Vicenza, Palladio and Architectural Perfection

A unique journey in the hills of Vicenza admiring the most famous Palladian villas

Duration: 3 days of pure architectural wonder

Itinerary: from Vicenza to the Palladian villas in the surrounding area, about 130km

Equipment: comfortable clothing, a windbreaker jacket, a top case to store a bottle of Recioto

Northern Italy has some areas which are true gems to be discovered in all their beauty. What better companion than the Vespa? Visit Veneto and Vicenza and all its monuments, but also the surrounding area, a UNESCO World Heritage Site along with the Palladian villas scattered throughout the province. In short, it’s a wonderful place worth discovering.

Begin the tour of Vicenza from its historic centre, one of the oldest in the entire region, and fall in love right away with both the beautiful Loggia del Capitanio and the Palladian Basilica, restored and finally reopened to the public in 2012. Don't forget to visit the panoramic terrace where you can dine while admiring the city from above. In the afternoon, stay in town and visit three more wonders of Andrea Palladio: Palazzo Chiericati, Palazzo Barbaran da Porto and Palazzo Valmarana. To these, however, add the exceptional architecture of the Teatro Olimpico. Finish your first day in Veneto with a dinner in one of the most typical restaurants in the city: Al Pestello, which offers the traditional baccalà mantecato dish (creamed salted codfish).

The next morning, enjoy waking up in the Portico Rosso B&B, a 15th-century house completely restored and stylishly renovated, and have breakfast at the Pasticceria Venezia before heading out on the Vespa towards the hills around Vicenza to admire some splendid architecture. Head South and shortly after leaving the city, you’ll meet the hill that dominates the landscape, the Santuario di Monte Berico, where a Gothic, a 17th-century church preserves some historical works, such as The Supper of St. Gregory the Great by Paolo Veronese.

After admiring these paintings, leave the hills and reach the first example of Palladian architecture out of town: the elegant Villa Valmarana ai Nani. It takes its name from the stone statues of 17 dwarves who once were in the garden and they now stand on the surrounding wall... and to not be confused with the Snow White dwarves, in case you wondered. Leave the Vespa in the large square and enter the mansion where the Valmarana family still lives, but luckily a good portion of it is open to the public. The villa (Palazzina) and the guest quarters (Foresteria) feature frescoes by Giambattista and Giandomenico Tiepolo – commissioned by the owner Giustino Valmarana in 1757. The main wall of the Central Hall, however, has the most famous portrait of Andrea Palladio – a real treasure considering this tour.

Leave behind this beauty and let the pleasant sound of the Vespa engine accompany you as you head towards the gates of one of the best known architectural symbols: Villa Almerico-Capra "La Rotonda". Famous for its central plan, it is the one Palladian villa that best blends with the surrounding nature. As the day draws to a close, follow the roads that cut through the hills and villages of the province of Vicenza to arrive at the AgriturismoLa Pajerina, where you can relax for the night.

On the final day, visit a few more villas and spend some more time lost in nature with your Vespa. Villa Cordellina Lombardi, near Montecchio Maggiore, will be your first stop of the day. The architect here is Massari, but Palladio is still present on the façade. Then head towards the colle della Fratta to Villa da Porto, called “La Favorita”, a Palladian-style villa characterised by the exceptional balance of shapes and geometries.

The Vespa goes up and down along the hills, bridges and roads. Leave behind fields and rows of trees leading to farmhouses and private homes and finally, the last stop of the architectural tour is Villa Trissino, also a prime example of Palladian architectural expression. On the way back, stop at the Menti winery where you can discover some of their Garganega wines, like the Recioto di Gambellara or Vin Santo; Try them – in moderation, of course – and get back on the Vespa with lots of souvenirs. Finally, head towards Vicenza and end this magical tour rolling through breathtaking hills and villa sightings.