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Facts and History of Vicenza, Italy

Updated on April 8, 2014
Downtown Vicenza
Downtown Vicenza | Source

Vicenza is a city and capital of Vicenza province in Venetia region, northeast Italy. It is 38 miles (61 km) west of Venice, located at the confluence of the Bacchiglione and Retrone rivers. A rail and road junction on the Venice-Milan line, it has iron- and steelworks, foundries, and factories producing agricultural and textile machinery, furniture, and glass.

The city is irregular in shape, with winding streets and picturesque squares, and is rich in art treasures. Three architectural styles may be distinguished: the rich and delicate Venetian Gothic (14th–15th centuries), the elegant Lombard (15th–16th centuries), and the solemn classic Renaissance of Andrea Palladio (1518–1580), continued by his followers into the 19th century. Known as "Palladio's city," Vicenza contains many of the architect's most beautiful and striking buildings in his characteristic style blending Roman majesty and Venetian grace. Among them are the marble Basilica, with its classic colonnaded façade; the Loggia del Capitanio, left unfinished by Palladio but recently completed and now a World War II memorial; the Chiericati and Valmarana palaces; the Rotonda, a villa in the outskirts; and the Teatro Olimpico, a wood and stucco building started in 1580 and completed by Vincenzo Scamozzi (1552–1616). Inaugurated in 1585 with Sophocles' Oedipus Rex, the Teatro Olimpico is still in use.


The artistic, topographic, and business center of Vicenza is the Piazza dei Signori, enclosed by Palladio's Basilica and Loggia; the 250-foot-high Torre di Piazza, a slender brick bell tower; and the Monte di Pietà (pawnshop) with the adjoining baroque church of San Vincenzo. Elsewhere in or near the central area are the town hall, Scamozzi's masterpiece, dating to 1588 although it was not finished until 1662; the cathedral (14th–16th centuries), built on the foundation of an early Christian church; and the churches of Santa Corona and San Lorenzo, with fine works of art. Also worthy of note are the Gothic-Renaissance Palazzo Da Schio, reminiscent of Venice's Ca' d'Oro; the Gothic Longhi and Pigafetta residences; and the Thiene Palace. The Chiericati Palace houses the municipal museum, consisting of an archaeological collection and a fine art gallery.

Piazza dei Signori
Piazza dei Signori | Source


Ancient Vicetia was a city of the Venetians, although little is known of its history before it was occupied by the Romans, who gave it the rank of a city in 49 B.C. It suffered from the barbarian invasions, but later became the seat of a Lombard duchy and a Frankish county. After being ruled by its bishops, Vicenza became a free commune in the 12th century. It was involved in wars against, and was ruled by, the lords of Padua, Verona, and Milan. In 1404 the city came under the sovereignty of the Venetian Republic, prospering under its wise rule and reaching its greatest heights in the 16th century.

Although Palladio was then its greatest glory, Vicenza also produced in that period a line of notable painters starting with Bartolommeo Montagna, continuing through Francesco Maffei in the 17th century, and on into the 18th century. After the fall of the Republic of Venice in 1797, Vicenza was under Austrian domination until 1866, when it was united with the kingdom of Italy. During World War II Vicenza's art treasures suffered severely from air bombings, but the damage has since been largely repaired.


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