Widely considered to be the most influential individual in the history of Western architecture, Renaissance master builder Andrea Palladio created an architectural style known the world over as Palladianism.
The epicenter of his life’s work is stunningly on display in Vicenza — City of Palladio — in the Veneto region of northeastern Italy.
I can’t think of a better way to show you around my adopted hometown than via a “virtual” walking tour. Are you up for it? Great! Let’s head out.
Within the historic city walls, 23 individual buildings or sections of buildings were designed, reconstructed or attributed to Palladio. Among these is the just-restored Basilica Palladiana. We’ll stop here now, and save the other 22 sites for future passeggiate (walks).
Standing ornate alongside Vicenza’s “living room” — Piazza dei Signori — the Basilica was originally constructed in the 15th century as the Palazzo della Ragione where it housed the seat of government on the mezzanine and private enterprise on the ground floor. When part of the building collapsed, Palladio was commissioned by the Council of One Hundred, in 1549, to breath new life into it.
He redesigned the structure, adding a new outer-shell of columns and arches in the classic Roman style, a loggia and a portico. These refinements covered completely the building’s original Gothic appearance. Unfortunately, the massive renovation project was not finished until 1614, nearly 35-years after Palladio’s death.
Fast-forward 500 years, and today the Basilica looks as good as new. After another restoration project, this time around lasting ONLY five years, but costing nearly $30 million dollars, Vicenza finally reopened the master’s palace to much fanfare.
In honor of Palladio, a once-in-a-lifetime exhibition of 90 pieces of priceless art – Raffaello verso Picasso – is on display inside the Basilica until January 20, 2013. Along with original works by the two headliners, the exhibition also features masterpieces by Botticelli, Veronese, El Greco, Rembrandt and Van Gogh, just to name a few.
It’s really hard to imagine that before Palladio’s passage through Vicenza, it was arguably one of the more downtrodden and esthetically lacking cities of the old Republic of Venice.
Today, thanks to that young stonemason, the City of Palladio is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the Basilica Palladiana is one of her crown jewels.
Now, are there any questions?
What do you say we go and get ourselves a gelato? There’s a great place just past the bell tower…
©The Palladian Traveler