Architecture of Vicenza, Italy
I have one favourite architect – Ted Mosby. The problem is that he’s fictional (and that the terrible television reference was probably lost on half of you). So, I’ve been thinking for a while that I should have a real person as my favourite. After a visit to the Italian city of Vicenza, Andrea Palladio is moving up my list.
I had never heard of the guy before. If you hadn’t either, don’t feel too bad – he did die in 1580. But his work in Vicenza led to a whole style of architecture called Palladian. And he has influenced some of the most famous buildings in the world… ever heard of a little one called The White House, for example?
There are 26 buildings in Vicenza and surrounds that have been attributed to Andrea Palladio. With his work, he has effectively painted the façade of the city in his image. Everywhere you walk through the city, you see his legacy. Other buildings around his have tried to fit in with the style. More than 400 years ago he had an idea of how he wanted the streets to look. He built his monuments along them and today his legacy continues.
Most tourists who come to Vicenza are coming to see the work of Andrea Palladio. The information offices give out maps with all his buildings marked and suggest a route to follow to see them. It’s not hard to spot them, though – they’re the buildings with a bunch of tourists standing outside taking photos.
The city itself is quite small and it doesn’t take too long to wander through and see the exteriors of most of the Palladio creations. To really appreciate the inner beauty you need to go inside. And there is one of his buildings above all else that shows the genius of the man.
Teatro Olimpico, Vicenza, Italy
Enter stage left: The Olympic Theatre of Vicenza.
It is the oldest enclosed theatre in the world that still exists. I have to say, it’s also one of the most impressive I’ve ever seen. The back of the stage is not a simple sheet or a wall. It becomes three dimensional with three passages leading backwards, deceiving perspective. The rows of seats are benches stretching upwards in a semi-circle to the statues that guard the ceiling of the theatre at the rear. There is space for an orchestra in the floor space between the patrons and the actors.
It’s impossible to know exactly how a performance would have felt in 1585, when the first play was staged here. It’s exciting to imagine, though. It was a production of ‘Oedipus the King’ and the street scenes you can see today were originally installed for that specific play, to represent the city of Thebes.
The theatre may be the greatest work of Andrea Palladio. But it was the whole city of Vicenza that he made his stage. To be a player in it today is a magical thing.
This is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. For more info click here.
You can see all the UNESCO World Heritage Sites I’ve visited here.