Day 12: More Palladio in Vicenza

Rain almost looks certain for tomorrow’s weather forecast so we decided to cancel plans to rent a car and drive to Lago Garda. Instead we thought we’d walk the streets and enjoy the outdoors in Vicenza, then tomorrow go to some museums.

This quartet was playing jazz tunes at the end of our street. We’ve seen a lot of buskers and a lot of references to classic jazz like Duke Ellington and Miles Davis. Same in Bologna.

We went to look at Il Duomo, the main church of Vicenza.

People often think Il Duomo refers Florence cathedral or to the dome of a church but the word derives from the Latin domus or domus dei, meaning house or house of God and is the nickname given to the main or principal church of a city.

It was Sunday but Il Duomo, Santa Maria Annunziata, was not open at the time when we went by. It also has no big piazza in front, but at the side, which is unusual. The north end is quite different in style from the main Gothic style church.

Some suggest it was designed by Palladio but there are no documentation or drawings to substantiate this. The attribution is based on style.

On the other hand, the Basilica Palladiana (1546) is definitely by Palladio and one of his most important early designs.

The building was the palace of the city government. Palladio called it “Basilica” because the functions and form of a modern city hall resembled those of an ancient Roman Basilica. He did not construct the entire building but added the two-story loggias to the exterior of an older building.

For the facade, Palladio used two levels of arcades with rounded arches and columns, which opened up the exterior of the building to the interior courtyard. The arcades were divided by columns and small circular windows (oculi), with a variety of decorative detail. The building was not completed until 1617, after Palladio’s death.

There are now shops, restaurants and an exhibition space in the building. There’s a terrazza open on the top level this weekend but my fear of heights keeps me from going there.

Next to the Basilica Palladiana is a clock tower built in the 15th century. If my Italian reading is accurate, a plaque claims it was the first mechanical clock built for public use.

The Basilica Palladiana faces the main public piazza. Across is a loggia also designed by Palladio but appears to have lost a lot of the plaster and stucco finish and no longer open to the public. The sign says it is owned by the Comune of Vicenza, in other words, owned by the city.

The piazza, Piazza delle Erbe, on the other side of the Basilica Palladiana is several metres lower as the ground slopes down towards the river.

There’s a plaque on the medieval looking brick tower but my Latin is not up to being able to understand.

We went to a bookshop that was open and which was supposed to have some English language books. Scott finished reading his novel and wanted another in paper. The selection was not huge and included authors claimed to be “best selling” but I didn’t recognize many of the names. Some were classics—Jane Austen, Robert Louis Stevenson—others like Julia Quinn, a historical romance novelist (if you aren’t a Bridgerton fan) would not be Scott’s choice for vacation reading or probably reading at any time. Interestingly, the shop had books in both English and Italian which were tempting but I had read them all—Austen, Dickens, F Scott Fitzgerald, Conan Doyle, Conrad, Oscar Wilde.

We had a long slow lunch at Garibaldi Bistrot, the casual restaurant of Matteo Grandi whose eponymous restaurant has a Michelin star. More importantly, the restaurant has outside tables looking across to Basilica Palladiana.

We both had salads and a local rosato or still rosé.

We also had a beet root soup amuse bouche. All the vegetable eating was balanced out with dessert.

Chocolate mousse, and lime pineapple and coconut cream

We also used the opportunity to do a little sketching which inspired Scott to want to visit a nearby stationary shop that carries art supplies. I saw a lot of pretty looking journals but didn’t want to carry around the extra bulk or weight. Scott bought a little set of coloured pencils.

For dinner, we returned to Garibaldi Bistrot and sat on table back under the covered area. Rain was expected to start.

Octopus starter
Tomato salad

I had bigoli with duck ragù, a local traditional dish that we’ve seen on many menus. It is quite rich like a Bolognese ragù which is traditionally made with veal.

Scott had roasted goat and polenta.

I forgot to take a photo of the Pinot Nero we had which was very like a Pinot Noir, quite soft.

Scott noticed dark clouds gathering in the west. Our server, who also served us at lunch, said that when rain is coming from Lago Garda, to the west of Vicenza, rain is heavy. When it comes from the sea, the east, rain is light. We returned to the apartment without getting rain on.

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