Vicenza Walks: Basilica Palladiana

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?

No? Fantastico!

What do you say we go and get ourselves a gelato? There’s a great place just past the bell tower…

©The Palladian Traveler

©Tom Palladio Images

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12 comments

  1. Thanks for this, Tom. I don’t know what image of Vicenza I head in my head, possibly none, but it wan’t this grandeur. Now I can see why you live there. There are campaniles which could be in Venice.

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  2. Hey Elena – The similarity between Venice and Vicenza is simple, aside from not being onto of water 24/7 – Vicenza was part of the old Republic of Venice. My guy, Palladio, erected a few things around La Serenissima, too. Glad you liked the note. Now, what flavor gelato are you going to have?

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  3. Weee! Thanks for the tour. Though, how I wish this was posted when I was in Italy.

    $30 mil for five years. Yikes! I guess the significance and elegance of the place are all worth that much.

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    1. Rommel – Since my return here at the end of ’06 I’ve seen nothing but covered columns, netting, cranes, etc. as the restorers tinkered away. The wraps finally came off the October 5th, and I went straight away. It’s beautiful. Thanks for taking notice.

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