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Vicenza Walks: Arch of the Steps

Traveling Boy Bloggers on the Move:
Vicenza Walks: Jack Loves Lara

Story and photos by Tom Weber

graffiti on wall, the Arch of Steps, Vicenza, Italy
View inside the loggia of the Basilica Palladiana – Vicenza, Italy

n October 11, 2009 at precisely 5:53 a.m., a guy named Jack pledged his undying love for a gal named Lara by tagging a wall with his heart-shaped affection in teal-colored spray paint for all to see.

Problem was, Jack left his love note to Lara – still legible today – on a wall that was originally designed centuries ago by Renaissance master builder Andrea Palladio, under commission by the Republic of Venice for the city of Vicenza: l'Arco delle Scalette (the Arch of the Steps).

If you'll permit me to turn back the clock prior to that early autumn morning and Jack's foray into "landscape" painting, I can wipe the slate – not the wall – clean and we can begin at the beginning.

the Arch of the Steps viewed from the road

Located on the southwestern edge of the Centro Storico (Old City Center) in the Borgo Berga neighborhood, the Arch of the Steps marks another scenic route up the hill that dominates the scene – Monte Berico and its beautiful Sanctuario della Madonna di Monte Berico.

Originally designed by Palladio around 1576, construction of the Arch began in 1580 and was completed in 1595. The ornate gateway stands on the very spot where legend has it the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared before a peasant worker twice – first in 1426 and again in 1428.

view of the road from atop the steps of the l'Arco delle Scalette, Vicenza

Inspired by the grandiose buildings of ancient Rome, this triumphal arch – nearly completely destroyed during a World War II bombing raid over Vicenza – is everything one would expect from the master visionary, Palladio.

At the top of the Arch, sculptured by Francesco and Giambattista Albanese, stands the Lion of Saint Mark bookended by Leonzio and Capoforo, two protectorate saints.

one of two protectorate saints atop the Arch of the Steps

the angel Gabriel on oneof the two columns of the Arhc of the Steps

Inside each of the two columns of the Arch is a niche depicting the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin – Mary on the left and the angel Gabriel on the right – by late-Baroque period sculptor Orazio Marinali.

marker for the stairs at the Arch of the Steps

the stairs of the Arch of the Steps

The so-called "scalette," 192 stairs divided into 32 flights, formed the only access path to the Santuario until the construction of an 18th century, two-section, covered arcade made the hike up to Monte Berico much easier.

view of some of the columns of the Arch of Steps

view of the arch

Unlike the Basilica Palladiana with its nearly $30m (USD) renovation, and the other spruced-up, iconic structures that dot the Centro Storico, the Arco delle Scalette really is in need of an orange-clad, highway cleanup crew to rid the walls along the steps of the unsightly graffiti left behind by Jack and other late-night scrawlers. But, despite the flaw, a stop at this Palladio-designed landmark – a UNESCO World Heritage Site – is well worth it.

You know, maybe the city should just go in search of Jack and tell him to clean up his own mess. Chances are he's no longer taggin' on walls or hangin' on Lara.

Related Articles:
Piazza dei Signori, Vicenza; Monte Berico; Vicenza: The City of Palladio; Basilica Palladiana; The Little Village Atop the Hill (Castelluccio di Norcia); Norcia, Umbria; Piovene Rocchette, Italy; Northern Italy

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Let Tom know what you think about his traveling adventure.

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Feedback for Destination Bosnia: Inside Sarajevo's Tunnel of Hope

Spent time in Sarajevo in the fall of 1973…beer was excellent!

--- David

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Hi Tom,

I must say, you're photographs are always amazing. They are top notch. You bring so much class to Traveling Boy. It's photographs like yours that make me want to go out and do my own traveling. Please don't get tired of sending us your amazing adventures. It's such a delight for the soul.

--- Raoul, Whittier, CA

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Hi Tom:

I'm also an American living in Italy. I've read with interest your blog and articles. I'd like to speak with you regarding residency and citizenship for Americans in Italy as you do seem to have a great deal of knowledge on all of these subjects. Would it be possible to give you a call on the phone? If so, please let me know how to reach you. If not, I can ask my questions via email.

Thank you!

--- David

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Hey Tom – Wow! Love those photos – they are so super that they make me A) Want to start eating NOW. B) Go there myself. C) See all that pristine beauty that looks so restful and peaceful. Great story, superb pix!!! Bravo!!

--- John, Los Angeles, CA

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Feedback for Destination Southwestern France: Saint-Émilion

Good job, Tom, and timely info. St. Émilion is in the list of places Jim Hayes and I will visit in September 2014. If we get the chance, we will exploit your experience to enhance the trip!

--- Bobby Harper, Dameron, MD

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Feedback for Vicenza Walks – Monte Berico

I lived in Vicenza for 4 years in the U.S. ARMY from 1963 to 1967. A wonderful place to explore. Palladio’s works are amazing. Have been back twice since and find new places to visit. My favorite is MONTE BERICO where I have some wonderful photos of my family.

--- Dr. Albert Pizzi, Hanover, MA

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I liked the new TB particularly the Vicenza article that took me back as a youth when we lived in Naples and travelled up there for a baseball tourney (U.S. Military Bases dependent schools played each other.)

Took me back to the plaza.

--- Bill

Feedback for A Canterbury Trail (Sutri)

Very interesting note. I have wedroned which route the early pre-Christian and Christian pilgrims travelled to Rome from England. Is it still possible to travel the Francigena trail?

--- Pawel

You can find out more info on walking tours of Via Francigena at this site: Thanks for stopping by and commenting..


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Good article, enjoyed reading it. Saved your recommended sights for future use.

--- Dardenne Prairie, MO

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You're going to be great at this Tom. Congrats.

--- Donna Vissa -Montreal

John Clayton's travel blog/review
Two "MUST SEE" Truly Spectacular Places in Europe. Here's Why.

Culzean Castle, Scotland
The Han Grotto and Culzean Castle. As the name of my Traveling Boy feature is "Travel With a Difference," it's important to me to always bring you offbeat and unusual tourist places around the world you may not know about. These two fit that category to a T, and they're absolutely worth a visit. One's in Scotland and one's in Belgium. Culzean (pronounced CULLANE) Castle is located near Maybole, Carrick, on the Ayrshire coast of Scotland.

go there

Ringo Boitano's travel blog/review
Highway 49 Revisited: Exploring California's Gold Country

aurora borealis lights up the night sky near Fairbanks
In the 1840s, the population of California was only 14,000, but by 1850 more than 100,000 settlers and adventurers had arrived from all over the world – and they came for one reason: gold. James Marshall had discovered the first gold nugget at Sutter’s Mill in El Dorado County, creating the largest gold rush in history.

go there

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