Tempietto in Vicenza’s Querini Park
Oh wow – what a day!
Dabney, Gina, Maria and I decided to spend the long weekend (today-Sunday) up north in the Veneto region, so we packed up and took a train this morning from Roma (Termini) to Verona (Porta Nuova), leaving at 10h36 and arriving at 16h24. Now, just getting to the train station is half the fun: we followed our usual route to the Campo de Fiori at 9h15, took a bus from the Campo to the Colosseum and the subway from the Colosseum to Stazione Termini. Whew.
We get to the station early (10h15) so Dabney can buy her ticket, but due to the silliness of the Biglietti-Veloce! machines, she wasn’t able to book into our cabin anyway. As it were, European train stations don’t post/announce the platform of a given train until the train is physically present in the station – usually 10 or so minutes before departure. This gives me an anxiety attack. There are 24 platforms at Termini – what if my train leaves from platform 24 and I’m all the way over by platform 1? What if I’m in the middle at 12, but I don’t see the announcement right away? On top of the distance between platforms, the second class cabins (4-10 usually) are a long trek down the platform, and it certainly doesn’t help that everyone is in a panic the whole time! But these trains are prompt and do not wait around for anyone. Alas, our train ended up being 20 minutes late (thank goodness!) so we grabbed soft serve sundaes at McDonald’s (barf. but there were clean seats… don’t hate me.) and waited.
Our platform posted, we made it to the train, I fought my way down the platform to Carozza 4, compartment 6 and — ! There’s a strange, middle-aged Vietnamese woman sitting in my seat, sandwiched between Maria and an older gentleman. On the opposite side, the gentleman’s wife is also at the window with Gina in the center and a young man on her right. What the hell am I supposed to do? I look at Maria expectantly and she explains that they’ve been trying to get this woman to find her own seat (Carozza 4, seat 24) but apparently she speaks no English, no Italian, and no French or Spanish either. Great. We show her our tickets, we point to the numbers on the cabin and she sits, blissfully blank, holding her purse in her lap. Ugh. So we wait, the four of us: the Neapolitan gentleman (as we soon found out), this strange, mute woman, Maria and myself. It was not particularly uncomfortable, for the first hour, but we figured as soon as the attendant came by to check our tickets, he would assist.
Wrong. The train attendant came by sometime into hour two in the crazy cabin and, after looking curiously at the seven people in the cabin meant for six, and punching all of our tickets which clearly indicate that this woman does not belong, he walks away with an unenthusiastic “Buon giorno”. Are you kidding me?
We pass Orvieto when I finally flag another attendant down and, between Gina, the Neapolitan gentleman and myself, explain the situation. After trying to get the woman to come with him, the attendant’s ultimate solution is to make the poor Neapolitan gentleman leave his wife and luggage for the remainder of their journey (Prato, just past Firenze [Florence] but another hour away). Great, no? So the strange woman curls up in the corner against the window, basking in the sun, and closes her eyes. We’re all somewhat stunned, and more than a little irritated, when she sits up and pulls out her phone – a standard Nokia POS – and dials a friend. Until this point, we sort of assumed she was perhaps ignorant or illiterate and really did not know what was going on and, in her gentle muteness, was simply scared of the group of foreigners. But no, as soon as she dialed her friend, we knew that – if nothing else – she understood that she was sitting in the wrong seat and was just that rude. Fortunately, it was not long before both she, the Neapolitan couple and the young Italian man disembarked at Prato and the cabin belonged to us.
It was not long before our cabin was refilled by a boisterous Irish family, father, mother and sulking teenage son, from Kells. We had a pleasant chat about my time in Letterkenny and Dublin in 2005, the ScoilEigse and the Fleadh Cheoil. The couple was quite talkative and it was an altogether pleasant experience. They disembarked at Bologna Centrale and we were left in peace.
Our train finally arrived in Padova (Padua), grabbed snacks at a convenience store and hopped our final train to Vicenza. It was after 17h15 and the countryside was bathed in golden afternoon sunlight, giving even the most dilapidated train stations a romantic glow.
After arriving in Vicenza, we walked two miles or so along Viale Roma, down Corso Andrea Palladio, past monuments to Garibaldi and Vittorio Emmanuele II, designed shoe stores, and countless gelaterias before arriving at our hostel: Ostello Olimpico, aptly named for its close proximity to the Teatro Olimpico, designed by Andrea Palladio in the late 16th century. I hate to admit it, but the Rick Steves’ recommendation was spot on: clean, friendly, free wifi and the room for six was given just to us four, a pleasant surprise indeed.
We dropped our things off and went for a walk, exploring our new surroundings. The river winds its way through Vicenza, creating a confusing situation of curving streets, dead ends and a twisting waterway which you can cross twice walking along a given road. We first found Querini Park which backs up to the Church of Santa Maria di Aracoeli (Virgin Mary in Heaven) and contains a gorgeous tempietto surrounded by a spiral of boxwood hedges and contained within a small island, isolated by a moat-like stream, fed by local springs and filled with turtles, large koi-like fish and different type of ducks and geese. A processional walkway leads up to the tempietto, lined with reproductions of antique and Renaissance figures.
After heading back into town in search of food, we explore the historic area and discover, in short order, why Vicenza is known as “Venice on dry land”: Palladio recreated the iconic elements of the Venetian Piazza di San Marco in Vicenza. In addition, many of the buildings feature architectural and decorative elements which are reminiscent of Venetian architecture, particularly the Doge’s Palace on the Piazza S. Marco.
Water spigot in Querini Park
Andrea Palladio’s recreation of Venetian Piazza di S. Marco, in Vicenza
Andrea Palladio’s loggia of the Palazzo del Capitaniato in Vicenza
Clocktower of Palladio’s Basilica Palladiana in Vicenza
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