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Vicenza, Italy    the architecture you must see
001-Palazzo_Chiericati.jpg (68964 bytes) 002-Vicenza_teatro_olimpico.jpg (90458 bytes) 003-rotunda2.jpg (44820 bytes)
01 Palazzo Chiericati 02 Teatro Olimpico 03 Villa Capra, or Villa Rotunda
04-32_f_2.jpg (33918 bytes) 05-62_f_1.jpg (38551 bytes)  
04 Villa Trissino 05 Palazzo Thiene 06 Palazzo della Ragione 
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07 Basilica Palladiana    
Piazza Castello in Vicenza.
Piazza Castello in Vicenza.


Roman age
Vicentia was settled by the Italic Euganei and then by the Palaeo-Veneti in the 2nd-3rd century BC, from whom it was taken by the Gauls. The Romans conquered it to the latter in 157 BC, giving the city the name of Vicetia or Vincentia ("victorious")

The Vicentini received the Roman citizenship in 49 BC. The city had some importance as a hub on the important road from Mediolanum to Aquileia], but was overshadowed by its neighbor Patavium (Padua). Little survives of the Roman city, but three of the bridges across the Bacchiglione and Retrone rivers are of Roman origin, and isolated arches of a Roman aqueduct exist outside Porta Sta. Croce.

During the decline of the Western Roman Empire, Heruls, Vandals, Alaric and Huns laid the area to waste, but the city recovered after the Ostrogoth conquest in 489. It was also an important Lombard and then Frank centre. Numerous Benedictine monasteries were built in Vicenza area, which, in particular, dried the lake that once was located north of Vicenza.

"Piazza dei Signori" by night.
"Piazza dei Signori" by night.

Middle Ages
In 899 Vicenza was destroyed by Magyar ravagers.

In 1001 Otto III handed over the government of the city to the bishop, and its communal organization had an opportunity to develop, separating soon from the episcopal authority. It took an active part in the League with Verona and, most of all, in the Lombard League (1164-1167) against Emperor Frederick I Barbarossa compelling Padua and Treviso to join: its podestà, Ezzelino II il Balbo, was captain of the league. When peace was restored, however, the old rivalry with Padua, Bassano, and other cities was renewed, besides which there were the internal factions of the Vivaresi (Ghibellines) and the Maltraversi (Guelphs).

The tyrannical Ezzelino III drove the Guelphs out of Vicenza, and caused his brother, Alberico, to be elected podestà (1230). The independent commune joined the Second Lombard League against Emperor Frederick II, and was sacked by that monarch (1237), after which it was annexed to Ezzelino's dominions. On his death the old oligarchic republic political structure was restored -a consiglio maggiore ("grand council") of four hundred members and a consiglio minore ("small council") of forty members - and it formed a league with Padua, Treviso and Verona. Three years later the Vicentines entrusted the protection of the city to Padua, so as to safeguard republican liberty; but this protectorate (custodia) quickly became dominion, and for that reason Vicenza in 1311 submitted to the Scaligeri lords of Verona, who fortified it against the Visconti of Milan.

Vicenza came under rule of Venice in 1404, and its subsequent history is that of Venice. It was besieged by the Emperor Sigismund, and Maximilian I held possession of it in 1509 and 1516.

Statue of Andrea Palladio.
Statue of Andrea Palladio.

Modern age
Vicenza was a candidate to host the council of Trento. The 16th century, however, was the century of Andrea Palladio, who left many outstanding examples of his art with palaces and villas in the city's territory.

After 1797, under Napoleonic rule, it was made a duché grand-fief (not a grand duchy, but a hereditary (extinguished in 1896), nominal duchy, a rare honor reserved for French officials) within Bonaparte's personal Kingdom of Italy for general Caulaincourt, also imperial Grand-Écuyer.

After 1814 Vicenza passed to the Austrian Empire. In 1848, however, it rose against Austria, but was recovered after a stubborn resistance. As a part of the Kingdom of Lombardy-Venetia, it was annexed to Italy after the 3rd war of Italian independence.

Vicenza's area was a location of fights in both World War I and World War II. After the end of the latter, a strong economical development made it one of the richest cities in Italy.

In January 2006 the European Gendarmerie Force was inaugurated in Vicenza.

Ecclesiastical history
Among its patron saints the city venerates St. Lontius, bishop and martyr, and St. Theodore and St. Apollonius, bishops and confessors in the fourth century. The Christian cemetery discovered near the Church of Sts. Felix and Fortunatus, dates from the earlier half of the fourth century, and these two saints were probably martyred under Diocletian.

The first bishop of whom there is any certain record is Horontius (590), a partisan of the Schism of the Three Chapters. Other bishops were: Vitalis (901), high chancellor of King Berengar of Ivrea; Girolamo (1000), deposed by Emperor Henry II for political sedition; Torengo, in whose episcopate a number of bishops rebelled against the episcopal authority. Uberto was deposed by Pope Innocent III as a despoiler of church property, but the canons put off until 1219 the election of his successor, Gilberto, who was forced by the tyranny of Ezzelino to live in exile.

Under Bishop Emiliani (1409) took place the apparition of the Blessed Virgin on Monte Berico which led to the foundation of the famous sanctuary. Pietro Barbo (1451) was afterwards elected Pope Paul II.

Cardinal Giovanni Battista Zeno (1468) was distinguished for his sanctity and learning. Matteo Priuli (1563) founded the seminary and made efforts for reform. Alvise M. Ganrielli (1779) restored many churches and the seminary.

The See of Vicenza was suffragan of Aquileia, then of Udine, and since 1818 of Venice. The diocese had circa 1900: 219 parishes, with 477,000 souls; 699 secular and 39 regular priests; 10 houses of male religious and 52 sisters; 4 schools for boys, and 52 for girls. The Catholic Press comprised "Il Berico" (tri- weekly, Vicenza), "La Riscossa" (tri-weekly, Breganze), and six other periodicals.

The surrounding country is agricultural, but there are also quarries of marble, sulphur, copper, and silver mines, and beds of lignite and kaolin; mineral springs also abound, the most famous being those of Recoaro. The city has an active and lively industrial sector, which is especially famous for jewelry and clothing factories. The Gold Exposition is world-famous and it takes place in Vicenza three times per year (January, May, September). Other industries worthy of mention are the woollen and silk, pottery, and musical instruments.

The Basilica Palladiana.
The Basilica Palladiana.

Palazzo Thiene by Palladio.

Palazzo Thiene by Palladio.

The Towre of Piazza Castello seen from the Salvi gardens.

The Towre of Piazza Castello seen from the Salvi gardens.

Palazzo Chiericati by Palladio.

Palazzo Chiericati by Palladio.

Main sights

Vicenza is on UNESCO's list of World Heritage Sites, together with a number of the Palladian Villas.

Palladio's works
Vicenza is home to several famous buildings designed by Palladio (all from the period 1580-1590). These include:

Villa Capra (also known as "La Rotonda"), located just outside the downtown area 
the public Basilica Palladiana, centrally located in Vicenza's Piazza dei Signori, of which Palladio himself said that it might stand comparison with any similar work of antiquity 
the Teatro Olimpico, built by Palladio in 1580-1585 for the Accademia degli Olimpici. The scenes are by Vincenzo Scamozzi. 
Palazzo Chiericati, home of Vicenza's museum. 
Palazzo Barbaran Da Porto 
Palazzo Thiene 
Palazzo Da Porto Breganze 

Other sights

The cathedral, dating from early in the 11th century, and restored in the 13th, 16th, and 19th, possesses numerous pictures and sculptures, nearly all of them by Vicentine artists (Cittadello, Celestia, Liberi, Ruschi). 
The Church of the Ara Coeli (1244), formerly belonging to the Clarisses, contains statutes by Marinali and Cassetti, and paintings by Tiepolo. 
The Churches of the Carmine (1372) and St. Catherine (1292), formerly belonging to the Humiliati, possess notable pictures. 
S. Corona (1260) was built by the Dominicans after the death of Ezzelino, and is pictures by Montagna (The Magdelene) and Relline (Baptism of Christ). 
Santa Croce (1179) 
SS. Felice and Fortunato (8th century) 
SS. Filippo and Giacomo (12th century) 
S. Lorenzo of the Friars Minor (1280), in the Gothic style, contains the tombs of many illustrious Vicentines. 
In the cloister of S. Maria of the Servites (1319) took place the miracles of St. Philip Benizi de Damiani. 

Secular buildings
The clock tower (1224-1446). 
The Communal Library, founded by Count Giovanni M. Bertolo. 
Casa Pigafetta. 
The Town Museum (Pinacoteca Civica), containing a picture-gallery exclusively devoted to Vicentine painters. 

Popular dishes
Baccalà alla Vicentina 
Risi e Bisi 
Polenta e Osei 
The inhabitants of Vicenza are pejoratively known to other Italians as mangiagatti 'cat eaters'. Purportedly, Vicentinos turned to cats for sustenance during times of famine.