Vicenza (a day trip)
Vicenza is an hour drive from Venice and worth touring if time permits. The city in a UNESCO World Heritage Site and features many works of Andrea Palladio, a 16th Century Renaissance architect who defined the Palladian Style. Palladio’s buildings are marked with bi-lingual signs, thus it is easy to tour the town in search of his architecture. Two places designed by Palladio that we visited were the Olympic Theater and Villa Capra (la Rotunda).
I highly recommend taking a tour of the Olympic Theater. I found the interior to be spectacular and think it would be incredible to see a show here despite the wood bench seats topped with red cushions on performance nights.
Behind the stage curtains is an intricately painted set of wood and stucco that looks like Vicenza’s main street named for Palladio. The set is built in a perspective to look very long, but it isn’t. While actors and actresses could walk through the set behind the stage in a play, it is so old and fragile that it is not put into use. Regardless, it is one of the coolest theaters I have ever seen.
Villa Capra (la Rotonda)
Villa Capra, the inspiration for Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello, is located southeast of Vicenza. The Villa was originally constructed for a bishop, Paolo Almerico, who retired from the Vatican and returned to his home town. The building itself was inspired by the Pantheon. Twenty years later it was purchased by the noble Capra family for which it is named.
Since 1911, the Villa has been owned by the family of Count Valmarana. The estate is open to the public on Wednesdays and Saturdays for 10 Euro. We visited on a Friday, so we were only able to walk the grounds for 5 Euro. Had we wanted a private tour, it would have cost 400 Euro for a group of 20 or less! The Villa may be rented out for private events such as company dinners, concerts, and weddings.
In town, we wandered the streets, visited the Piazza dei Signori (Vicenza’s main square), and of course acted like the locals as we sipped on an Aperol Spritz and dined on pizza at Al Paradiso.
Venice’s Lagoon Tour (another day trip)
I read somewhere in my research on Venice to take a half-day tour to Murano, Burano, and Torcello. I don’t know how this lagoon tour could be completed in half a day. It requires at least six hours, maybe more. Being early risers, we beat the crowd to Murano, which is known for its glass blowing, as we boarded the public taxi boat called a Vaporetto. Helpful Hint: If spending a day touring the lagoon, buy a transportation day pass. We purchased a two-day pass for 30 euro our hotel and it was well worth it.
The ride to Murano from Fondamente Nove takes about 10 minutes. We arrived before most of the glass shop’s opening time (10am), so we window shopped until we came across Gino Mazzuccato at the end of the canal. The glass factory and gallery featured a variety of glass including but not limited to knick knacks, jewelry, vases, glasses, and chandeliers. Page, a big shopper and glass lover, had found heaven. The salesman must have had a sense about her as he escorted us to the exclusive second floor. After our long browsing session, she promised the salesman she’d be back after we strolled the canal lined with glass shops and visited the glass museum.
Murano Glass Museum
In order to skip the line, we purchased a “skip the line” ticket online from Tiqets. This was a bit of a waste as it turned out to be a voucher, so we still had to wait in line to get the tickets at the Murano Glass Museum before we could use our Island Museums Pass to skip the empty line at the Burano Lace Museum later.
I personally didn’t find the Murano Glass Museum terribly interesting. I’m not a shopper, but I felt like I saw I the glass I needed and wanted to see at the factories and stores. I would have been completely content to skip the museum and spend more time just strolling the canals.
Tower and Church of San Pietro Matire
In between the countless glass shops, there are some historic sites. The tower on the east side of the canal was built as a fire lookout in a city of furnaces. Murano became famous for its glass blowing because Venetian law restricted the glass blowing to this island as to protect the mainland from fires.
Across the canal from the fire tower is the Church of San Pietro Matire which features a painting by Bellini. I was taken by the glass chandeliers!
True to her word, Page returned to Gino Mazzuccato where she bought enough glass for us to be treated like VIPs! We and two other ladies were given a ride on their private boat to Burano so we didn’t have to wait for the Vaporetto and squeeze in like sardines. This ride took 20 or so minutes, less time than the public taxi boat.
Burano is famous for its lace and its colorful houses. The island of 2,700 is quiet in the evening, but is bustling with tourists during the day. The small island’s main drag can be walked in 15 minutes. We took a much more leisurely stroll as we admired many lace and linen shops and stopped for lunch at Trattoria da Romano which turned out to be one of the better places in which we ate while in Venice.
Burano Lace Museum
Since we had purchased the museum tickets, we visited the Lace Museum. The 20-minute film at the beginning was pretty interesting. Beyond that, I think the museum likely would only be interesting to lace fans like Page, not me! Regardless, it was small and didn’t take long to tour.
Across from the Lace Museum is a leaning church bell tower. The tower leans five degrees just like Pisa’s.
We particulary liked L’Orchidea, a linen and lace shop off the beaten path and met the woman who sewed all the clothing and gave us good deals!
San Michelle and Torcello
San Michelle with the cemetery and Torcello, home to the oldest church in Venice, are also on the Vaporetto line, but having already spent at least six hours on the two islands, we were ready to relax a little in our air-conditioned room before venturing out for dinner. ETB
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