|Veneto comprises the
Lower Po Valley, the eastern bank of Lake
Garda and the eastern Dolomites, occupying
what was once the Republic of Venice.
On the Adriatic coast lie several rather commercial seaside resorts
including Jesolo, while high in the Dolomites,
the chic town of Cortina d’Ampezzo is probably
Italy’s best-known ski resort. The Winter Olympics
were held here in 1956. It makes a fine base for exploring and climbing
the Dolomites in summer.
Venice (Venezia) stands on a series of islands in a lagoon at the
northern end of the Adriatic Sea, a position which gave it unique
economic and defensive advantages over its trading rivals. Much
of the wealth generated was, of course, invested in the construction
of monuments to the glory of both God and the merchants, and Venice
must be counted as one of the highlights of any tour of Italy.
The city’s main monuments include, St Mark’s
Basilica and the Doge’s Palace overlooking
St Mark’s Square, have gained fame through
innumerable paintings by such artists as Canaletto,
but the whole city is in many ways a work of art.
The city’s most important thoroughfare is the Grand
Canal, lined with fine Gothic and Renaissance palazzi and
crossed by the bustling Ponte di Rialto (Rialto
Bridge) and the wooden Ponte dell’Accademia
(Academy Bridge). Nearby, the Galleria dell’Accademia
displays hundreds of Venetian paintings dating from between the
14th and 18th centuries, while the Collezione Peggy Guggenheim
exhibits international 20th-century art including works by Picasso,
Giacometti and Ernst.
Away from the main thoroughfares, Venice is characterised by narrow
canals, small squares and above all, since it contains no motor
traffic, by serenity, the city’s ancient name was La
The Venetian islands of Burano, Murano
and Torcello (noted for the magnificent Byzantine
Basilica of Santa Maria Assunta) can be visited by boat.
The city is linked to Mestre on the mainland,
by a causeway which can be crossed by road or rail. Although there
is a large car park in Venice, at the end of the causeway, it is
easier and much cheaper to park in Mestre and continue by train.
The city of Padua (Padova) is famous for the great, seven-domed
13th-century Basilica of St Anthony. St Anthony
was buried here and it is an important pilgrimage site. Inside,
the bronzes on the main altar are by Donatello,
as is the equestrian statue in front of the entrance.
Padua’s other main attraction is the tiny Scrovegni
Chapel, decorated with a stunning cycle of 14th-century
biblical frescoes by Giotto. Padua’s other
delights include Prato della Valle, a vast square
with a central green space, and also the Orto Botanico,
botanical gardens dating back to 1545, making it the oldest place
of its kind in Europe.
Dating back to Roman times, Vicenza is well known for the 16th-century
works of Andrea Palladio, whose published analyses of ancient architecture
did much to spread the Renaissance throughout Europe. His buildings
here include the monumental Basilica Palladiana,
the Teatro Olimpico with its brilliantly painted
stage-set, and the Palazzo Chiericati, home to
the Museo Civico. A short distance out of town
stands one of Palladio’s finest villas, La Rotonda,
a model of Renaissance architecture, based on a square plan with
four identical façades.
This graceful city was built on the banks of the River Adige,
Verona was the setting of Shakespeare’s Romeo and
Juliet. The Casa di Giulietta (Juliet’s
House), a small Medieval home with a balcony and courtyard, attracts
thousands of visitors each year.
A further attraction is the well-preserved Roman Arena,
built in AD 290 and able to accommodate over 20,000 spectators.
An opera festival, with open-air night-time performances, is staged
here during the summer. The 14th-century red brick Castelvecchio
next to the river, houses an extensive art museum, with important
Renaissance paintings and sculpture from northern Italy. The city’s
most noted church is the lovely Romanesque San Zeno.
Riviera Del Brenta
During the 16th century, the banks of this waterway linking Venice
and Padua became a popular place for aristocrats
and wealthy merchants to build their country villas. From March
to October, daily boat trips run from Venice to Padua, with stops
en route to admire several of the villas, such as Villa
Foscari at Malcontenta, designed by Palladio, and the 18th-century
Villa Pisani at Stra.