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The magic of Venice 

Bergamo Brescia - Lake Garda -  Mantua Verona -  Vicenza Venice

 

Leaving Milan we reach

Bergamo,        

 

where we can visit the mediaeval upper city with the imposing church of S. Agostino, Piazza Vecchia with the Gothic Palazzo della Ragione, and the matchless Piazza del Duomo. Built in widely differ­ing styles stand the Renaissance Colleoni Chapel, built by Amadeo for the Venetian condottiere Bar­tolomeo Colleoni, the Baptistery, and S. Maria Maggiore which was begun in die 12th c. and only completed in the 16th. The Accademia Carrara houses one of Italy's leading art collections. After Bergamo we will drive towards Lake Iseo, via Lake Endine, Lovere and Pisogne. Traveling eastwards we reach

 

 

Brescia,           

 

to see the famous Piazza della Loggia with its Renaissance 'Loggia' — the former city hall built by Sansovino and Palladio — and the Torre dell'Orologio tower, Piazza Duomo and the mediaeval Broletto, the Torre del Popolo and the Romanesque Rotonda church. Brescia still treas­ures die ruins of the Capitoline temple built by Vespasian, bearing witness to its Roman past. Nearby is the Roman Museum with the 1st c. bronze Winged Victory. The 'Pinacoteca Tosio Martinengo' is well worth a visit. Let us stroll up to the Castle and enjoy the amazing view of the Alps.Not far away is

 

 

Lake Garda:           

 

around its shores are some of Italy's best-known holiday resorts belong­ing to three provinces in three different administra­tive regions: Desenzano, Salò, Gardone, Riva, Malcesine, Garda and the spa resort of Sirmione which Catullus, the Latin poet, loved so much, with its Roman ruins and imposing 12th c. Castle. Passing through Peschiera, we will now make our way to

 

 

Mantua,           

 

the city of Virgil, ruled for two centuries by the Gonzaga family. The mediaeval Piazza Sordello stands at the heart of the city, with the Ducal Palace, and the Gonzagas' Palace, one of the largest and sumptuous in Europe (13th-18th c.). As you walk through the succession of halls, courtyards, cor­ridors and hidden gardens, you can still sense the former gaiety of the princely court where opera was fathered by Claudio Monteverdi, and view the artis­tic treasures. The famous 'Camera degli Sposi' was frescoed by Andrea Mantegna. But the city has so many other treasures: its cathedral, Piazza delle Erbe, Palazzo della Ragione, the 13 th c. Palazzo Broletto, the Romanesque Church of S. Lorenzo, the Basilica of S. Andrea — a masterpiece of Renais­sance architecture designed by Alberti, the Palazzo del Te (the Gonzagas' villa, designed and decorated by Giulio Romano), and the Accademia Virgiliana with its 18th c. Teatro Scientifico designed by Bib­biena. The next stop is

 

 

Verona,           

 

one of Italy's most fascinating cities lying in a delightful natural sett­ing, and endowed with a wide variety of monuments and historic buildings, where the annual 'Estate Veronese' festival is held. We can begin by visiting Piazza Bra, with its Roman Arena, second only to the Colosseum in Rome, where the summer Opera festival is staged. Castelvecchio, built in the 14th c. by Cangrande della Scala, is now the Municipal Art Museum (paintings of the Venetian school from the 14th to the 18th c., wrought gold, enamels, minia­tures and sculptures). There are many churches that are well worth visiting: S. Zeno Maggiore, one of Italy's Romanesque masterpieces (the west doorway was built in 1138, bronze door, frescoes, sculptures, and a superb tryptych by Mantegna); the Gothic Church of S. Anastasia, with frescoes by Altichiero and Pisanello; S. Fermo Maggiore, S. Lorenzo, the Romanesque Cathedral, and so many more. Let us not forget Piazza dei Signori — a mediaeval and Renaissance square with Palazzo della Ragione and the Loggia, near the Arche Scaligere, where the della Scala family is buried. Or Piazza delle Erbe, with its typical market. No-one can leave without going on a pilgrimage to the places associated with Juliet Capuleti (her home, tomb) whom Shakespeare made famous in one of the most moving tragedies of love ever written. Other monuments include the Roman Theatre, the Archaeological Museum, the Ponte Pietra bridge, and the many city gates.

 

 

Vicenza           

 

is 50 kms away, and today it still looks very much as it was in Renais­sance times, with so many buildings designed by the great architect Palladio. Corso Palladio runs through the centre of the city from end to end, flanked by one fine historic building after another. The buildings at Contra' Porti are equally impres­sive. Then there is the Gothic Palazzo da Schio, Palazzo Colleoni-Porto, Casa Trissino, Casa Porto and Palazzo Thiene. The Renaissance set its glo­rious seal on the city with the Basilica and the Log­gia del Capitanio in Piazza dei Signori, the Teatro Olimpico, and Palazzo Chiericati — all works by Palladio. Palazzo Chiericati houses the Municipal Museum (archaeology, paintings, particularly by Venetian artists, and major works by Memling and Van Dyck). The Gothic cathedral, the churches of S. Lorenzo and the Santa Corona, and a number of noteworthy minor churches and palaces complete this short description of the city, as well as the beauty spots and sites that we might visit just out­side the town, if we have time: the Basilica of Monte Berico, the 17th c. Villa Valmarana frescoed by Tiepolo, Villa Capra, Palladio's masterpiece known as the 'Rotonda', and Villa Caldogno. We now make our way to mediaeval Treviso, with its pic­turesque canals, via the 13th-14th c. walled town of Cittadella, and Castelfranco where Giorgione was born (in the cathedral is his famous youthfull Madonna). In Treviso, we should try to visit the Gothic church of S. Nicolò, the 'Pinacoteca' Art Gallery, Piazza dei Signori, palazzo dei Trecento (1217), the Loggia dei Cavalieri, the cathedral, and the interesting Museo della Casa Trevigiana. From Treviso we can make a brief visit to Maser, to see Palladio's splendid Villa Barbaro (now called Villa Volpi) built in 1560, with frescoes by Veronese. It is only 20 kms now to

 

 

Venice.           

 

After crossing the industrial town of Mestre, she emerges little by little in all her splendour. S. Mark's Square is the best place to start, "the most splendid drawing-room in Europe", as Napoleon called it. There are two routes that we can take to see at least the most essential treasures of this uniquely beautiful city, (which was founded in the 5th c, and grew in impor­tance as trade increased between the East and the West, later becoming the 'Serenissima' Maritime Republic, the 'queen' of the Adriatic, which re­mained independent until the dawn of the 19th cen­tury) . Greek, mediaeval, Byzantine, Tuscan, Lom­bard and Venetian art have all left their indelible mark on S. Mark's Basilica. Nearby is the Ducal Palace built in flamboyant Venetian Gothic style. Inside is the most fairy-tale like public residence of all times a shrine of Venetian painting, with works by Carpaccio, Bellini, Tiepolo, Veronese, Bassano and Titian. From the adjacent square on the quayside you can look out to the Island of S. Giorgio Maggiore (church by Palladio and Scamozzi), the Lido, the Riva degli Schiavoni and Punta della Dogana with the Basilica della Salute. Other treasures around the square are the Libreria which houses the Biblioteca Marciana library, the Procuratie (built for the Venetian government), the Clocktower with the statues of the Moors, the Museo Correr (works by Antonello da Messina, Carpaccio and other great masters). Cross the Grand Canal to the Basilica della Salute, Longhena's 18th c. masterpiece. After a few more bridges, walking along the narrow Venetian streets, we come to the Galleria dell'Accademia, one of Italy's lead­ing museums (works by all the great Venetian 14th-18th c. artists, Mantegna, Piero della Francesca, etc.). After this we can see one delight after the other: Palazzo Rezzonico (18th c. Venetian Art Gallery), the picturesque Campo Santa Margherita square, the Scuola di San Rocco with its huge halls decorated with a magnificent cycle of paintings by Tintoretto. Just after the Gothic church of S. Maria Gloriosa dei Frari (inside is Titian's 'Assumption') we reach the ancient church of S. Giacomo di Rialto and the famous Rialto Bridge, with its small shops and awe-inspiring view of the Grand Canal.The second walk takes us from S. Mark's to the romantic Bridge of Sighs, the church of S. Zaccaria — a masterpiece of Venetian Renaissance architec­ture the chapel of S. Maria Formosa in the square of the same name, where we can visit the interesting Pinacoteca Querini Stampalia. And so we come to the Scuola di S. Giorgio degli Schiavoni, famed for its paintings by Carpaccio (1502-1511), and then the grandiose Gothic church of SS. Giovanni e Paolo (13th-15th c.), with its important collection of monuments and paintings. In the centre of the square is the majestic equestrian statue of Colleoni, by Verrocchio. Heading towards the Grand Canal, we come across the early Venetian Renaissance church of S. Maria dei Miracoli, decorated with coloured marble, and then the miracle of Venetian Gothic, Ca' d'Oro, which houses the Galleria Franchetti. After this stands Palazzo Vendramin-Calergi, where Wagner died, and Palazzo Labia (frescoed by Tiepolo, and used for concerts and recitals). If we had more time we could spend days in the palaces, museums and churches feasting our eyes on the marvels of Venice: visiting the Belltower of S. Mark's, the Archaeological Museum, the La Fenice Theatre, Palazzo Foscari, Palazzo Corner, Palazzo Pesaro, Palazzo Pisani and Palazzo Grimani, the 'Bovolo' staircase, the churches of S. Sebastiano (with a cycle of superb paintings by Veronese), S. Rocco, the 'Redentore', and the Madonna dell'Or­to. But however long we spent here, we shall still go away feeling that we have missed so much of the atmosphere that no other city can create. On foot, by gondola, or on the busboat, the visitor can return time and time again, and rediscover the fairy tale beauty of this Western Byzantium, this unique, re­gal city, that draws people from all over the world for conferences, festivals, exhibitions and traditional arts and crafts. We cannot leave without a boat trip to Burano, the island where lace is still made, Murano, the island of traditional Venetian glassmaking, and the enchanting island of Torcello (Romanesque cathedral and Church of S. Fosca).

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