|This article examines tourist
attractions in southern Veneto. Be sure to read our companion articles
on northern Veneto, on that Shakespearean city of Verona, and on the university
city of Padua.
Our tour of southern Veneto
resembles a circle; one that isn't quite closed. We start our tour in the
central Veneto city of Vicenza, one of the wealthiest cities in Italy.
We bypass Padua and go southeast to the coastal town of
Then we head back southwest to Rovigo, and then finish our tour by going
northwest to Montagnana. We could continue north back to Vicenza.
Or we could visit other parts of Veneto.
one hundred twenty thousand, has had a checkered past. Over the centuries
it passed from one occupier to another. Its heyday was in the Sixteenth
Century as the home of Andrea Palladio, often said to be the most influential
person in the history of Western architecture. He designed many of the
city's buildings and all over the Veneto region. About two dozen of his
Veneto villas compose a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Palladio was a major
influence on Thomas Jefferson's Monticello, and probably on half of the
state capitol buildings in the United States. Don't even think about touring
Vicenza without visiting several of his masterpieces.
The Teatro Olimpico (Olympic
Theatre) is Palladio's last work and one of his best. It is widely considered
the first modern example of an enclosed theater. Actually he died six months
into its construction but this magnificent building was completed from
his sketches and drawings. The building includes five hallways designed
to look like streets; each spectator has a view of at least one street.
Unfortunately the theater was abandoned after a few performances. The Teatro
Olimpico now hosts productions, but only in the summer because winter heating
might damage its fragile wood structures.
|Palazzo Chiericati is a
Renaissance palace that took well over a century to complete. It was built
in an area called Piazza dell'Isola (Island Square, now Piazza Matteotti),
surrounded by two streams. It became the Museo Civico (Town Museum) in
1855 and, more recently, the City's Art Gallery.
We have left arguably Palladio's
greatest work for last. Villa La Rotunda whose full name is Villa Almerico-Capra
in honor of the Capra brothers who finished the building. This villa was
inspired by the Pantheon in Rome and has been the inspiration for perhaps
a thousand buildings across the globe. Strictly speaking Villa La Rotunda
should not be called a rotunda; it isn't circular but takes the shape of
a cross grafted on a square. While the edifice appears completely symmetrical
in fact it isn't. No mistake here, it was designed to fit perfectly into
its surroundings and the city of Vicenza on the horizon. Neither Palladio
nor its owner lived to see it completed.
Chioggia, population fifty
thousand, was once the center of local salt production. Perhaps that's
why Genoa destroyed it more than six hundred years ago. Chioggia returned
as a fishing port and a tourist attraction. It's on the Venetian Lagoon
about an hour's boat ride from Venice that it resembles with its canals
and Venetian architecture.
You'll enjoy strolling
on the Corso del Popolo (the People's Thoroughfare) with its cafes, restaurants
and shops. Chioggia's Cathedral is old enough to have been restored in
the Fourteenth Century. Other sites of interest include the Campanile (Bell
Tower) about two hundred ten feet (sixty four meters) high and the Fourteenth
Century Gothic church of San Martino.
|The town of Rovigo,
population about fifty thousand, is rich in history and culture. Its most
famous cultural institution is the St. Stephen Cathedral built prior to
the Eleventh Century and rebuilt in the Fifteenth and the Seventeenth Centuries.
Be sure to see its interior artwork. Other churches worth visiting include
the Thirteenth Century Immacolata Concezione (Immaculate Conception), and
the Fourteenth-Fifteenth Century Gothic-Romanesque Church of St. Francis.
Several Rovigo Piazzas (Squares)
have maintained their historic character. The largest is dedicated to Emperor
Victor Emmanuel II and is the site of several palaces. Palazzo Nodari has
become the city hall. Palazzo Roncale has become Pinacoteca dei Concordi
(Concordi Gallery), one of the most important art galleries in Veneto.
The building dates back to the end of the Sixteenth Century and many displayed
paintings predate the building itself. The Fifteenth Century Gothic Duomo
(Cathedral) faces this Piazza. Given its many restorations and renovations
Romanesque and Renaissance period features abound. The Piazza has a statue
to the emperor and a Saint Mark's lion.
How can you tell if a Veneto
town is peaceful or not? The answer is quite simple; go to its Leone di
San Marco (Saint Mark's Lion) statue.
Take a close look at the
tail. If the tail points down the town is peaceful. If it points up watch
out; there may be trouble. The tail on Rovigo's lion pointed down. This
call for peace didn't stop Napoleon's soldiers from destroying the statue.
The present statue was erected in 1881, and its tail still points down.
Montagnana, population about
nine thousand, is a medieval city surrounded by walls with four gates and
twenty-four fortified towers resembling castles. This city is really unique
and you should see it from outside the walls when the sun is setting. Montagnana
dates back to the Thirteenth Century when the town was rebuilt. Its highlight
is the Castello San Zeno (Saint Zeno Castle) built by the infamous Italian
dictator Ezzelino da Romano, who previously ordered the city burnt to the
ground. Mister da Romano actually merited mention in Dante's Divine Comedy
where his soul was consigned to you know where. In a sense one has to thank
him for one majestic castle, originally set inside a dry moat and built
around a center courtyard. The moat, crossed by a drawbridge, was filled
in during the 19th century. The Castle's highest tower, the mastio or donjon,
is open to the public and provides fabulous views. Castle San Zeno also
houses the Municipal Historical Archive, the town Library, a Theatre Company,
and a Study Center devoted to the protection of the castle and its surroundings,
with quite a collection of books, maps, artifacts, and other items of historical
|What about food? Despite
the great variety of food in this once poor but now fairly well off part
of Italy many people often ate foods that we might find strange. I'm not
talking about lamb and sheep's milk cheese from the Rovigo area. Pigeon
is a specialty both in Padua and other localities. Padua has a specialty
made from salted, dried, and smoked horsemeat that I haven't tasted.
Let's suggest a sample menu,
one of many. Start with Risotto Nero (Risotto with Cuttlefish). If you
don't like Cuttlefish and its ink you won't have trouble finding many other
Risottos. Then try Baccalà Mantecato (Dried Cod with Nutmeg, Parsley,
and Olive Oil). For dessert indulge yourself with Salame al Cioccolato
(Chocolate Salami, Shortbread Biscuits, Figs, Butter, and Cocoa). Be sure
to increase your dining pleasure by including local wines with your meal.
We'll conclude with a quick
look at Veneto wine. Veneto ranks 3rd among the 20 Italian regions both
for the area planted in grape vines and for its total annual wine production.
About 45% of Veneto wine is red or rosé, leaving 55% for white.
The region produces 24 DOC wines and 3 DOCG wines; namely Recioto di Soave,
Soave Superiore, and Bardolino Superiore. DOC stands for Denominazione
di Origine Controllata, which may be translated as Denomination of Controlled
Origin, presumably a high-quality wine The G in DOCG stands for Garantita,
but there is in fact no guarantee that such wines are truly superior. Almost
30% of Venetian wine carries the DOC or DOCG designation.
Bardolino Superiore DOCG
is produced west and northwest of Verona near Lake Garda from a variety
of Italian and international red grapes. This wine is living proof that
Garantita is no guarantee of high quality, some are and some are not.
Veneto Self-Catering Accommodation
About the Author - Levi Reiss
is the author or co-author of ten computer and Internet books, but to tell
the truth, he would rather just drink fine Italian or other wine, accompanied
by the right foods. He knows about dieting but now eats and drinks what
he wants, in moderation. He teaches classes in computers at an Ontario
French-language community college. His new wine, diet, health, and nutrition
website http://www.wineinyourdiet.com links to his other sites.