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City of Vicenza and the Palladian Villas of the Veneto

By Jami

What are Vicenza and the Palladian Villas of the Veneto? 

Vicenza is a small city in Italy near Venice. Andrea Palladio was an important 16th-century architect from the area who designed 23 buildings inside Vicenza and 24 villas outside. His influence is prominent in the architecture of the city of Vicenza, the surrounding area, and worldwide.

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Text: City of Vicenza and the Palladian Villas of the Veneto - Italy. Images: two Palladian buildings.
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Why is Vicenza a UNESCO World Heritage site? 

Vicenza is a UNESCO World Heritage site because of the incredible architecture of Palladio. He had a very specific style that is based on classical Roman traditions in architecture. The town houses that he designed harmonize with the earlier Veneto gothic styles around them.

As for the villas, according to UNESCO, “the definitive Palladian country villa synthesizes, both figuratively and materially, the functional aspects of management of the land and the aristocratic self-glorification of the owner.” The villa is presented as a Roman temple, with a pediment on columns, and sometimes with porticos extending outward.

A view along a building with two rows of arched porticos on the ground level and the level above that. A tall brick tower in the background.

The city of Vicenza “represents a unique artistic achievement in the many architectural contributions of Andrea Palladio, integrated within its historic fabric and creating its overall character.” At the same time, his work “exerted exceptional influence” on architecture around the world: the movement known as Palladianism continued for 300 years.

What can you expect on a visit to Vicenza? 

Your experience here depends on how deeply you want to explore. Some of these sites are not close to the city. But there are plenty of Palladian structures in the city of Vicenza. For an easy trip, you can wander around the quiet city and get a relaxed day trip in Italy and still see the UNESCO sites.

City of Vicenza

The Basilica Palladiana is the most popular stop in Vicenza. Look for the bell tower in the town square, Piazza dei Signori. The Piazza is the site of the old Roman Forum from when Vicenza was a Roman city.

Also on the piazza is a two-story building with arches called the Loggia del Capitanio, the gem of Palladian architecture in Vicenza. The columns are a trademark of his style. It’s not covered in marble like the other buildings so it stands out.

A 2-3 story brick building with three arches forming a portico at ground level.

The Teatro Olimpico is a short walk away. It’s another beautiful columned building. But this one is easier to tour on the inside. It’s mostly art but if you want to tour the interior of one of the structures it’s a good option.

Wikipedia has a list of all of the sites inside the city of Vicenza.

Villas of the Veneto

Villa La Rotonda is one of the most popular buildings by Palladio. It’s close to Vicenza but not in the city. It is a symmetrical structure, with columned portals on all four sides and a dome in the center. It’s a 30-minute walk or 10-minute bus ride from the train station in Vicenza.

For the rest of the villas of Veneto, you’ll likely want to hire a car or take a rideshare. The villas are dotted around the Veneto region and there are 24 of them! Below is the whole list, along with coordinates. Each is linked to a website, some of which are official, some of which are not. Use Google Translate if the website is only available in Italian.

  1. Villa Trissino a Cricoli – N45 33 55.00 E11 32 49.00
  2. Villa Gazzotti Grimani – N45 33 33.54 E11 36 3.18
  3. Villa Almerico Capra (La Rotonda) – N45 31 54 E11 33 36
  4. Villa Angarano – N45 46 50.00 E11 43 25.00
  5. Villa Caldogno – N45 36 54 E11 30 28.8
  6. Villa Chiericati – N45 30 10.8 E11 38 38.4
  7. Villa Forni Cerato – N45 39 36 E11 33 43.2
  8. Villa Godi Malinverni – N45 44 45.6 E11 32 9.6
  9. Villa Pisani Ferri – N45 21 25.2 E11 22 15.6
  10. Villa Pojana – N45 17 9.6 E11 29 56.4
  11. Villa Saraceno – N45 18 46.33 E11 33 59.87
  12. Villa Thiene – N45 34 22.8 E11 37 30
  13. Villa Trissino – N45 25 55.2E11 24 46.8
  14. Villa Valmarana Zen – N45 34 48 E11 36 36
  15. Villa Valmarana Bressan – N45 36 25.2 E11 35 2.4
  16. Villa Badoer – N45 1 50.88 E11 38 26.53
  17. Villa Barbaro – N45 48 43.2 E11 58 37.2
  18. Villa Emo – N45 42 43.2 E11 59 27.6
  19. Villa Zeno – N45 42 0 E12 38 34.8
  20. Villa Foscari – N45 26 13.2 E12 12 3.6
  21. Villa Pisani – N45 13 49.86 E11 28 10.29
  22. Villa Cornaro – N45 36 25.2 E11 59 56.4
  23. Villa Serego – N45 29 56.4 E10 55 22.8
  24. Villa Piovene – N45 44 52.8 E11 31 58.8

Alternatively, sign up for this tour that focuses on Palladian buildings. It includes several in town and a few villas. Or take a self-guided e-bike tour that includes seven of the UNESCO villas, plus four more villas not included in the UNESCO collection.

An elegant villa with tall pillars supporting a triangular pediment.
Villa Foscari. Photo courtesy of Daniela from Ipanema Travels.

Are the City of Vicenza and the Palladian Villas of the Veneto worth visiting?

 If you love architecture or seeing smaller cities, Vicenza should be on your list. I loved the small city and enjoyed walking around. But much of the architecture was lost on me. A travel partner who went with me loves architecture and she enjoyed it more.

Use the map below to arrange accommodations in Vicenza:

What sorts of travelers would like Vicenza? 

Architects and those who love architecture, art and design would enjoy a visit to Vicenza and around the Veneto.

Tips for visiting Vicenza and the Villas of the Veneto 

Check the hours for each site. Some of the villas are open to visitors, often on set days and with limited hours, or by appointment only. Others are in private hands and closed to the public. They are all smaller locations so they don’t draw large crowds. Unfortunately, it’s very inconsistent. Do your research so you aren’t disappointed if you arrive to find something is closed.

Compare rental car prices here.

If you’re staying in Vicenza and want to see the La Rotonda you should start with that. By the time you end your visit, it’ll be hard to convince yourself to go. Several of the villas are near to Verona or Venice, both of which are also UNESCO sites.

A tall narrow building, with 3 tall pillars framing 3 large windows above the ground floor.

Where is Vicenza? 

The Palladian buildings are in Vicenza, in the historical center of the city. The villas are scattered outside of the city.

Use the map below to plan your visits to the villas:

Vicenza is about an hour west of Venice. It’s also drivable from Bologna (almost two hours’ drive) and Milan (two and a half hours). Vicenza is a small city, so drive here with caution if small streets are stressful for you. There are several public car parks near the city center; try Park Fogazzaro to start.

You can get to Vicenza by train from Venice. The Frecciarossa high-speed train takes about an hour. Then you’d have a 15-minute walk to the city center.

Vicenza can also be combined with Verona for a longer day trip if you don’t think Vicenza is worth it on its own.

For more information about Vicenza and the Palladian Villas of the Veneto, including opening hours and admission fees, you have to see the official or unofficial websites of each location. Use the links in the list above.

Have you been to Vincenza or any of the villas? If so, do you have any additional information or advice about this UNESCO World Heritage site? Please add your comments below!

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