Vicenza is a city in northern Italy, is the capital of the eponymous province in the Veneto region, at the northern base of the Monte Berico, straddling the Bacchiglione. Vicenza is approximately 60 km west of Venice and 200 km east of Milan. As of 2007 Vicenza had an estimated population of 119,038.
Vicentia was settled by the Italic Euganei and the Palaeo-Veneti in the 2nd-3rd century BC, from whom it was taken by the Gauls. The Romans conquered it to the latter in 157 BC, giving the city the name of Vicetia or Vincentia ("victorious"). The Vicentini received the Roman citizenship in 49 BC. The city had some importance as a hub on the important road from Mediolanum to Aquileia], but was overshadowed by its neighbor Patavium (Padua). Little survives of the Roman city, but three of the bridges across the Bacchiglione and Retrone rivers are of Roman origin, and isolated arches of a Roman aqueduct exist outside Porta Santa Croce. During the decline of the Western Roman Empire, Heruls, Vandals, Alaric and Huns laid the area to waste, but the city recovered after the Ostrogoth conquest in 489. It was also an important Lombard and then Frank centre. Numerous Benedictine monasteries were built in Vicenza area, which, in particular, dried the lake that once was located north of Vicenza.
In 899 Vicenza was destroyed by Magyar raiders. In 1001 Otto III handed over the government of the city to the bishop, and its communal organization had an opportunity to develop, separating soon from the episcopal authority. It took an active part in the League with Verona and, most of all, in the Lombard League (1164-1167) against Emperor Frederick I Barbarossa compelling Padua and Treviso to join: its podestà, Ezzelino II il Balbo, was captain of the league. When peace was restored, however, the old rivalry with Padua, Bassano, and other cities was renewed, besides which there were the internal factions of the Vivaresi (Ghibellines) and the Maltraversi (Guelphs).
The tyrannical Ezzelino III drove the Guelphs out of Vicenza, and caused his brother, Alberico, to be elected podestà (1230). The independent commune joined the Second Lombard League against Emperor Frederick II, and was sacked by that monarch (1237), after which it was annexed to Ezzelino's dominions. On his death the old oligarchic republic political structure was restored -a consiglio maggiore ("grand council") of four hundred members and aconsiglio minore ("small council") of forty members - and it formed a league with Padua, Treviso and Verona. Three years later the Vicentines entrusted the protection of the city to Padua, so as to safeguard republican liberty; but this protectorate (custodia) quickly became dominion, and for that reason Vicenza in 1311 submitted to the Scaligeri lords of Verona, who fortified it against the Visconti of Milan. Vicenza came under rule of Venice in 1404, and its subsequent history is that of Venice. It was besieged by the Emperor Sigismund, and Maximilian I held possession of it in 1509 and 1516.
Vicenza was a candidate to host the Council of Trento. The 16th century was the time of Andrea Palladio, who left many outstanding examples of his art with palaces and villas in the city's territory. After 1797, under Napoleonic rule, it was made a duché grand-fief (not a grand duchy, but a hereditary (extinguished in 1896), nominal duchy, a rare honor reserved for French officials) within Bonaparte's personal Kingdom of Italy for general Caulaincourt, also imperial Grand-Écuyer. After 1814, Vicenza passed to the Austrian Empire. In 1848, however, the people rose against Austria, but was recovered after a stubborn resistance. As a part of the Kingdom of Lombardy-Venetia, it was annexed to Italy after the 3rd war of Italian independence. Vicenza's area was a location of fights in both World War I and World War II. After the end of the latter, strong economic development made it one of the richest cities in Italy. Vicenza is home to the United States Army post Caserma Ederle (Camp Ederle), also known as the U.S. Army Garrison Vicenza. In 1965, Caserma Ederle became the headquarters for the Southern European Task Force, and today is the central U.S. military installation in Southern Europe. In January 2006 the European Gendarmerie Force was inaugurated in Vicenza. It has been included in the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites since 1994.
The splendour of Vicenza lies in the theatricality of its works by its celebrated adopted son, Andrea Palladio. The sensual colours of the Berici Hills act as the backdrop.
When you say Vicenza, you think of Palladio, of his whimsical architecture, the new Renaissance artistic language, and the researched spectacle.
The Venetian established themselves in this city, at the bottom of the Berici Hills. It then became an important Roman town with the name, Vicetia. However the greatest period of splendour was over three centuries of Venetian rule, when the city was enriched with precious architectural works and it became of the main artistic centres in Veneto, and indeed Italy.
It is the Palladian city for autonomism, the stage on which the genius of the young Paduan architect, Andrea di Pietro della Gondola, named il Palladio, exhibited his work. The grand master, gifted with a highly modern sensibility, invented a completely personal style that stupefies whereby ancient, classic architectural elements are recombined and transferred into a private context. Using modest materials, to give birth to a "black and white city, with the tones of copper-etching" as written by Guido Piovene.
His most celebrated construction dominated the central Piazza dei Signori, being the most symbolic building of the city: the Palladian Basilica, a medieval construction that was restructured by the architect in 1500, giving it double order with a portico and loggia. He also gave his signature to other buildings such as the Loggia del Capitanio, Palazzo Barbaran da Porto, Palazzo Chiericati, home of the Civic Museum, Palazzo Valmarana, the Loggetta Palladiana, and the Olympic Theatre, an example of fixed scenery, conceived by Palladio and realized by Vincenzo Scamozzi.
Vicenza is also a gentle town, outlined by the Berici Hills. A short distance from the town centre, there is the Basilica di Monte Berico on the hilltop, whose interiors preserve the Cena di S. Gregorio Magno, one of the greatest works by Paolo Veronese.
At the entrance to the city, there is the Villa Almerico Capra, known as La Rotonda, regarded as a masterpiece of Andrea Palladio, of which Goethe wrote that "never in the art of architecture has there been achieved this level of magnificence".