Posts Tagged ‘Vicenza’

Rah Rah ROMA Ma*

Santa Maria di Aracoeli, Vicenza, Veneto, Italy, Italia, church
Santa Maria di Aracoeli, Vicenza

Sigh. The weekend is unfortunately over… We checked out of our hostel this morning and wandered around Vicenza, one last time. We walked back over to Querini Park to see it during proper daylight hours, encountering Santa Maria di Aracoeli and a flock of roosters. That’s right, roosters. Loud, young, brightly colored roosters.

Anyway, we continued our walk to the train station, stopping at the Campo Marzio on the way – a smaller park at the far opposite end of Corso Palladio which had been closed when we had walked by in the past. The park itself is filled with reproductions (ok, poor reproductions) of famous sculptures, including Greco-Roman urns, Bernini’s Rape of the Sabines and something that might have been the Apollo and Daphne, in a past life. In any case, the park was small, but gorgeous, and a perfect way to exit the town.

The train ride back was uneventful; still 5 1/2 hours I wish I had back, but it gave me time to begin listening to Frances Hogdson Burnett’s A Little Princess and slept a little bit. I’m excited to be back in Rome, but I’ll forever have warm memories of Vicenza.

*Just for the record, I don’t even like Lady Gaga – sorry.

Reproduction of an ancient Greco-Roman urn at Campo Marzio

Vicenza Roosters
Vicenza Rooster… in a tree

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Villa Capra, La Rotonda, Villa La Rotonda, villa Italy Italia Vicenza
Villa Capra “La Rotonda”

Woke up early this morning and booked it to the train station, intending to take the 9h05 train to Desenzano on Lago di Garda. Unfortunately, “The best intentions…” and all that – our train was full and the next one didn’t leave until 11h35, so what are we to do at 8h45? We walked to Villa Capra “La Rotonda”, that’s what. It was a half-hour walk through the outskirts of Vicenza, up a long, gentle hill but there we were. We had some time before it officially opened at 10h00, so we walked down a serpentine dirt road to the mysterious Villa Valmarana ai Nani – the Villa of the Dwarves. Although we did not enter to the villa itself (€8/person just to fill some time seemed unnecessary), the gardens were gorgeous, the dwarf statues charming and personable, and as luck would have it, there was a sordid legend. The plot thickens.

Legend has it that one of the Valmarana daughters was afflicted with dwarfism. To disguise her disability, her parents only hired other dwarves to staff the villa and its property so that their daughter would never realize her handicap. Of course, one day a handsome prince rode by and, falling madly in love with him, the daughter professes her feelings. The prince, certainly not Charming, was so offended that someone so afflicted would speak to him, he immediately rejected her and fled the scene. The daughter was so devastated, she committed suicide and, in their horrified and grief-stricken state, all of her servants turned to stone.

I told you it was sordid.

Anyway, 10h00 rolled around and we ventured over to Villa Capra – it was amazing. I have studied this work in every architecture course I’ve ever taken, in several art history classes and even in landscape design, it is that cool. So lucky to see it in person – I can’t even tell you. The villa itself was designed by Andrea Palladio and built in 1565 for Paolo Almerico, a Vatican priest and secretary to Pope Paul IV, as a retirement villa in the antique style – that is, based on the writings of Pliny the Younger, the villa was meant to be a country pleasure palace for leisurely (intellectual) activities. Inspired by the Pantheon, the house is perfectly symmetrical. Perfectly. And while it inspired countless structures since its completion, the most notable descendent is Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello outside of Charlottesville, VA, built between 1809-1826.

We wandered our way back to the stazione and caught our train to Desenzano, one of a dozen small towns on the shores of Lago di Garda (Lake Garda) at the foot of the Alps. Fairly touristy but absolutely gorgeous (it was a beautiful 70F with blue skies and bright sunshine all day), I was reminded of California. The sidewalks bordering the lake are edged with palm trees and there is even a cute hotel called the ‘Imbarcadero’.

The lake itself is huge and turquoise and edged with roughly hewn blocks of white quartz and lovely. The cool air blows in from the north, providing a brief respite from the heat of the blazing sun. I would have perhaps enjoyed the city more if I ate seafood – an obvious local specialty – but alas, this is not the case and I enjoyed a creamy wild mushroom soup for lunch instead.

The train ride back was uneventful and we returned to Vicenza exhausted, sun-kissed and thrilled. We crashed at the hostel, sent e-mails, changed clothes and went out to the restaurant from last night, the Antica Casa della Malvasia, and it was fabulous, again. Tonight’s selection was insalata Greca (I bet you can figure that one out) with crisp chunks of cucumber, crunchy bell peppers, tasty kalamata olives, thinly sliced onion and fresh, salty feta cheese – with a combination of a local spinach-like green and radicchio (it’s everywhere I tell you!) topped with aceto balsamico and olive oil. Delicious!

Villa Valmarana ai Nani, Vicenza, Italy, Italia, dwarves, villa
Villa Valmarana ai Nani

Villa Valmarana ai Nani, Vicenza, Italy, Italia, villa, architecture, dwarves
Villa Valmarana ai Nani – Detail

Villa Capra, La Rotonda, Andrea Palladio, Villa La Rotonda, Italy Italia Vicenza
Villa Capra “La Rotonda”

Lago di Garda - Desenzano
Desenzano on the shores of Lago di Garda

Lago di Garda - Desenzano

Desenzano Swan

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Oh, Mantova

Mantova Street urban Italy Italia Mantua architecture
Urban Mantova

Woke up early and took the train to Mantova (Mantua), arriving just in the middle of siesta (a long lunch break during the Italian work day, usually sometime between 12h30 and 14h00, sometimes going as late as 16h00), so we meandered through the sun-baked streets, looking for lunch. We finally stopped at a small cafe/restaurant near the historic center where the Girls enjoyed Pizza con Buffala (pizza with tomatoes, basil and traditional water buffalo-milk mozzarella) and myself, a salad with melon slices, cottage cheese, radicchio (an Italian staple, I swear) and sweet corn – all in all, pretty good, but I probably would not choose to repeat it at home.

We ventured to the historic center and ran around for a few hours, seeing Alberti’s Basilica di S. Maria di Mantova, the Rotonda di San Lorenzo, the Palazzo Ducale (including a public topiary park) and the Duomo di Mantova (Mantua Cathedral). We took the slightly longer walk back through town to the train station and arrived back in Vicenza just in time to enjoy (a late) dinner at the restaurant Antica Casa della Malvasia, a cute little hole in the wall just a few minutes from our hostel. Even at 21h00 there was a half hour wait for a table, but it was so worth it. Eclectic, rustic design – the walls are rough plaster, arches trimmed in brick, a heavy brick fireplace sat at the center and random art objects adorned furniture, mantles, shelves and tables. The food was delicious, the wine excellent, the cover charge reasonable – we escaped for €12 each for a liter of water, half liter of vino rosso for the table and a secondi (meat dish – I ordered a Ginger Chicken over warm Wild Rice and it was unbelievable!) Can’t wait to try it again tomorrow!

Medieval structure spanning the river

Basilica di Santa Maria di Mantova
Basilica di Santa Maria di Mantova

Basilica di Santa Maria di Mantova
Interior of the Basilica

Rotonda di San Lorenzo
Rotonda di San Lorenzo

Mantova - Piazza Erbe
Piazza Erbe

Piazza Ducale
Piazza Ducale with the dome of S. Maria in the background

Duomo di Mantova
Duomo di Mantova (Mantova Cathedral)

Stazione Verona Porta Nuova
On the platform at Stazione Verona (Porta Nuova)

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Ciao Vicenza!

Querini park, Tempietto, Vicenza, Veneto, Italy, Italia, architecture, park
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, fountain, spigot, pump, spout, iron, Italy, Italia, spring
Water spigot in Querini Park

Vicenza, Venice on dry land, Andrea Palladio, architecture, San Marco, piazzo, square, column, Basilica Palladiana
Andrea Palladio’s recreation of Venetian Piazza di S. Marco, in Vicenza

Vicenza, Palazzo del Capitaniato, Andrea Palladio, architecture, Renaissance, 16th century, Italy, Italia, Veneto
Andrea Palladio’s loggia of the Palazzo del Capitaniato in Vicenza

Vicenza, Basilica Palladiana Clocktower, Andrea Palladio, Veneto, clocktower, tower, Renaissance, architecture, Italy, Italia
Clocktower of Palladio’s Basilica Palladiana in Vicenza

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