The Church of St. Mary of Mount Berico
Vicenza, the city of Palladio, has a few villas and other interesting sites within walking distance of the town center. Just outside of the south-eastern city gates, there is an easy walk to visit the Villa Valmarana, a typical example of a Palladian Villa of the sixteenth century. From the old city center, it’s about a twenty minute walk. Once outside the city’s walls there is a gradual climb uphill through a well manicured neighborhood that overlooks the town. The villa’s gardens are pleasant, with views of the surrounding green hills, vineyards and the Basilica of Mount Berico in the distance.
For a small fee, you can visit the first floor of the Villa, which has many worthwhile frescos. We were glad to see that they provided written descriptions in English (and many other languages) so we could sort out the Greek gods and understand the many allegories employed in these colorful frescos. At the end of the tour, there is a small coffee shop with light snacks and a shady patio with tables—a great spot to take a break from all of the opulence and splendor.
After a visit to Villa Valmarana, it takes only another ten minutes to walk to Villa Almerico Capra, also known as Villa Rotonda, which is one Palladio’s most famous works. This country house is a private residence, so visits are limited to the gardens on most days. We were happy to stay outside and enjoy the roses in full bloom and walk among the manicured gardens with statuary and lovely views of the countryside. On a weekday in June, the gardens were uncrowded, with just a few visitors and a drawing class from a study abroad group visiting the city.
Vicenza is also a great city for physical activity. There are several parks and trails for walking. Campo Marzo, located near the train station, is a long and pleasant stroll. But Querini Park is the largest and most attractive park, with eighteenth century statues lining the beautiful avenue for walking. It also has a small temple and a wooden bridge.
Another pleasant walk starts at the tall steps in Borgo Berga (the eastern end of Viale Risorgimento). You can follow the joggers up the steps and stroll up a tree-lined street to the Basilica Monte Berico, which is a popular pilgrimage site. Like Lourdes and Guadalupe, this is a place where the Blessed Mother made an appearance to a local—in this case, a peasant woman named, Vicenza Pasini. The story is that she promised and end to the plague if the city would build a church. The church was completed in three months, but eventually, they upgraded to a large basilica. This area offers some great views of the city and the Dolomites in the distance.
Basilica and Tower
For an easy bike ride, there’s a nice bike path that runs along the Bacchiglione River. Our B&B (Bob &Jenny’s B&B) was conveniently located on the bike path, just a few blocks from the southeastern city walls. From our outdoor terrace, we could watch the joggers and cyclists pass by. For our stay, we used bikes from the B&B, but the city also has a few bike rental shops.
Along the path
We spent one leisurely morning on the bike path, which is a scenic and flat ride. We passed by pleasant suburbs first, then, vineyards and farms as we followed the river in the southernly direction. There were plenty of small towns where one could stop for water or a snack. For serious cyclists, the Veneto region is full of bicycle routes that can be relatively flat or hilly if you venture towards the Dolomites. Although there are many bicycle paths with various kinds of surfaces, most routes also include street riding. It might be a good idea to ride with a group (easily found on the Internet).
A walking path near our B&B
These are just a few ideas for a stop in Vicenza. Wherever you go, you will find that the people here are polite and friendly—not tired of us tourists, yet. It’s easy to reach Vicenza by train, and if you have a car, you can visit more Villas, walled villages and wineries. For a relaxing stay in the Veneto Region, Vicenza is a good choice.