Jul 1, 2024

Vicenza: a Renaissance gem in the heart of Veneto Region

Exploring the rich culture and vibrant community life of Andrea Palladio’s beloved city

Vicenza, a picturesque city in northeastern Italy, is renowned for its cultural richness and vibrant community life. Nestled in the heart of the Veneto region, Vicenza is a place where history seamlessly intertwines with modernity, creating a unique and dynamic environment. Known as the “City of Palladio,” the city is celebrated for its exquisite Renaissance architecture, which stands as a testament to the genius of Andrea Palladio. 

The cultural fabric of Vicenza is woven from its rich artistic heritage, lively social scene, and strong sense of community. The city’s historic center, with its elegant piazzas, bustling markets, and charming streets, offers a glimpse into the daily life of its residents. Vicenza’s vibrant public spaces, such as Piazza dei Signori, are the heart of social interaction, where locals gather to enjoy coffee, conversation, and various cultural events. 

The lifestyle in Vicenza is deeply rooted in its cultural traditions and community spirit. The city hosts numerous cultural events throughout the year, ranging from classical music concerts to contemporary art exhibitions. Vicenza’s Teatro Olimpico, one of the architectural marvels designed by Palladio, is a hub for the performing arts, offering a venue for theater productions, concerts, and other cultural activities. 

Teacher Elena Olivari, who is originally from Vicenza, provides an insider’s perspective on the city’s unique character and cultural life.

What makes your city unique? 

We were all very proud when in 1994 UNESCO inscribed “Vicenza, City of Palladio” on its list of World heritage site.  And in 1996, the site was expanded to include the Palladian villas outside the core area, and accordingly renamed “City of Vicenza and the Palladian Villas of the Veneto”. 

Vicenza is a thriving and cosmopolitan city, with a rich history and culture, and many museums, art galleries, piazzas, villas, churches and elegant Renaissance palazzi. But it’s also known for a strong industry in the gold jewelry design. 

Andrea Palladio, World-famous Renaissance architect, is the symbol of the city of Vicenza (23 buildings and 24 Villas designed by Palladio). His work is extraordinary because it gives a certain vibe to the city. Everywhere you turn there is a palace or a building designed and built by him. The whole city center, inside the medieval walls, is mostly built in the 16th century and very corner is a wonder. All this was possible at the time with the help of the Valmarana family and their support for Andrea Palladio. 

That is how the city’s most beautiful buildings were erected. They were public men and men of letters who demonstrated humanitarian and social dedication in the places where they owned numerous villas and palaces. It was one of the most illustrious families in the city and even today, the progeny of the family is maintaining these buildings.  This is what makes Vicenza unique. 


What are the hidden gems of your city? 

Since Vicenza is quite small and not widely known as a tourist attraction, it is normal for us, who grew up there, to consider all the beautiful things in the city as hidden gems. Piazza dei Signori, the Museo Olimpico, the Villa Rotonda, and other magnificent palaces are all gems in their own way.

If you are looking for architecture, music, or art, it is all there on display. The city is a small Venice without the sea, and the influence of the Venetian era is clear. 

What is a traditional dish of your city? 

Baccalà alla vicentina, or ‘bacałà a ła vixentina‘ in Venetian dialect, is a traditional dish originating in Vicenza. It is made with stockfish (stoccafisso in Italian), onions, anchovies, milk, and a mature cheese such as Parmesan. Baccalà alla vicentina is considered one of the signature dishes of Vicenza. It is milky and creamy and is usually eaten with soft polenta or toasted bread. Yummy!


Why are the citizens of Vicenza called ‘Vicentini magnagati‘ (cat eaters)? 

Phonetics, ignored today but already known in the nineteenth century, play a role in this nickname. The phrase ‘you have eaten‘ in Venetian is pronounced ‘ti ga magnà‘, in Paduan ‘gheto magnà‘, while in Vicenza it was pronounced ‘gatu magnà‘. This probably gave rise to the nickname ‘magnagatu‘ or ‘magnagati‘ given the legends. Some songwriters created the Anonima Magnagati, using popular and folkloristic music based on the Vicenza dialect. 


What are the cultural traditions of your city? 

Museums, libraries, cultural institutes and producers, universities, theatrical and musical associations in the city have inaugurated permanent coordination, considering all the arts for the cultural development of the city. 

Vicenza and its province offer a rich program of cultural and leisure initiatives throughout the year. The theater, with its events, attracts people from all over Italy, and the traditional ‘Concerts in Villa‘ event is at the heart of the cultural activities organized by the Department of Venetian Culture and Identity. The villas and squares of the area serve as evocative backdrops for concerts, conferences, and debates. 

Music is an integral part of life in Vicenza, or at least it was for me. Many world-famous artists have played or directed at the Olympic theater and in the churches of Vicenza. I still have strong memories of these events and try to catch anything possible when I am there on vacation. 


In summary, Vicenza is a city where the past and present coexist in perfect harmony, offering a lifestyle that is rich in culture, tradition, and community. Whether you are exploring its historical sites, enjoying its culinary delights, or participating in its vibrant cultural events, Vicenza provides an enriching experience that captures the heart and soul of Italian life.

"Vicenza is not just a city of architecture, but a place where the past and present coexist in a vibrant and harmonious lifestyle."