Experiencing the life of Vicenza and the Vicentini, is often the most fascinating part of your visit, whether strolling around town or discovering the charm of the province.
While conveniently located close to the main Milan to Venice road and rail links, Vicenza’s relatively small size, has meant that its age old charm, as well as the beauty of the surrounding countryside, remain largely intact and ever a delight to explore. Whether you are interested in country and mountain walks, sampling the local wines and dishes, or visiting the famous Palladian villas, the environs of Vicenza have as much to offer as the town itself.
Strolling around Vicenza town is a truly relaxing experience; while modernity may just be beginning to catch up with the outskirts, the pace of life in the centro storico still follows time-honoured rituals, such as the daily noontime break; whether sipping a cappuccino or eating delicious ice cream in one of the peaceful piazzas surrounded by Palladian masterpieces, poking around the shops and markets or settling down to an evening meal at a traditional osteria (inn) or restaurant.
The locals, or Vicentini —as they're known, are as highly creative and industrious nowadays as their illustrious forefathers, in the fields of traditional crafts such as textiles, tiling, porcelain, stone carving and leather. If you have a keen eye for prices, you will be pleased to discover that all of these can be found here directly at the source, often at notable savings, not just when compared to abroad but to nearby cities such as Venice. The same is true for fashion, jewellery, and wine, all of which, Vicenza is an important centre of production and export.
A walk down the Corso Palladio, Vicenza’s elegant high street, is enough to reveal the importance of fashion here. You will find every style and taste catered for, from the more general appeal of the popular brands and designers to the more exclusive couturiers. As you might expect, well represented are the homegrown fashion houses such as Diesel, Pal Zileri and Marzotto.
And then of course there's the gold: Vicenza is a world centre for the importation and working of gold and other precious metals; Vicenza’s orefici (goldsmiths), are highly respected in their field and three times a year the Fiera dell’Oro (gold fair), also known as Vicenzaoro, attracts the most important buyers and sellers in the business.
If you are serious about food and wine, then you will soon realise that you are most definitely in the right place. As noted by plenty of distinguished travel and food writers, the richness and variety of Vicenza’s local produce and cuisine, is on a par with the very best that Italy has to offer: white asparagus in Bassano, delicate black porcini mushrooms from the Berico hills, cherries of Marostica: each locality has developed over the ages and cultivates with such passion, even the most humble specialty - such as the unbelievably mouth watering peas of Lumignano - to the highest level. These have then found there way into the traditional pasta, gnocchi and risotto dishes of the area such as the favourite risi e bisi (dialect for risotto with peas) which may well sound very run of the mill, but only, that is, until you place the first forkful in your mouth.
The Daily Telegraph Travel (UK)
As usual, the very best food has the most humble of origins and so it is in Vicenza as well. The local specialty that springs to mind here is Baccalà alla Vicentina, a very delicate dish, complex to prepare correctly, yet based on salt-cured cod (stockfish), which unlike meat was traditionally affordable to the masses. The lengthy preparation involves soaking for a couple of days, then a series of procedures involving oil, onion, garlic, salt, and pepper, grated grana cheese (or maybe not - but let’s not start that argument all over again) anchovy filets, parsley, and garlic, as well as somewhere along the line the pounding in a mortar with milk. It is finally served with yellow or white polenta. It’s much easier when they do it for you.
The most famous local cheese, is of course Asiago, which surely enough comes from Asiago, located in Vicenza’s alps about an hour from town. Well worth a visit, the entire area, known collectively as the Altopiano Dei Sette Comuni, offers skiing in the winter and spectacular walks in the nearby alpine mountain range, known as the Dolomites, in the summer; the local cuisine is worth the trip alone. Other cheeses you will find are as interesting as much for the name as for the taste, such as the Puzzone (the smelly one) from nearby Trentino or the Bastardo (you can well guess what that means).
Wines and spirits of Vicenza would make for a fine doctoral thesus, suffice to say that the province has scores of prized wine producers, a third of which are DOC. The cabernet, merlot, tocai and pinot grape varieties are well established, and traditional wines you should sample include: Durello, Torcolato, Reciotto and Raboso. Don’t miss the many flavoured grappas of Barbarano or Bassano, in particular, where you can savour it in the most majestic of settings, from the famous Palladian wooden bridge. Further information can be found here (opens external site).