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18 May 2020 - Day 37 – Vicenza

The weather has been warming up, which probably triggered the thunderstorm that woke me briefly last night. By the time I got up around 8, there was sun peaking through the curtains. Opening them and the French doors, I had to duck back in – I needed to grab a robe! I left the doors open for fresh air as I bathed and repacked my gear.

Down the lift, I checked out and headed back to the Verona station, stopping across from it briefly at 12oz Coffee Joint to get a decaf and pastry to go. Regular trains run to/through Vicenza about every 15 minutes, so I just checked the board and got to the next platform. The ride was 25 minutes, enough time to finish breakfast.

At the Vicenza station, there were stairs down and up from the platform to the subway, once more lugging the blue roller. Passing through the terminal, I just had to continue straight out, north, to a rotary, to go a bit to the left on Via Milano so I could cross the road and walk through the park. Leaving the park and dodging cars heading to the underground parking garage, I was a block and a half from my lodgings. Through, I’d booked a flat in a residential tower. Signora Sofia was waiting on my arrival, buzzing me into the building per our email arrangements.

Riding up four levels, she was standing holding the door open. I wheeled the roller in, and she walked me through the one-bedroom space. I had a bedroom with bath, a sitting room that could double as a second bedroom, and an efficiency kitchen which had a small balcony facing west over a courtyard. Coffee, milk, juice and a small hunk of cheese were in the frig. I needed to give her 2€ for the city tax which online didn’t include.

We left together, although she’d be back to managed another flat for a later arrival. I walked back to the corner and headed east down Viale Giuseppe Verdi with the park on one side and the post office and some shops on the other. A little zig and I continued on Via Gorizia and Contra Vescovado through a commercial district as I headed to the cathedral, which opened at 10 for four hours only.

Cattedrale di Santa Maria Annunziata is a brick clad building with what I’d call a false front constructed of a lighter stone. White and beige blocks had been set to form geometric patterns in a rather bleak façade. Five pointed arches on the first level rise about 10-meters, with the central arch containing a tall pair of wooden doors with inset metal square plates depicting religious images. This central arch has decorative columns and the episcopal seal has been mounted in a medallion above the door. On either side, the arches have tall paired narrow windows. As it turns out, the western façade is all that remained of the original cathedral, destroyed during WW II bombing.

Entering, the nave is a central aisle with pews placed on the red-and-white diamond marble tiles facing the raised high altar in the eastern apse. The walls are plastered and painted pink, with the arching stacked columns of white marble supporting the white vault. Side chapels line the central aisle. The sanctuary, reached with sets of red marble stairs, raised from the nave floor first to a level for presenting the lessons and gospel and preaching, then up to the level of the newer green marble main altar. The final set of stairs approaches the gilded and highly ornate high altar, set into the rounded apse wall and surrounded by framed painting of religious scenes. Above these paintings is a balustrade. The walls of the upper apse contain narrow stained-glass lights/windows. The dome is over this space and was designed by Andrea Palladio.

Leaving the church, I made my circuit. In the northeast corner, a small museum included archeological findings of the previous Roman occupation, including some beautiful tile work. I found it interesting to note that on the north side, the chapels are in bays, while the exterior of the south is flat. Plus the bell tower, beyond the Palladio cupola, is separated by the street from the cathedral.

#Vicenza had not been on my radar when I was initially thinking of visiting Italy. It originally came up as a cathedral site, being in the #Veneto and near Venice. I found two online guides, at GPSMyCity emphasizing the Palladio connection, and TheCrazyTourist with a list of 15 (10 really) places to visit. So the rest of my day would be spent based on these aids. Of the fourteen sites, most were on or very close to the main street, Corso #AndreaPalladio, and within 15 minutes of the cathedral.

First stops would be the Palladian Basilica, the Piazza dei Signoir and the Torre Bissara, all due east. Standing in the Piazza, the two-story high Basilica façade of loggia with its uniform rounded arches supported by 10-foot white marble columns is magnificent architecture. The square Torre, built of brick and presenting a clock face below the 5 bells towers over the building.

Fiume Retrone, a waterway, runs through Vicenza. Ponte San Michele is considered to be its most scenic bridge. The neighboring Ponte San Paulo makes for an excellent viewing point for photography. Backtracking around the “basilica” and walking through the Piazza del Signori, a block away is the Palazzo Barbaran da Porto housing the Palladio Museum.

An interactive workshop and teaching museum, architects and architectural experts interact with visitors, models, and diagrams to expand the experience. The building is the only structure of his completed in Palladio’s lifetime.

Continuing the walk, the Chiesa di Santa Corona is next. It is the burial place of Palladio, and contains the Valmarana chapel. The church name relates to a thorn from the crown of thorns from the crucifixion of Christ, and donated by the French King Louis IX (Crusader and Saint). An altarpiece of the baptism of Christ by Bellini is notable.

Back to the Corso Andrea Palladio, the street comes to the Civic Museum, Museo Civico di Palazzo Chiericati. The building was the palace for the Chiericati family, built to a design by Palladio. The Civic Museum occupies five salons on the first level of the building, with Renaissance, Baroque and modern art, and items from the Giacomo Rossini estate. It is a very eclectic blending of several diverse collections.

Of historic significance, the #OlympicTheater was the first European covered theater. Built in the late sixteenth century, it still actively offers presentations (but not tonight.) Leaving the theater, I had to cross the Bacchiglione on the Ponte degli Angeli with an objective to see the Parco Querini.

Walking past green lawn, I took the path heading due west towards the pond in the center. Within the round pond is a circular island with a cupola raised on its center, reached by a wooden foot bridge. Walking part way around, I crossed to the island and walked its circular path. Returning, I continued and walked south out of the park. Returning along the southern boundary to reach the road I’d arrived on, a rather elaborate church appears in a cutout corner of the park, Chiese Santa Maria in Araceli. It was locked, but impressive (and not on the list of sites to see.)

The park was the most northern of these recommended sites, with the final three being about an additional hour of walking. I checked to see what Google might suggest as far as local bus transportation, but it looked like walking half the distance was involved. So, somewhat stumped, I decided to visit the tourist information center. Back across the Bacchiglione, the corner office was not too busy for a midafternoon. I explained my desire to see the Santuario di Monte Berico, the Villa Valmarana and thee Villa la Rotonda and that I was on foot. The staff tossed around a few ideas, and proposed a driver for an hour and a half for 25€. Figuring in a tip, it still sounded like a good idea, particularly considering what I’d booked in Vigo, Bari and Salerno. A second call was made, and taxi appears in ten minutes.

Enrico was about 40, and had lost half his left arm as a NATO soldier In Africa. He took me due south to the Rotonda. The parking lot sits a bit north the grounds, so I was able to walk the path and appreciate the symmetry of the building as I approached.

The grounds are beautiful, and the building is in pristine condition. Admission gives access to the ground floor, and the ornate and elaborate paintings on the walls and ceiling are overwhelming. Out of the building, I did a circuit and headed back to the car.

We’d actually driven past the Villa Valmarana to get to #laRotonda, so the trip was quick. There are actually two buildings, which have the nickname ai Nani due to 17 statues of dwarves throughout the property. Enrico, who has pretty good English, told me the legend associated with the dwarves and the princess. The 18th century frescos by father and son Gianbattista and Giandomenico Tiepolo adorn the magnificent rooms. Access was limited inside, so I spent some time on the grounds.

Our final destination for the afternoon was Santuario della Madonna di Monte Berico is a minor basilica church, as it is a Marian apparition site. Built on the top of a hill overlooking Vicenza in fulfillment of a promise to end a plague, the property includes a bell tower and several outbuildings. A covered walkway, 700-meters in length, protects pilgrims coming from Vicenza. Within the church, the organ is impressive. The painting by Paolo Veronese of “The Supper of St Gregory” is probably the most treasured of the artwork there. As the church is situated on a hill south of the city, the view north, particularly when able to see the distant mountains, is awesome.

We arrived back in the city center a bit after 4. I asked Enrico to drop me near a pub where I could sit and relax, sip on a glass of wine and enjoy the sunshine. Near the Basilica and Piazza dei Signori is Angolo Palladio.

On a walkway with tables out on the street, I could probably get all my journaling done and get a little bite to eat. Sending him off smiling, I approached the maître d’ and asked for a small table outside. Yes, I was risking cigarette smoke, but he put me at the far end table, so I would have least exposure. A half-liter of local red, carafe of water and a small pizza with cheese and basil and I was set. I pulled out my journal as I rested my feet, scanning through my camera with my phone helping me map where I’d been. It took a full hour, at which point I was ready to head back to the flat.

Stopping at a bakery, I picked up another small torpedo roll at Panifico Gemo with the crowd of women having finished work picking up bread for supper. I think I was the only guy in the shop, and had to use the “point and shoot” method, as I couldn’t guess at the particular names. At least I understood 1,20€. Back out on the street, I found a drogheria and got a banana, two eggs and a small portion of butter. Then I headed back to the flat.

Opening up the roller, I moved clothing around, as I’d just stuffed yesterday’s clothing into the top. I plugged in a camera battery to get it started, and pulled my kit out and put it in the bathroom. Turning the netbook on, I began writing, and kept it up for over an hour. It was getting close to sunset, so I figured it was time to go out and find dinner. With no one to ask, I checked with Google. Nothing really in the immediate neighborhood; I’d have to walk towards the historic center.

Righetti sounded like an option. Small, slightly out-of-the-way. Approaching on the street, there’s a chalkboard out front with a handwritten menu. Eight items. Okay, to be fair, there was a printed menu of their standard fare, but I’m usually the one who goes with the daily specials. Entering, I got a friendly greeting from half the owners – Giuseppe was out front while Maria was in the kitchen. Zuppa de ceci as an appetizer – okay, I’ll try it. Soup, right? Veggies, including potatoes, cooked in water, pureed. Healthy. The risotto with squid as the primi. I’m in the Veneto, so close to the Adriatic. Seafood should be fresh. As with the soup, a real winner and super tasty. And I’ve been told to always get the bacala – a fish that has fed millions. How can I go wrong? Giuseppe was pleased, and brought me water and a half-pitcher of Garganega (soave) to drink. The risotto was pretty filling, and the whole fish was too much. One other tourist couple in a restaurant half full of locals, and a Monday. I was able to read from the e-reader to keep me eating slowly. Maria came out to check on me, and I gave her my complements. She insisted I have dessert, a layered confection with a serious slab of chocolate on top – it came home with me for the train ride.

The Piazza wasn’t too far, and I had my camera, so I figured to see if there were any good night shots. Palladio’s stunning wrapping of the palace glowed. I found a spot on the steps of the Loggia del Capitanio to sit and stare for a few minutes. Wending my way towards the flat, I made a minor diversion to the cathedral. Unfortunately, any “monument lighting” was not in place, and the old façade just had not nighttime pizzazz. But I did get a night shot up a narrow side street where the street lamps didn’t overwhelm the Nikon sensors.

Back at the flat, I left my cake out for the morning, kicked off my shoes and settled into blog writing with the netbook on the coffee table while I sat on the floor with my back to the settee. Weather today had been good – partial clouds and breaks of sun, and only one burst of rain, and it was while I was inside at the museum. Tomorrow might get thunderstorms, so parka day despite temperatures getting into the 70’s.

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