so on are also presented here. Why do I place these four attractions in one post? It is because you need to pay a fee to visit the interior but if you buy the Museum Card, you can enter them for free and it’s a really good deal. In the third post, I’m gonna show you two villas, one of which is the probably the most famous villa inscribed in the World Heritage list, Villa Capra “La Rotonda”. As I mentioned above, this villa is said to have inspired a thousand subsequent buildings, including Thomas Jefferson’s version of the White House in Washington DC. The other villa I visited is located in the Comune of Caldogno and it is called Villa Caldogno. It was inscribed in the UNESCO World Heritage list in 1996 and though located outside the town of Vicenza, it is still accessible by public transport. Last but not least, in the fourth post, I’m gonna introduce to you one more villa, Villa Valmarana ai nani, located in the town of Vicenza and very close to Villa Capra “La Rotonda”. Though it was neither designed by Palladio nor inscribed in the World Heritage list, it is still one of the most popular tourist attractions in Vicenza because of the rooms decorated by Tiepolo the father and the son. Trust me, you won’t regret visiting it.
4. Some tips about traveling in and around Vicenza
Before starting the Palladian route, there are some general tips that I wanna give to you concerning traveling in and around Vicenza. First of all, the city is not that big so if you live in or close to the city center, you can basically walk everywhere. Nevertheless, if you wanna visit the villas as I will mention in my 3rd and 4th posts, you should take buses. (If you have a car while exploring Vicenza and its surroundings, it’s even better because there’s quite some parking space around the limited traffic zone and you can reach the villas much faster and more conveniently.) If you plan to take buses, please note that there are two kinds of tickets, one of which is green and is only valid for the town of Vicenza and you can use it for 90 mins from the time you validate it. The other one is red, which you can use to travel to other towns and is valid for 120 mins from the time you validate it (in my case, I only used this type of ticket to travel to the Comune of Caldogno to visit Villa Caldogno). How to tell whether the place you are going to is out of the town of Vicenza or not? Well, you can take a close look at the the bus route board at the bus stop and if there’s a dividing line between the stops, it means the bus is going out of the town of Vicenza and if you are going to the stops after the line, you should buy the red card. You can either buy the bus cards in the tobacco shops, where they cost around 50 cents less per card or buy them from the bus driver directly (2 euros for both types of cards). DON’T forget to validate the card EACH TIME you board a bus.
If you travel at night (for example after 21:00) or want to save some time and trouble on the way, taxi is a great option (4 euros + 1.6 euros/km). You can book it in advance online at www.taxivicenza.com or by calling the number +39 0444 920600.
The other thing that I wanna remind you of is about buying the Vicenza Museum Card. If you wanna visit the interior of the three works by Andrea Palladio (Teatro Olimpico, Civic Art Gallery of Palazzo Chiericati and Palazzo Barbaran da Porta, which hosts the Palladio Museum) as well as the Valmarana Chapel located inside the church of Santa Corona, buying the Museum Card is a very good deal. The standard price for an adult is 15 euros and for students up to 25 years old, you can get it for 12 euros. Please note that the entry tickets to the Olympic Theatre and the Civic Art Gallery already cost 18 euros. With the Museum Card you can also go to the Gallerie d’Italia Palazzo Leoni Montanari, Vicenza Diocesan Museum and so on. For more information about the discounts, advantages as well as the opening hours of these attractions, please click here and check the PDF profile.
With everything set for a smooth trip in and around Vicenza, now let’s start our adventures in the “Pearl of the Renaissance”.
5. Andrea Palladio’s works in the historic town center of Vicenza
If you wanna see the original buildings designed by Andrea Palladio, Vicenza is undoubtedly the best place. In this chapter, I’m gonna recommend to you a designed route in the limited traffic zone, or in other words, in the center of the center of Vicenza to explore the original and authentic designs by him. First of all, I’d like to give you some practical tips to make sure you will have a successful self-guided tour.
- There are in total 25 (26 if you count the dome and the portal of the cathedral as two works) Andrea Palladio’s works in the city of Vicenza.
- I strongly recommend you obtaining a brochure called “Palladian Routes, into imagined harmony” either from the tourism office in Vicenza or online (you can click here to view it from the official website) to plan your trip in advance and to guide you when you are in town.
- If you follow the designed route closely, you will visit 17 of Palladio’s works and there are 5 more which are a bit off the route but are accessible by foot. There are also 3 villas designed by Palladio which are located in the city of Vicenza and are easily accessible by public transport. One of the villas is the famous Villa Capra “La Rotonda”, beloved by Thomas Jefferson. I’ll write more about it in the third post.
- Please be careful when you follow the designed route on the brochure because the red dots only indicate the approximate location of the properties. It’s true that some buildings are marked one street away or so. Nevertheless, in front of almost each of the buildings or close to them there should be an info board (providing information about each particular building) so if you see it before you find the building, it’s an indication that the sought-building is around you.
- It might be a bit confusing to spot the 22 (23 if you count the dome and the portal of the cathedral as two works) original designs by Palladio in the historic town center because they are integrated in the overall urban structure and similar designs copying his can be seen everywhere. I remember that looking for these original works was like a treasure hunting game and according to my own experience, the best way to spot them is to match the “candidates” with the pictures on the brochure. Alternatively, you can also try to find the “name tags” on the walls of the buildings to identify them.
- Please remember that you can only visit the exterior of most of the buildings in the designed route except Teatro Olympico, Palazzo Barbaran da Porto and Palazzo Chiericati. If you wanna visit the Valmarana Chapel, it is located in the crypt of the Church of Santa Corona. I’ll write more about visiting these four attractions in the next post.
Now, according to the brochure, let’s start the route with No.17 Teatro Olympico located right next to the Tourist Information Centre.
5.1 No.17 Teatro Olympico/Olympic Theatre
In 1580, Accademia Olimpica, a cultural group that Palladio himself belonged to, commissioned a permanent theatre to him. This is the last work designed by Palladio and he died before seeing its completion. If you wanna see it you need to visit the interior because it’s not an open air theatre. I’m gonna give you a more detailed explanation in the next post.
5.2 No.9 Palazzo Chiericati
In 1550, Palladio gave the design of Palazzo Chiericati to Girolamo Chiericati and the construction started in the same year. However, it was not finished until around 1560. As commented in the book called “Andrea Palladio, journeys into imagined harmony in Vicenza and the Veneto region”, it is the most spectacular civil residence designed by Palladio.
The palazzo was built on Piazza Matteotti, which at that time was an area called piazza dell’Isola (“island square”) so Palladio designed it at an elevated position to prevent it from frequent floods. The entrance could be accessed through a triple Classic-style staircase. Standing in front of it, you will see clearly that the principal façade is composed of three bays, with the central bay projecting slightly and the two end bays having loggias on the piano nobile level. The façade is at the same time composed of two superimposed orders of columns, Tuscan on the lower level and Ionic above. The roof is decorated by statues.
Since 1855 the building has housed the Museo Civico (“City Museum”), and more recently, the city’s art gallery has been set here. When you visit the interior of the building you can visit the art gallery of Vicenza as well. In the next post I’m gonna tell you more about it.
5.3 No.3 Casa Cogollo
At the end of the main street in the historic center of Vicenza, Corso Palladio, you will see Casa Cogollo. To be honest, it took me quite some time to notice this house because I didn’t expect a building designed by Palladio to be so small in size… The house was believed to be the residence of Palladio himself but nowadays, it’s been proven otherwise. In fact, the town council forced the notary Pietro Cogollo to remodel the façade of his 15th century house as a contribution to the “decorum of the city”, and made it a condition of their positive response to his request for Vicentine citizenship. As written on Wikipedia, “because of the limited space and the impossibility to build a window at the piano nobile level (because of an existing fireplace and its flue), Palladio emphasized the façade’s central axis by realising a structure with a ground floor arch flanked by engaged columns, and on the upper storey a tabernacle frame for a fresco by Giovanni Antonio Fasolo.” If you take a close look at the ground floor, you will notice that the arch is flanked by two rectangular spaces which provide light and access to the portico. They form a type of serliana, which can be see on the Basilica Palladiana.
5.4 No.21 Palazzo da Monte Migliorini
This palace was designed by Palladio as the residence of the da Monte family. Built between 1550 and 1554, it now stands in front of the Dominican convent of Santa Corona. In fact, this design was made when Palladio was at his early thirties (between 1540 and 1541) and during that period of time, he was analyzing and studying Sebastiano Serlio’s architectural concepts. On the piano nobile (the noble floor), this statement can also to some extent be testified by the Palladian window, or also called the serliana, a name derived from Sebastiano Serlio whose architectural treatise describes its origins from ancient Roman triumphal arches. If you stand in front of it across the street, you will notice that the whole façade is divided into two parts, with the lower one featuring rustication around the entrance arch and the upper one featuring a central Palladian window, two niche windows and four pairs of pilasters. An inscription on the band between the two floors can still be seen and the year MDLXXXI (1581) probably indicates the definitive completion of the project which happens to be the year after Palladio’s death.
5.5 No.2 Cappella Valmarana/Valmarana Chapel
The Church of Santa Corona was founded in 1270 and is the core of a Dominican monastery complex. The church was built in the form of a Latin cross by the Dominicans to preserve the relic of the Holy Thorn given by the king of France Louis IX in 1259 to bishop Bartolomeo da Breganze. Unfortunately the relic will only be presented to the pubic on the Good Friday so I wasn’t lucky enough to see it. Palladio was buried in the church in 1580 and in the mid-19th century, his remains were moved to the Temple of Fame in the Maggiore cemetery. The Valmarana Chapel is located in the crypt and once you enter the crypt, you can enter the chapel from your right hand side. Please note that you need to pay an entrance fee to enter the church and it is included in the Vicenza Museum Card. What I’d like to say is that besides visiting the Valmarana Chapel, the church’s artistic heritage such as paintings by Paolo Veronese, Giovanni Battista Pitoni, Giovanni Bellini and so on should definitely NOT be missed. I’ll give you a more detailed tour inside the church in the next post.
5.6 No.11 Palazzo Iseppo da Porto
This palace was commissioned by the noble Iseppo da Porto in about 1544 and it is one of two palaces in the city designed by Palladio for members of the Porto family (the other being Palazzo Porto in Piazza Castello). Once standing in front of it, I’m sure you will be amazed by the large size of the façade as well as the ornamental elements such as the mascarons above the arches and if you look closely, the statues of Iseppo and his son Leonida, who are said to be guarding the entrance and watching over their house. In fact, I read from Wikipedia that “it is very probable that Iseppo (Giuseppe) Porto’s decision to undertake construction of a great palace in the Contrà (Contrada) dei Porti was taken to emulate the edifice that his brothers-in-law Adriano and Marcantonio Thiene had begun to erect, in 1542, only a stone’s throw away. It is also possible that it was Iseppo’s very marriage to Livia Thiene, in the first half of the 1540s, which provided the concrete occasion for summoning Andrea Palladio”. I also learnt from the book that between Palladio and Iseppo Porto, the relationship was more than the relationship between an architect and a client, instead, they had solid friendship and it led to many other public commissions to Palladio given Porto’s high position in the city council.
Besides the façade, there are some other elements of the house which can not be seen by visitors but are vital in the history of architecture. For example, in 1570 Palladio presented the design of Palazzo Iseppo da Porto in his Four Books of Architecture. Besides the palace overlooking the road (which is the palace that we see nowadays), the design showed a second residence overlooking a majestic courtyard (unfortunately this part was never constructed). Again read from wikipedia, “compared with the Palazzo Civena, only built a few years earlier, the Palazzo Porto fully illustrates the extent of Palladio’s evolution after the journey to Rome in 1541 and his acquaintance with both antique and contemporary architecture“. Palladio reinterpreted Donato Bramante’s Palazzo Caprini and made the ground floor higher to adjust to the Vicentine custom of living on the ground floor. Though not accessible to the public, I learnt online and from the book that Paladio reinterpreted Vitruvian spaces when designing the four-columned atrium by adding traditional Vicentine features and the two rooms to the left of the atrium were frescoed by Paolo Veronese and Domenico Brusasorzi, while the stuccoes are by Bartolomeo Ridolfi.
5.7 No.8 Palazzo Barbaran da Porta
This residence was designed by Palladio in 1569 in Mannerist style (typical for his late period) and was constructed between 1570 and 1575 for the Vicentine noble Montano Barbarano. What’s worth mentioning is that it is the only palace in Vicenza which was finished entirely according to the plan. The designing and construction process of it was really difficult and complicated because Barbarano requested Palladio to respect the existence of various houses belonging to the family on the area of the new palace and once the project was finalised Barbarano acquired a further house adjoining the property, which resulted in the asymmetrical positioning of the entrance portal. Though confronted with constraints of the site and a demanding patron, Palladio took the opportunity and made full use of his talent while designing the “whole complex”. We will talk more about this building in the next post when we walk in and explore the interior.
Another two important roles that Palazzo Barbaran da Porta plays are that it is now the seat of the Centro Internazionale di Studi di Architettura Andrea Palladio (CISA) (International Center for Architecture Studies “Andrea Palladio”) and it hosts the Palladio Museum. If you wanna have a comprehensive understanding of Palladio and his architectural concepts, I have to say this museum is a must-visit.
5.8 No.14 Palazzo Thiene
This palace was designed for Marcantonio and Adriano Thiene, probably by Giulio Romano, in 1542, and revised during construction from 1544 by Andrea Palladio. The two brothers were from one of the most powerful families in Vicenza and they considered taking up an entire block in the historic town center and hired one of the most famous architects of that time, Giulio Romano to create a magnificent residence for them. Giulio Romano mostly worked for the Gonzagas in Mantua but was in Vicenza in 1542 to provide advice on the reconstruction of the basilica and he very likely handed in a rough design of Palazzo Thiene at the same time. Palladio is said to have replaced him from 1544 on and thats why you can see architectural features of both architects on the same building. For example, Romano arranged the atrium with four columns and the lower part of the façade while the capitals on the piano nobile are clearly Palladian. Unfortunately, most likely due to the death of one of the clients, only the part which overlooks the side road of Corso Palladio was completed and it was bought in 1872 by Banca Popolare of Vicenza. Used to be the headquarter of the bank, the palace is nowadays used to host some exhibitions and cultural events.
5.9 No.6 Palladian Basilica
The Palladian Basilica is undoubtedly the most eye-catching building designed by Andrea Palladio in the historic center of Vicenza. I’ll introduce it to you by answering several questions that might come to your mind once seeing it. How come this building gets to occupy such a large area in the main square of the center of Vicenza? What’s the history and function of this basilica and why is it called so? What role did it play in the career of Andrea Palladio? What are the architectural features that Palladio emphasized while designing it? What is it used for in recent times?
First of all, I’d like to say that it occupies the most important place in town because it was the so-called Palazzo della Ragione, seat of the ancient authorities. At the end of the 15th century, the city council decided to “wrap up” the original Gothic building with a double order of loggias. Unfortunately, a collapse happened only two years after the completion of the “wrapping” and at the beginning of the 16th century, the city council decided to hold a competition for a reconstruction of it. Participants included some of the most famous architects of that time such as Sansovino, Serlio, Sanmicheli and Giulio Romano. Surprisingly, the job was given to Andrea Palladio, who was 38 in that year, under the supervision of Giacomo da Porlezza, owner of the workshop where Palladio once worked as a stonecutter. Another person that Palladio had to thank was the humanist Giangiorgio Trissino, whose important contacts played an important role in submitting the young architect’s name to the town council. As we talked at the beginning of this post, without Giangiorgio Trissino, there probably wouldn’t be Palladio. All in all, it was this building that made Palladio the official architect of Vicenza and gained him fame in the noble families in the city and around.
Why called a basilica? I thought this building was a church before but when I saw it, it didn’t look like any church at all. Well, who said a basilica must be a church? As I read from Wikipedia, “the basilican architectural style originated in ancient Rome and was originally used for public buildings where courts were held, as well as serving other official and public functions“. The name was actually given by Palladio himself as he understood that this building functioned as the basilica in ancient Roman times, where politics and the most important businesses had been held. As he explained in his “the Third Book of Architecture”:
Basilica means royal house, and also is the place where the judges give the people their due. These basilicas of our time lie above the vaults, in which different shops of different crafts and goods of the town are arranged. Prisons are also set here.
The basilica was completed in 65 years, 34 years after the architect’s death. Why did it take so long to finish the building? Once you see the size of it, I believe you will see the reason. The material used was white stone from Piovene Rocchette, a place at the foot of the Asiago high plateau. It was said that the whole quarry was emptied for the construction and the total cost was 60000 ducats, exceptionally high according to the living expenses in the 16th century. Palladio’s design was based on the repetition of the Serlian window, made of an arch of fixed size flanked by two rectangular spaces with variable sizes which can be adapted to the size of the internal bay. The upper loggia can be accessed through the late 15th century marble staircase and don’t miss out the copper roof of the hall, which is like an inverted hall of a vessel. Though not designed by Palladio, the image of the basilica won’t be complete without the 82-meter tall Torre di Piazza bell tower. It is also called Torre Bissara because it was built on a defense structure for the powerful Bissara family.
At the end of the 20th century, the basilica was mainly used for shows and sport events and nowadays, the main hall is more for exhibitions. On the ground floor, you will also find many shops and cafes. When I was there, the exhibition held was about Van Gogh called “Van Gogh – Between Wheat and Sky”. It’s on from 7th October 2017 to 8th April 2018 and I suggest that you should check the official website of Vicenza Tourism Office about the events going on in the basilica while planning you trip there.
5.10 No.7 Loggia del Capitaniato
The loggia was started by Andrea Palladio in 1565 but he finished only 3 of the 5 or even 7 bays that he originally planned. It is also called Loggia Bernarda after the Venetian captain Giovanni Battista Bernardo, to whom the loggia was dedicated to. Used to be the official residence of the Venetian captain, nowadays it serves as the town council building.
In fact the situation Palladio faced in 1565 was rather rare in architectural history because the loggia was to be built on Piazza dei Signori, where his first big project, Basilica Palladiana, was still under construction. Between 20 years, Palladio accepted the challenge to build two buildings at the same square and these two works give us a perfect opportunity to see his architectural concepts in the early and mature stages of his career respectively. When looking at the building as a whole, the ground floor is made up of a large loggia covered by a sophisticated vault system (to better sustain the weight of the hall) and on the piano nobile, a reception hall is currently used for hosting town council meetings. The main façade facing the main square is divided into three parts by four half-columns, which are almost as tall as the entire building and are topped by giant Corinthian capitals. In fact, in order to truly understand the original design of Palladio, you have to imagine the half-columns covered with white plaster. The other façade worth mentioning is the one facing the narrow street Contrà del Monte (as you can see from the second pic in this section). Though designed with smaller order, this façade is richly decorated with statues and escutcheons, which also seemed to have been used as a sort of everlasting triumphal arch, recording the victory gained by the Venetian forces over the Turks at the battle of Lepanto in October 1571.
5.11 No.22 Palazzo Pojana
In fact, there’s no document recording that this palace was designed and constructed by Palladio but certain architectural elements do point to an early design by him. Standing on the central part of Corso Palladio and close to Piazza dei Signori, this building has an interesting feature which is that the central portal opens to a small street called Do Rode. Why is the house divided by an alley? I read online that only the design of the left-hand portion of the palace was the product of a youthful project by Palladio and it was later that Pojana decided to include the neighbouring building (during the 1560s) to enlarge his own residence. This theory also explains the differences in the configuration of the basement zone between the two halves of the building. Nowadays, this palace is used for both commercial and residential purposes.
5.12 No.16 Palazzo Valmarana Braga Rosa
This palace was built by Palladio in 1565 and it is typical because of the use of the architectural order of six bays with intense light and shade effects. As you would probably feel once entering the narrow street, the visual angle is quite restricted so it’s rather difficult to see the whole façade of the building from one single standing point (this is also the reason why I couldn’t take a picture which contains the entire façade). Commissioned in 1565 by the Valmarana family, who was one of the most famous families in town and at the same time a big supporter of Palladio’s work from the very beginning, Palazzo Valmarana Braga Rosa is also presented in Palladio’s “Four Books of Architecture”.
While designing this palace, Palladio was confronted with two major problems, one of which was the uneven plot of land and the other one was the narrowness of the road which forces a limited perspective on the onlooker (as I mentioned in the previous paragraph). In order to solve them, Palladio applied a giant order and designed six Composite pilasters on a high ashlar base which embrace the entire vertical expanse of the building. What’s more, if you take a close look at the façade, the giant order of the six Composite pilasters seems to superimpose on the minor order of Corinthian pilasters. This is particularly visible on the edges where the absence of the two Composite pilasters reveal the Corinthian ones, which are topped by two Roman soldiers with the coat of arms of the Valmarana family. They are said to guard and watch over the palace.
In fact, the designing process of Palazzo Valmarana Braga Rosa changed Palladio’s idea of civil architecture because this was the first time that he applied a giant order to a palace. This was a solution which found its origins in his experimentation with the façades of religious buildings, such as the façade of San Francesco della Vigna. All in all, “the façade of the Palazzo Valmarana is both one of Palladio’s most extraordinary and most individual realizations“.
5.13 No.4 dome and portal of the cathedral
On this site, an original church was enlarged several times over the centuries and in 1430, it was completely rebuilt. The work was completed by Andrea Palladio’s dome (1558-1566). Together with the copper roof of the Palladian Basilica, this dome defines the image of the historic center of Vicenza. Though having a long and complicated history, the dome’s building was finally handed down to Palladio who, based on his rich research on and study of ancient Roman architecture, gave it characteristics of ancient temples. The lantern tower is especially worth mentioning because its form is almost abstract (without any decorations) and it is a feature that Palladio used later on the Church of San Giorgio in Venice.
Andrea Palladio probably took charge of designing the side portal on the north side of the cathedral as well while working on the construction of the dome. The project was very likely given by Paolo Almerico, who got permission from the papal court to build a portal by sacrificing a chapel dedicated to St. John the Evangelist. It was also him who commissioned Palladio to build a country house on River Berica, or as we know it nowadays, the famous Villa Rotonda. The design shows a portal framed by two Corinthia pilasters and an entablature with mascarons and festoons. Palladio is thought to be the author mainly because of the similarity between this portal and the portals he designed for the Church of San Pietro di Castello in Venice. In fact, I’ve been to this particular church in Venice and I can assure you the portals really look quite identical, including the two Corinthia pilasters and the way how the mascarons and festoons are arranged on the entablature.
5.14 No.12 Palazzo Porto Breganze
The bus stop at Piazza Castello was the one I always got off before starting my trip in the historic center of Vicenza. I’m sure no one would miss the “embarrassing” building at the rear of the square which is composed of three giant columns and two bays. This was also a work by Andrea Palladio who designed it in 1571 to replace a 15th century house which nowadays still stands next to it. Though almost all the palaces that Palladio designed in the center were unfinished, this one was indeed unique because only 2 out of the 7 bays were finished and given its special location and surroundings, it looks especially “lonely”. The client was Alessandro Porto, a member of one of the most distinguished families in Vicenza and he had been in contact with Palladio since very early stages of his career. Because this design was created after the publication of the “Four Books of Architecture” (1570), there’s not much documentation about it and this situation turns a lot of question into mysteries, one of which is what kind of financial difficulty (or maybe other difficulties) led to such a result. Nevertheless, it’s still impressive that the giant half-columns go almost from the bottom to the top of the entire façade similar to the cases of Loggia del Capitaniato and Palazzo Valmarana. As I read from the book “Palladian Routes, into imagined harmony”, “art critics call the design manneristic because of the strong light and shade effects that are created by the close distance of the columns and the neat horizontal division”.
5.15 No.23 Palazzo Capra
This small building, probably designed between 1540 and 1545 and completed in 1567, is one of Palladio’s early works and was commissioned by Earl Giovanni Antonio Capra. Unfortunately, the façade has been altered for commercial purposes and only several features of the original design remain. For example, the central entrance, flanked by tapered Ionic pilasters and on the piano nobile, the four tapered Corinthian pilasters crowned by a triangular gable. What’s more, the two windows on the ground floor and two niche windows on the piano nobile are also worth noticing. In the 17th century, the Piovini family built their residence according to the plan of Antonio Pizzocaro and the substantial interior alternations destroyed the original structure by Palladio.
5.16 No.15 Palazzo Thiene Bonin Longare
This palazzo, commissioned by Francesco Thiene (who supported Palladio from the very beginning), was probably designed by Palladio in 1572 and it was later acquired by Lelio Bonin Longare, thus the current name. The architect died in 1580, before the construction even started. Therefore, the project was passed on to Vincenzo Scamozzi, who wrote that he was responsible for completing the building’s construction on the basis of a project by another architect (without specifying whom) with certain revisions to the original design (which, he does not clarify). The architect that Scamozzi does not name is certainly Andrea Palladio, because two autograph sheets survive which can be referred to Francesco Thiene’s palace. In fact, there are some other architectural elements that could testify to this theory. For example, the half-columns on the ground floor and on the piano nobile which create a neat light and shade effect as well as the double-storey loggia in the courtyard. In one word, the similarities between this palace and Palazzo Barbaran da Porto, which had been designed one year before, demonstrates Palladio’s involvement.
5.17 No.24 Loggia Valmarana (Giardini Salvi)
Giardini Salvi, a historical garden which has been listed on the city map since 1580, is located behind the Porta Castello. It was given its current appearance in the 19th century and at the center, there is a huge fountain with winged horses. The garden was donated to Vicenza city council by Girolamo Salvi in 1878 and it was opened to the public in 1907. At two corners, there are two pieces of architecture worth noticing. One of them is the Loggia Valmarana, composed of six Doric columns crowned by a triangular pediment. It was supposedly designed by Palladio or at least one of his admirers considering the similarity in style. The other building at the north-west corner is the Loggia del Longhena of the 17th century, named after the famous Venetian architect Longhena.
5.18 No.5 Church Santa Maria Nova
If you are willing to walk bit more, you can reach Church Santa Maria Nova from the Salvi garden in a few minutes. Though not located in the limited traffic zone, this church is easy to reach and more importantly, it is the only church that Palladio designed in Vicenza. Unfortunately, the interior is not accessible to the public but I read from the book “Palladian Routes, into imagined harmony” that the inside of the church is made up of just one room, like the cell of an ancient temple. It is surrounded by half-columns of the Corinthian order and the stucco decorations as well as the wooden coffered ceiling are excellent.
Finally, I’ve finished introducing to you the self-guided tour of Palladio’s works in the limited traffic zone of the historic center of Vicenza. There are four other buildings and three villas located a bit off the zone but can be easily accessed by public transport. Don’t worry, I’ll present to you the famous “Villa la Rotonda” in detail in the third post. Now please read my next post about Vicenza, in which I’m gonna elaborate on the Olympic Theatre, the exterior as well as the interior of Palazzo Chiericati (City Art Gallery) and Palazzo Barbaran da Porta (Palladio Museum) and the Church of Santa Corona.
The history of the portrait at Basilica Palladiana in Vicenza
For the last five years the Basilica Palladiana of Vicenza has been shrouded in scaffolding, invisible and inaccessible to the public, the object of a massive cleaning and expert restoration. Centuries of grime and modern graffiti have now been removed returning this celebrated treasure to pristine condition. In October this shimmering jewel of white marble reopened to the public with an exhibition entitled Rafaello verso Picasso, which tracks the art of portraiture through 100 works by major artists, chronologically arrayed in the heroic and vaulted space below the basilica&rsquos legendary curved roof.
If you see only one art show in Italy this season, let it be this one. Be warned: in its first month the exhibition welcomed over 100,000 visitors, and the show closes January 20th, so time is running out. It&rsquos a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see a spectacular panorama of portraiture from a jaw-dropping cast of international painters.
Spanning works by Mantegna (1425) to Lucien Freud (1988), you need only dream a name to discover representative examples among the galleries: Giorgione, El Greco, Durer, Bosch, Caravaggio, Rembrandt, Velazquez, Goya, Rubens, Tiepolo, Manet, Renoir, Gauguin, Van Gogh, Andrew Wyeth, Francis Bacon and more. The curators have arranged the galleries in three parts, beginning with depictions of the life of Christ, followed by character scenes from the New Testament, and ending with deep meditations on the nobility of the portrait as interpreted all the way to our era, which is consumed by psychology and the nature of celebrity. It presents a provocative contrast of beauty and faith, counterpoised with reflections on powerful social forces.
Particularly noteworthy is a double portrait by Pontormo from 1525, so realistic and immediate in its rendering that it could be an Instagram photo taken yesterday. There&rsquos a Franz Hals installed next to a Rembrandt, which shows how differently two artists interpret the same subject matter. One of the heroic portraits of Filippo IV by Velasquez (1625) prefigures Socialist Realism. An enigmatic portrait by Degas from 1865 shows a startled subject, frozen forever in engagement with the viewer. An early Balthus hints at later works, which will deal with anxiety and obsession. A poignant Modigliani reminds us that stylization in no way obscures humanity.
Piccolo Vicenza is not at the top of most tourist destination lists for the part of Italy known as the Veneto. The better part of visitors come here to view the largest collection of architecture by Palladio in one place, while the nearby cities of Venice and Verona attract significantly more visitors for their high-profile cultural events. But the reopening of the Basilica Palladiana heralds a renaissance for Vicenza. The Commune di Vicenza has extended exhibit hours, due to the demand for tickets for the show. And on New Years Eve the city has created an event which offers 800 tickets to private dinners which will occur at representative Palladian villas in the old city, followed by private access and tour of the exhibition, which will remain open until 2am. It&rsquos a bargain at 83 Euros a person, and an unusual opportunity to sample regional cuisine prepared by local chefs in heritage settings followed by an exclusive look at this impressive artistic event.
A history of success: Rossella Bisazza
Our contributor Stanley Moss tells us the second generation of the glorius Bisazza family through the portrait of Rossella Bisazza
Manet and Venice, two centuries of history
Interview with the curator of the exhibition that opens on 24 April at Palazzo Ducale
Flag Throwers in Vicenza
You never quite know what you’ll find happening in the city of Vicenza. Take, for example, a commemoration honoring the 500th anniversary of Magellan’s voyage around the world. Why in Vicenza? [. ]