Venezia, Padova and Vicenza
Three gems of the Veneto plus the magic of the Riviera del Brenta
Art and nature combined in an itinerary which includes the majesty of Venice, the elegance of Padua and the Palladian city of Vicenza, passing through the idyllic scenery of the Riviera del Brenta, home to exclusive society since the 16th century. A tour which samples the noble heart of the Veneto.
FIRST AND SECOND DAY
1500 years of history moulded into a city: more than any other place, Venice represents a world apart.
Emotion is guaranteed: whoever sets foot here brings this city into their own heart and holds it forever.
One can never tire of looking at Venice, because one lives Venice. Nevertheless, before we embark on our tour of the most important sites of Venice, it is necessary to have an idea of the general picture of the city’s role throughout history.
Its origins date back to the 5th and 6th centuries, with the lagoon area being populated by Germanic peoples. The city quickly assumed its own unique identity based on its peculiar geographical environment.
Strong ties with the Byzantine Empire eventually led to subjugation by the same, then support and finally supremacy, leading to a style of art and architecture combining eastern and western elements in perfect harmony.
This style became known as “Venetian”. It eventually achieved total dominance over the ports and searoutes of the Mediterranean owing to its ruthless role in the fourth Crusade, when it conquered Constantinople.
Returning with enormous riches, the city prospered greatly: during the Renaissance the Repubblica Serenissima became one of the greatest European powers, able to be treated as an equal of other independent states.
It rise appeared unstoppable, laying claim to inland territories, which lasted until the 18th century. Thanks to its commercial and military determination Venice today boasts an unrivalled artistic heritage.
There are in fact so many things to see in Venice, a city where every corner reveals a masterpiece of beauty and history.
From those marvels our tour will comprise the following sights:
Piazza San Marco, with the Duomo (9th century), campanile (9th-15th) and clocktower (15th), the Gothic-style Doge’s Palace (9th-15th), former residence of the rulers of the Republic, the Procuratie Vecchie and Nuove, the Rialto bridge, the Palazzo Contarini del Bovolo, the churches of Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari (14th-15th) and of SS. Giovanni e Paolo (13th), with their wealth of artworks, the magical architecture of some of the most beautiful palazzi on the Grand Canal (Ca’ Rezzonico, Ca’ Vendramin Calergi), the church of the Redentore (16th), and S. Maria dei Miracoli (15th).
We continue with a vist to the most important museums and art galleries:
the world-famous Accademia, the Museum of 17th century Venice, the Archeological Museum, the Galleria Internazionale d’Arte Moderna, the Peggy Guggenheim collection and the Querini Stampalia gallery and library.
Riviera del Brenta
We move now into contact with another side of Venice, though possessed of equal emotion and rich in architectural wonders, though in a different setting: amid the green horizons of the Riviera del Brenta.
The Riviera del Brenta connects Padua with the lagoon of Venice by 36 km of beautiful and unique countryside: a landscape which depicts art and culture, nature and history, reaching from Stra to Fusina.
The construction of a canal in this area began in the 16th century.
The new waterway gave birth to a type of “bucolic civilisation”, echoes of which can still be felt today in the of the villa, the expanses of greenery and the wherries which are berthed here.
It was the Venetian nobility who, attracted to the countryside, built their houses here.
At first their agricultural settings gave them a functionality of design, though quickly they became transformed into luxurious residences, thus initiating the so-called “villa culture”.
This area, between toil and ease, quickly became populated, and it became commune for the nobility from the lagoon to own a villa on the Brenta, and to reach such by wherry from San Marco.
Only a few villas are today open to the public, though a visit along the river allows us to admire several. Many of the patrician residences, clothed in their immortal elegance, are focussed around the areas of Stra, Dolo and Mira.
Of these, we will visit Villa Foscarini Rossi, the first to be encountered on the road after the centre of Stra, and which was designed by Palladio; Villa Pisani, the most important, erected as a ducale residence and studded with frescoes including one by Tiepolo and with its famous maze in the vast gardens; Villa Widman at Mira; and finally, on the outskirts of Fusina, Villa Foscari, known as La Malcontenta, built according to a design by Palladio.
Worthy of a visit, even if only from the outside, are the La Barbariga, on the other bank not far from Dolo, the 16th century Villa Querini Stampalia at Mira, and the Villa Gradenigo at Oriago.
It is possible to undertake the excursion also by boat, from Padua to Venice or vice versa.
We arrive at Padua.
In the world of cultural tourism of the Veneto the city of Padua, with its distinctive character contrasting with its “older sisters” of Venice and Verona, occupies a significantly high position.
Every day the solemnity of its monuments merges with the cosmopolitan bustle of the market and the students. The University here is in fact one of the oldest in europe, founed in 1222.
Losing oneself in the lanes and alleyways of the centre is the perfect way to capture the spirit of the medieval town which Padua once was and remains, being also the focus of important advances in science and medicine which have changed our lives.
Our tour also explores the religious and devotional spirit which has reigned for 800 years in the Basilica of S. Antonio, the mysterious depictions by Giotto in the Scrovegni Chapel, an absolute masterpiece of 14th century art, the judicial face of Padua in its Palazzo della Ragione (the tribunal of 1218), and the learned aspect in the Palazzo del Bo’, the university, where our visit will take in the famous Anatomy Theatre and the podium of Galileo Galilei.
A stop at the famous Caffè Pedrocchi, the café “without doors” (so-called as it never closed) gives us the opportunity to take a refreshing drink and enjoy a premium live jazz performance.
Vicenza is an aesthetically perfect city, a priceless jewel among the crown of Venetian art. A humanist city and megalopolis of culture.
Our first leg takes us to the Palladian Palazzo Chiericati, which in addition to a magnificent display of the genius of the celebrated architect is also the home of the Museo Civico, with inestimable exhibits, evidence of an immense artistic heritage.
This takes us immediately on to the perspectival masterpiece of the architect, namely the Teatro Olimpico, itself the pinnacle of artistic scenic representation.
We continue to the central Piazza dei Signori where we can admire the solemnity of the Palazzo della Ragione: the edifice which Palladio “appropriated” from the Medieval period to create something truly unique.
The Loggia del Capitaniato bids us farewell to Palladio to embark on a meeting of the spritual side of Vicenza.
Thus we find ourselves on a gentle hill lying to the south of Vicenza: perched on top, reached via a suggestive passageway through cypress avenues, lies the Baroque spectacle of Monte Berico, home to major works of art such as Veronese’s “The Supper of Saint Gregory the Great” and the “Pietà” of Bartolomeo Montagna.
We conclude our tour once again returning to the illustrious Palladio, by a visit to La Rotonda, the most famous of his villas, composed of four perfectly equal façades which stand out among the surrounding green of the countryside.
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