Surprising Vicenza

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If you know nothing about Vicenza, I think you’ll be amazed by the number of refined palazzi, cafés and romantic corners you can find there. Together with the Palladian villas located in the Veneto region, Vicenza is a Unesco World Heritage site.

That day I went there for a specific purpose: buying a summer hat. I don’t know if you recall my winter search for a new hat appropriate for a tea with the Dowager Countess. If you don’t and you’re interested, you can read my rock around the cloche post. This time I wanted a light summer hat and I couldn’t find one I liked in Padova. And then I happened to bump into the Cappelleria Palladio Facebook Page. This historical hat shop is active since 1899. They have a private collection including tools, books and many kinds of historical hats (like the Venetian tricorno or the 20’s pith helmet) and many traditional hats of all around the world (fez, sombrero, Indian turban and so on).

We parked at Park Fogazzaro (0,50€ per hour, cheap and very convenient). In less than 10 minutes walking we reached Piazza dei Signori. Coming from a quite narrow street, the so called Basilica Palladiana is really an astonishing surprise. An elegant, white building whose loggias (by Palladio, who then became the official architect of the city) convey a incredible lightness to the structure. Palladio himself defined it a basilica, as homage to ancient Rome, where a basilica was the place to discuss politics, business and government matters.

During World War II it was severely damaged during a bombing, along with the adjacent Bissara Tower (civic tower, 82 meters high), although they were inserted by Anglo-Americans among the off-limits monuments. Nowadays it hosts cultural exhibitions. On the top terrace there’s a bar… with questionable opening hours (it is basically closed for lunch, which is a pity! One of my readers informed me that you can only have drinks at the terrace café anyway. Since the builiding is an historical site they cannot have a proper kitchen to prepare meals. The opening hours are Monday – Friday 6pm – 12am, Saturday and Sunday also 10am -1 pm. Entrance 4€. Thank you for your help, Denise!)

It was so sweet seeing a father playing “statues” with his daughter in the piazza. Statues in Italy is called “Un due tre stella” (one two three star), because the curator must say out loud: One two three (while others can move) and then Stella! (only then the others must freeze).

In the small adjacent piazzetta Palladio, you can find the Cappelleria Palladio. The entrance is small but the shop hides a lot of separate rooms in the ground and first floor. The shop is very nice, with 1700s Venetian furniture and hats wherever you turn.

The first person I met was the owner, la signora Antonia. What can I say about her? I still get emotional thinking of her kindness. She asked me what kind of hat I was looking for. “I don’t know, actually. A light hat for summer, that’s all I know. I think I have to try some to understand what fits me.” She said nothing particular but I immediately felt a friendly and homely atmosphere. She was like a gentle nonna. She couldn’t help but staring at me because she said I looked like a woman she knows, apparently someone working at a local restaurant called Romani or something. “Identica” she said. Now I feel obliged to find out who this woman is. Then she called the salesgirl Elisa (I think) to help me out.

When I found “my hat” I understood it immediately. Light, clear, foldable and not clingy. A man hat to be honest, but who cares? Elisa said “è di moda” (it’s trendy) but I didn’t care anyway. It just felt comfortable. As soon as I chose it I asked Elisa to take a picture of me. The second thought was “Now I go down and I must show alla signora!” and I hurried downstairs with a big smile. She held my hands and said “Te me fe ridar”, you make me laugh. “I hope you will remain this beautiful (I’m not but thank you) and kind (sob sob). My God. So nice! I’m still touched. I can’t explain, I honestly told her nothing much, and she seemed to look inside me. She made my day. Grazie mille!

We then wandered downtown a bit. I didn’t feel like going at the museum or something. I just wanted to enjoy a free morning. Strolling we spotted:

Palazzo Pigafetta, located in a secondary street. Once you see it, its beauty hits you, cause its gothic style is very different from the other palazzi. Built in 1440, it was the home of Antonio Pigafetta, explorer and navigator who attended Magellano’s world circumnavigation and wrote the logbook. On the facade you can read the house motto «Il n’est rose sans espine» (there’s no rose without a thorn).

Palazzo Chiericati built by Palladio starting from 1551 as private palazzo for the Counts Chiericati, it now hosts the civic art gallery.

Il Teatro Olimpico is a theatre designed in 1580 by Palladio… always him 😉 It is one of the three Renaissance theatres still in existence (along with the Sabbioneta theatre and Farnese Theatre in Parma) and it is inspired by Roman architecture.

I will return again to visit them all properly and describe my experience in the blog. For now just enjoy the pictures!

We ended up at the Querini Park, that must be an highlight of your visit if you are with kids. Why? Because the park is home to ducks, a couple of geese, a rooster, fishes and… many many cute bunniehanging around, eating grass and… daisies! It was so weird. I saw one doing that. He first excised the daisy. Then he started crunching the stem. And, once arrived at the corolla, he suck it in in one instant. Ah ah ah it was so funny! Poor daisy!

We tried to approach some bunnies but they didn’t come more closer than 2 metres. Pity! It was fun anyway and I strongly suggest you to go and see for yourselves. The park is north of Vicenza, 15 minutes walking distance from Piazza dei Signori.

It was a nice morning. I really wish to come back and discover new corners of Vicenza… and maybe try some local food!