From Bologna we set out in search of Palladio, or at least his magnificent buildings, which have inspired many architects and lovers of architecture from the mid sixteenth-century through the present. Andrea Palladio, born in 1508, recaptured the classical Roman architectural canon, and through a lens, both intellectual and sensual, re-introduced western culture to the principles of classical design… at the same time adding an interest in light and color. His villa designs addressed the needs of the domestic interior and the working farm. He created both an appropriate setting and grand seat for the noble families of the Italian Veneto. We started our Palladian journey in Vicenza, where Palladio lived from the age of sixteen on, and from which he worked his entire professional life. Our friends, Kathy and Mark Carter, helped set the itinerary, and provided the much needed language assistance and the transportation.

Arriving by train from Bologna to Vicenza.
View of Vicenza from Monte Berico

Our journey started on bicycles, riding past a grand staircase with obelisks designed by Palladio and on through farmland making our way to Villa La Rotonda.

The acropolic position of the villa, crowning a small hill,  makes for a stunning presence in the landscape. Inspired by the Baths of Caracalla and the Pantheon… inspiring in turn, Chiswick House in London and Jefferson’s Monticello, to name a few.

As I left La Rotonda, I recalled what Goethe wrote regarding this amazing structure, and now understood what he meant, “Today I have seen a splendid villa called La Rotonda, half an hour away from the city, on a beautiful hill… Maybe art has never reached such a high level of excellence.”

The Basilica Palladiana in the Piazza dei Signori in central Vicenza

The Teatro Olimpico was Palladio’s last and one of his most noted achievements. Proposing the replication of a Roman amphitheater, Palladio’s design was realized in his town of Vicenza. Started in 1580, the year of Palladio’s death, the work was completed by Vincenzo Scamazzi.

Scamazzi designed the stage to replicate the city of Thebes.

The central street is 12 meters in length but appears much longer. The floor rises, the sky descends, the buildings draw closer together creating the illusion of depth.

After a few days in Vicenza, we set out into the countryside of the Veneto to discover other architectural wonders of this master artist… in search of more Palladio…