Picture of vicenza Wednesday morning we headed back inland to the town and region of Vicenza. Vicenza is perhaps best known as the home of Andrea Palladio - a 16th century architect best known for his villas. Palladio also designed the rotunda just south of Vicenza which strongly influenced the design of Washington D.C. While most of his famous works are villas in the countryside around Vicenza, he designed a number of villas and public buildings in the city itself. Palladio incorporated this 12th century tower into his huge basilica in the center of town.

Picture of villa We left Vicenza to visit several of his villas, scattered amongst the Berici Hills south of Vicenza. Most of them are open to public, but often only a few hours each week. The villa we actually toured (because it was open, among other things) shown here, is the Villa Saraceno. In the 1500s, the powerful Venetians forbade the nobles of Vicenza from building forts and castles. So instead they developed the villa. The basic layout has a low stone wall forming a square. The buildings themselves are part of the wall and all face inwards.

Picture of barn Along with the main house, which was expanded several times over the years, there is a barn/stables, a small gate house, and even a silkworm cot. At first glance the architecture appears consistent throughout the villa, though considerable portions of this were built by the family which owned it well after Palladio did the original work.

Picture of villagate In this picture, taken from just outside the front gate, you can actually see right through the main house. The central house is actually not particularly large. Like most of Palladio's designs it is a rectangle, subdivided into smaller rectangular rooms. The walls of the front porch are completely frescoed as was much of the interior once. Today only a few fragments of the frescoes remain in some rooms. We were not allowed upstairs or into the auxiliary buildings as they are actually rooms which can be rented through the Landmark Trust organization.

Picture of inbarn This picture is taken from inside the barn looking towards the watchtower and yes, that is Melanie hiding against the column. Apart from the buildings and the dirt path leading from the gate to the front porch, the rest of the courtyard is grass with a couple of trees scattered about. Outside the walls, crops are planted in all directions which at one point would've been owned and run from the villa.

Picture of gcanal After the villa, we drove back to Venice via a rather scenic and circuitous route. The Berici Hills are the northernmost extension of the Apennine mountains and the slopes are terraced with vineyards like those shown on the background of this page. We spent our last evening in Venice much like the previous two. Mostly just wandering through the alleyways eating gelato and visiting osterias for the occasional glass of wine. This was our last night in Italy outside of the alpine regions where gelato is not as popular, so we had for our final flavors strawberry and caramel.

Picture of gondola Finally, the gondola ride. You just can't visit Venice without a gondola ride, or so they say. But it turns out that a 20-minute ride costs around 100,000 Lire, or about $60. Half an hour costs almost $100. Well what can you do, we signed up for the 'short' ride and once on the canals negotiated for the half hour ride for a little less than that. It was late at night and we saw no other gondolas the entire time which was very nice compared to the day when there are gondola traffic jams. We cruised through the Dosoduro region which is quiet that time of night, and we could hear various domestic sounds from inside the canal-front residences as we went past. It was also high tide when the gondola's curved bow was too high to fit under the bridges as is, so we got to pass under bridges at a 45 degree sideways angle. Afterwards we had another gondolier take a picture of us in with our gondolier. Unfortunately either the one-use Italian camera, or the generally poor lighting conditions ruined the picture. So after extensive processing, this is the best we could get. Besides not being able to see our gondolier, you can also not see the Rialto bridge directly behind us. Oh well. For the record, we do recommend the gondola experience but definately late at night when the canals are less crowded.

Picture of tx_saraceno


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