1. Who is he that made Vicenza famous?
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?
As the UNESCO comments:
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.