The complete and fully documented Guide for exploring the city of Palladio and is province.
Vicenza and Province by G. Conton. Translation by P. Knipe. Photographs: Archivio Medoacus – Foto Gabbana – Banca Popolare di Vicenza Intesa-San Paolo – P. Berati – Ristorante Villa Aeolia – N. Coco – Pro Loco Marostica – M. Oselladore. Cartography: M. Rigo B. Borella.
Copyright © Medoacus 2011 | Copyright Digital Edition 2012 © LA CASE Books. All rights reserved world-wide, including the right of reproduction of the text or illustrations in whole or in part in any form, including electronic reproduction.
The History of Vicenza
The first settlements on the plain of Vicenza date from 2000 BC and were made by the Euganei, who had colonized a large area east of the Po Valley, advancing as far as to Lake Iseo. In 800 BC the Veneti, an Indo-European population from the Illyrian plain, burst into the Po Valley, forcing the Euganei to retire to the foothills of the Alps. Over the following centuries the Veneti repeatedly came into contact with Celtic peoples represented by Gallic tribes who in the meantime had established small villages within the region.
After the Second Punic War and the conquest of Illyria by the Roman legions in 177 BC, the major Veneti settlements were spontaneously ceded to Roman domination, becoming part of the province called Cisalpine Gaul. The local populations quickly – and smoothly – integrated with the Latin culture. The small village of Vicetia grew increasingly, especially thanks to its favourable location. Over the centuries the city was embellished with villas and temples and in 49 BC achieved the status of Municipium, thanks to which its inhabitants enjoyed Roman citizenship.
The Middle Ages
The town flourished, sharing in the fortunes of the Roman Empire, but eventually came to be repeatedly sacked and ravaged by hordes of Germanic peoples. Vicenza felt the fully fury of these various invaders who again and again descended from across the Alps to devastate the city. After being conquered by the Lombards in 568 AD and the subsequent creation of an independent Duchy, the city enjoyed a period of peace during which the invaders merged with the local population.
Benedictine convents were founded nearby and began the reclamation of the wide marshlands bordering the city. The Lombards were succeeded by Charlemagne’s Franks, who descended into Italy in 773 by special request of Pope Adriano I. Vicenza, like other territories dominated by the Lombards, then became part ofthe Holy Roman Empire, and the territory was placed under the control of the newly-founded March of Friuli.
At the end of the 9th century the city was repeatedly ravaged by the Magyars, a Sarmatic population that had settled on the Hungarian plain and who sowed terror in the Po Valley for nearly a century, until defeated by Otto I. The partial stabilisation of the situation and the revival of the Holy Roman Empire led to a prolonged period of peace and prosperity. In 1001 Vicenza became the seat of a Bishopric, its ruler appointed by the Empire and his authority restricted to the surrounding areas.
Mindful, however, of the independence enjoyed during the period of Roman and then Lombard domination, in 1100 Vicentine citizens rebelled against the power of the Lord Bishop, who was then obliged to cede the government to lay bodies who then, by decree, established a municipality. During the 12th century the city saw its municipal institutions decline in favour of government by lordships, the first controlled by the Ezzelini family and then by the Lords of Padua.
Vicenza remained under Paduan rule until 1310, when Cangrande I della Scala (or Scaliger) entered the city in the name of Emperor Henry VII. The Scaliger dominion led to a long period of peace and prosperity; the city grew and trade boomed.
The Republic of Venice era
The Scaliger governed until 1387 when Vicenza came under the dominion of the Visconti, Lords of Milan and a large part of Lombardy. The Lombards were always poorly regarded by the city, which in 1404 willingly surrendered its sovereignty to the Republic of Venice. Until the fall of the Venetian Republic in 1797, Vicenza followed the fortunes of the lagoon city, enjoying a period of notable economic and civil development.
At the end of the 15th and especially in the following century grandiose palaces and monuments sprang up. Andrea Palladio (1508-1580), Vicentine by adoption, drew up plans for splendid palaces for the more important local families, contributing remarkably to the changes in the city’s semblance.
At the fall of the Venetian Republic, the town passed first into Austrian hands, then French, then experienced a period of slow decline caused by the stagnation of the city’s various productive activities.
From the Modern Period to the present day
The uprisings of 1848 also reached the city and it rebelled against the Hapsburg oppressor; the rebellion was quickly crushed by Marshal Radetsky who threatened to cause heavy damage to the houses. After the defeat of the Hapsburg troops during the third Italian War of Independence, Vicenza became part of the Kingdom of Italy.
The first world war spared the city centre, but the heights of Vicenza were involved and became the scene of bloody battles decisive for the outcome of the conflict. The Second World War saw Vicenza heavily hit by Allied forces in March 1945; the bombardment caused the death of many civilians and damaged various buildings, especially in the historic city centre.
Once the war damage had been repaired, the province and the whole Veneto enjoyed a period of strong economic growth that continues to this day. Particularly dynamic is the textile and clothing sector in the Alto Vicentino, and the goldsmith industry that attracts international investors to the city.