The City of Palladio Story and photos by Tom Weber
Di Pietro della Gondola.
A nice, simple Italian name from out of the 16th century
belonging to a humble stonemason, the son of a hard-working miller.
But, when a nome d'arte is finally placed behind Andrea's full
name, he rises like a phoenix, well above the crowd, to an elite level
reserved for monarchs, popes and nobility.
Widely considered to be the most influential individual
in the history of Western architecture, Palladio created, nurtured and
developed an architectural style and design - and an associated lifestyle
- known the world over as Palladianism.
Born in Padova (Padua) and eventually schooled
and culturally polished in Vicenza, Città del Palladio
- my adopted "hometown" - this Italian Renaissance master
builder provided an architectural crown jewel to the world that continues
to inspire even while he sleeps - the Villa Almerico Capra - La
Standing majestically atop a wide grassy field at the
base of the Colli Berici (Berici Hills), La Rotonda serves
as a testament to Palladio's influence on thousands of other
estates, public buildings and churches constructed within and outside
Italy by architects who followed him.
Since its creation, La Rotonda has drawn poets
and artists, sovereigns and statesmen, scholars and art historians,
and travelers and tourists alike to Vicenza to marvel at Palladio's
harmonious spatial design.
At its height, the breath of Palladio's influence
extended from Constantinople, to Madrid, to London to a young nation's
capitol across the Atlantic Ocean - Washington, D.C. La Rotonda,
Palladio's capo lavoro (masterpiece), as well as all of his other
works, continues to resonate today, more than 400 years after his death.
Without a doubt, the 16th century belonged to Palladio,
a man who left behind many outstanding examples of his craft throughout
the City of and Province of Vicenza, and beyond, with his palaces and
Before Palladio's passage through Vicenza, it was arguably
one of the more downtrodden and esthetically lacking cities of the Veneto
It was Palladio who singlehandedly placed Vicenza "on
the map," laying down a solid foundation that has enabled the city
to become one of the gems in UNESCO's World Heritage Site
Within the historic walls of Vicenza alone, 23 individual
buildings or sections of buildings are known to have been designed or
reconstructed by Palladio or attributed to him.
Among these prestigious works are the Loggia Valmarana,
Palazzo Porto Breganze, Loggia del Capitaniato,
Teatro Olimpico - the world's first and oldest enclosed
theatre and also Palladio's final design work before his death
- Palazzo Chiericati and the just-restored Basilica
Palladiana (f.n.a. Palazzo della Ragione).
In addition to Vicenza proper, the Palladian
design style - more importantly, the Palladian lifestyle - is
well represented in 24 private villa-estates that dot the landscape
all across the Veneto region.
Beginning at the outskirts of the old city limits and
extending eastward to Mira, just outside the Lagoon of Venice along
the Brenta River, these country estates - all designed by Palladio himself
- are UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Palladio's imprint on Renaissance architecture was far
reaching, and the design and construction guide books that he wrote
on the subject - Quattro Libri dell'Architettura (Four Books
of Architecture) - became the architectural language spoken around
the world, from Europe, to Asia and across North America.
One of America's "Founding Fathers," Thomas
Jefferson, the third President of the United States and a self-taught
architect of note in his own right, absorbed Palladio's theories of
harmonious spatial design and claimed Palladio's Four Books of Architecture
were the bible.
An ardent disciple of Palladianism, Jefferson
adopted the Palladian lifestyle and modeled his Virginia estate,
Monticello, after Palladio's masterpiece La Rotonda.
If you don't believe me, just look at the back of a U.S. nickel (5-cent
coin) and you'll readily see the design similarities between the two
The Vicenza of today is a thriving, cosmopolitan city,
filled with a rich history, art and culture. With a population of approximately
270,000 around the greater metropolitan area, Vicenza ranks as the third
largest Italian industrial center - based upon the value of its exports.
One of the Bel Paese's wealthiest cities, Vicenza
has come a long, long way since the days when it was looked down upon
by its more successful sister cities around the Most Serene Republic
By all accounts, Vicenza's luck began to change when
the young stonemason arrived, rolled up his sleeves and went to work;
work that centuries later would award him the keys to the city. His
city. The city of Andrea Di Pietro della Gondola - La Città
Let Tom know what you think about his traveling adventure.
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for Destination Bosnia: Inside Sarajevo's Tunnel of Hope
Spent time in Sarajevo in the fall of 1973 beer was excellent!
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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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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.
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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
--- John, Los Angeles, CA
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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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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. Palladios 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.
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?