Are you wondering what to do in Vicenza in one day?
Then you’re in luck. As I visited Vicenza as a day trip from Verona, my firsthand experience can help you make the most of your time there.
Ready to find out more? In this article, I spill the beans about why you should visit, the best things to do in Vicenza and practical information, including how to get there and how to get around.
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What is Vicenza Known for?
Vicenza is a pilgrimage shrine for many architects. It is the city of Andrea Palladio (1508 – 1580), the Renaissance architect who developed the style that spread throughout the world, from the White House in Washington DC to the palaces of St. Petersburg.
His distinctive architectural style, which is based on a detailed study of classical Roman architecture, is seen throughout Vicenza and gives the city its unique appearance. Vicenza is widely known as la città di Palladio, the city of Palladio.
UNESCO recognised Vicenza as the city of Palladio in 1994 and added its 23 Palladian monuments to the World Heritage List under this umbrella. These include palaces and public and religious buildings of the historic centre as well as 16 villas located in the province.
Best Things to Do in Vicenza, Italy in a Day (+ Map)
Whilst Palladio’s buildings are amongst the best things to see in Vicenza, they are not the only show in town. The city also has an attractive historic centre, a wonderful park, lovely churches and elegant piazze to have an Aperol Spritz or two.
If you prefer to map it out, here’s one I prepared earlier. For a live, interactive map of Vicenza, click here or on the image.
1. Gain some perspective at The Olympic Theatre (Teatro Olimpico)
Built in 1580 and inspired by Roman theatres, Teatro Olimpico was Palladio’s swansong and should be at the top of your Vicenza sightseeing itinerary.
The architect was a member of the so-called Olympic Academy, a group of 25 literati and dilettantes who set out to build the elliptical theatre to host their own plays and lectures. After Palladio’s death, Vincenzo Scamozzi added a stage set modelled on the ancient Greek city of Thebes.
It’s an astonishing feat of perspective, creating the illusion of streets radiating to a distant horizon.
This masterpiece of the Renaissance world is the oldest indoor theatre in the world still in operation. Today, the Olympic Theatre hosts opera and classical concerts and is the setting for Vicenza Jazz.
There’s information about the Olympic Theatre’s opening hours and ticket prices on its official website.
2. Chill out in Parco Querini
Parco Querini is Vicenza’s green lung.
This 24-acre park features meticulously manicured gardens and a Greek-style in the middle of a pond, guarded by a small army of turtles. There are also cocks-a-crowing and bunnies-a-hopping.
The majestic tree-line avenue leading southwest from the pond is lined with a series of fine Classical statues.
3. Admire the artistic masterpieces at the Church of Santa Corona (Chiesa di Santa Corona)
The Church of Santa Corona was built by the Dominicans in the 13th Century to house a relic from Christ’s crown of thorns, donated by King Louis IX of France.
Don’t let its unassuming red-brick exterior fool you. Its light-filled Gothic interior houses three masterpieces.
The first of these is Palladio’s Valmarana Chapel in the crypt, built in 1576.
Paolo Veronese’s Adoration of the Magi hangs in the Sacra Spina chapel.
But for me, the artistic highlight was Bellini’s Baptism of Christ, witnessed by a bevvy of local beauties and a small red bird.
4. Explore Piazza dei Signori
Piazza dei Signori has been Vicenza’s beating heart since its days as the Roman forum. It has two columns: of St. Mark (1470) and of the Redeemer (1640)
This majestic square is marked by the needle-like Torre Bissara and the Basilica. They share the piazza with Palladio’s Loggia del Capitanato, occupying its northwest end.
Built to celebrate Vicenza’s victory at Lepanto, Loggia del Capitanato has a red brick colonnade graced with white stone and stucco. It was meant to extend over two bays but was left unfinished when Palladio died.
5. Sing along with the Torre Bissara
Torre Bissara rises above Piazza dei Signori like a giant exclamation mark. Also known as Torre di Piazza, it reaches a height of 269 feet, making it one of the tallest bell towers in Italy.
Dating from 1174, the tower takes its name from the Bissara family who built it. However, due to damage by an earthquake and World War II bombs, it has been rebuilt and restored over the centuries.
If you are near the tower at 11:53 a.m. or 5:53 p.m. you will hear it play a special melody composed by Maestro Valtinoni. Outside of these times, it chimes on the hour and half-hour.
6. Visit the Palladian Basilica (Basilica Palladiana)
In the 1540s, the Vicentines decided that the Piazza dei Signori’s crumbling Palazzo della Ragione was overdue a facelift and hired a young unknown called Andrea Palladio to do the job. Vicenza was never the same again.
He worked on the building – thereafter known as the Basilica – from 1549 until the time of his death. Exemplifying the principles of Palladian architecture, its exterior features two tiers of white Piovene arches punctuated with Doric and Ionic columns.
Formerly housing the law courts, Basilica Palladiana is now an exhibition space. However, the best thing to do here is to walk along its famous loggias, taking in the views of Piazza dei Signori and Piazza delle Erbe.
You can find out about opening hours and ticket prices here.
7. Say “buongiorno” to Palladio
Do you want to pay homage to the great man himself? If so, take a look at the white marble sculpture of Palladio next to Basilica Palladiana.
His likeness, created by 19th Century Roman sculptor, Vincenzo Gajassi, keeps a careful watch over his creations.
8. Discover Antonio Pigafetta’s birthplace
I stumbled across Casa Pigafetta by accident.
Built in 1440, this striking building was the birthplace of the Vicenza navigator, Antonio Pigafetta. He accompanied the navigator Ferdinand Magellan on the first circumnavigation of the world.
Casa Pigafetta is an extraordinary mix of architectural styles.
The building itself is Gothic with intricate carvings in Nanto or Vicenza stone. But there’s a wooden Renaissance door and graceful Arabesque-style windows.
As this building is a private home, it is not open to the public.
9. Stop by the Duomo of Vicenza
I don’t claim that the Duomo is a must-see in Vicenza, but it is worth popping in if you are passing.
Officially known as the Cathedral of Santa Maria Annunciata, it was started in the late 15th Century and showcases a blend of Renaissance and Gothic architectural styles. Andrea Palladio had a hand in designing the cathedral’s cupola, inspired by the dome of the Pantheon in Rome.
But thanks to WWII bombing raids, much of what you see today is a 20th-century reconstruction.
10. Try Bacala’ alla Vicentina at Righetti’s Restaurant
Let’s talk food.
Housed in a 17th Century palace at Piazza Duomo, Righetti’s Self Restaurant is a local landmark. As its name suggests, this is a self-service restaurant.
You choose a table, set it with a paper placemat and cutlery and then go to the counter to choose your courses. Try the Bacala’ alla Vicentina, a must when you are in Vicenza.
Bread rolls and beer and wine on tap are self-serve.
The food was cheap, delicious and plentiful, and the staff were very friendly and helpful. When it’s time to leave, tell the cashier what you had and settle up.
11. Take in the view of Ponte Michele
For some of the most beautiful views in Vicenza, head to one of its riverbanks. Its historic centre is bordered by two rivers: the Retrone and the Bacchiglione.
Ponte San Michele (Saint Michael Bridge) is a pedestrian-only bridge that straddles the Retrone River.
The bridge we see today was modelled on Venetian bridges and built between 1621 and 1623 by the architects Tomaso and Francesco Contini. It replaced a stone bridge from 1422, which in turn replaced an earlier wooden bridge across this point in the river.
It takes its name from the nearby 13th Century Augustinian Church of San Michele, which was destroyed in the Napoleonic era.
12. Nurture your cultural soul at Palazzo Thiene
Like the basilica, Palazzo Thiene was a facelift project for Palladio. The aim was to make it the most imposing residence in Vicenza but, like a number of his projects, it was never completed.
Formerly the headquarters of Banca Popolare di Vicenza, it is now part of the city’s museum portfolio. I was less interested in its collection but more interested in the richly decorated interior, with its stucco work and frescos.
13. Stop by the Salvi Gardens (Giardini Salvi)
On your way back to the train station, stop at these small gardens at the start of Corso Palladio.
The Salvi Gardens are home to Loggia Valmarana, a Palladian-style loggia thought to have been built in 1591 by a student of Palladio.
14. Stroll around Vicenza’s historic centre
But simply mooching around Vicenza is fine too. Its historic centre is a captivating blend of classical design and charm, offering a glimpse into Italy’s rich cultural heritage.
Thanks to Palladio, this is a cityscape like no other. If you want something a little more structured, pick up a free self-guided tour of his buildings from Tourist Information.
Planning Your Day in Vicenza: Practical Information
Where is Vicenza in Italy?
How to get to Vicenza
Your best bet is to take one of Trenitalia’s fast regional (RV) trains. These are cheap and, as fares are fixed, you don’t need to book your ticket in advance. From Venice, one of these regional trains will get you to Vicenza in 46 minutes.
In comparison, Trenitalia’s more expensive high-speed Frecciarossa train makes the same journey in 44 minutes.
Italo trains from Venice will get you to Vicenza in as little as 33 minutes. Book in advance for the best fares.
You can search across both operators here.
Getting around Vicenza
Vicenza is a very walkable city and the best way to appreciate it is on foot.
From the train station, it’s a 15-minute walk to the Olympic Theatre, which is the most distant site. Head straight out of the station up Viale Roma and then turn right down Corso Andrea Palladio.
I suggest that you do as I did and start your day in Vicenza here (Tourist Information is next door) and wind your way back through the other city attractions.
The Vicenza Card and 4 Museums Card
The Vicenza Card is valid for 8 days from the day of issue and gives you free entry to 11 sites in Vicenza:
- Teatro Olimpico
- Civic Art Gallery of Palazzo Chiericati,
- Palazzo Thiene
- Natural History and Archaeological Museum
- Risorgimento and Resistance Museum
- Santa Corona Church
- Diocesan Museum
- Palladio Museum
- Gallerie d’Italia – Palazzo Leoni Montanari
- Palladian Basilica (exhibitions excluded)
- Jewellery Museum.
If you are spending just one day in Vicenza, you may not get value from the Vicenza Card. I used a scaled-down version of this city pass, the 4 Museums Card, which gave me access to four of these sites.
In 2023, it cost €11 to visit the Olympic Theatre alone. The Vicenza Card cost €20 and the 4 Museums Card €15. In terms of cost and convenience, it was a no-brainer.
You can buy either of these passes at the Tourist Information in Piazza Matteotti, Gallerie d’Italia – Palazzo Leoni Montanari, Palladio Museum, Diocesan Museum, Jewellery Museum and Basilica Palladiana.
How Long Do You Need in Vicenza?
One day in Vicenza is enough to do a whistle-stop tour of the city and its Palladian sites.
With two days or more, you can delve deeper into Vicenza’s history and culture, visiting more Palladian villas, such as Villa Rotonda and Villa Valmarana ai Nani.
Is Vicenza Worth Visiting?
Visit Vicenza for its celebrated architectural heritage and Palladian masterpieces such as the Olympic Theatre and the Basilica Palladiano. Stay for an authentic, less crowded Italian experience.
Where to Go Next?
I hope that this guide helps you nail the best things to see in Vicenza and that you have a fabulous day there. If you are looking for other places to visit in the Veneto region, take a look at some of my other articles: