Vicenza is an easy day trip from Venice. But the small sophisticated city also a destination in itself.

On a recent, nearly perfect day in Vicenza, we started outside the city’s center with a 10 a.m. visit to Villavalmarana ai Nani, one of the area’s many villas that open to the public for just few hours on designated days; be sure to check the schedule before you go.

Graceful villa and garden in Vicenza, Italy

Villa Valmarana (Photo Philadelphia Traveling Mom Sarah Ricks)

This country mansion has a graceful and simple exterior, inviting grounds, and a lovely garden, with a wall topped – surprisingly – by statues of dwarves. The walls of the Villa’s spectacular interior are covered with dramatic frescoes by the Tiepolos on classical themes. If your walk around the Villa leaves you thirsty, stop by the little outdoor café, and drink in the rolling rural view.

Spending a day in Vicenza, Italy

A brisk walk down the road is the Villa La Rotonda, designed by the architect Palladio. Even if you have never seen the Villa, it might look familiar from seeing buildings inspired by Palladio, like Thomas Jefferson’s house Monticello. Or the many government buildings, libraries, or banks that were similarly inspired. The Villa La Rotonda is designed to create opportunities to appreciate the country view, whether from the soaring windows inside, or from stopping places on the formal exterior, grounds, or rose garden.

Palladian villa in Vicenza, Italy

Path to Villa La Rotonda (Photo Philadelphia Traveling Mom Sarah Ricks)

Lunch at a Welcoming B & B and Working Farm

By contrast to the regal formality of Villa La Rotunda, just down the road is the homey, welcoming La Valletta Bed & Breakfast, a working farm that serves lunch and dinner by reservation. You might even pet the adorable goats who cheerfully greet visitors and sniff to check for snacks. We ate al fresco, on the covered loggia with farm fields just beyond. La Valletta’s spaghetti with truffle oil, made with truffles picked on the farm, may have been the pasta dish I’ve ever tasted. The homemade vanilla ice cream with crushed fresh raspberries was a perfect finish to a slow and delicious meal, eaten in the warm sunshine. Even without sipping the local wine at lunch, I was ready for a nap, and wished we’d booked a room at the B & B.

So Much More to Do in Vicenza

But after lunch we pressed on to see more of Vicenza, the City of Palladio. That afternoon, we returned to the center of Vicenza to tour the visually stunning theater that also was designed by Palladio. The Teatro Olimpico resembles a Roman amphitheater – but with a roof, an elaborate architectural stage set that creates the illusion of deep streetscapes, and a beautiful ceiling painted as a partly sunny sky. Check out the photo of the stage area of Teatro Olimpico, below.

We wound up our day in Vicenza by strolling the streets to people watch, stopping to admire architecture (by Palladio and many others), and to appreciate the gorgeous quality of light. My teenaged daughter and I enjoyed Vicenza as an easy day trip, but next time I’d like to carve out time to more fully explore this gem of city- renting a car is a great way to zip around the city and save time!

A nearly perfect travel day in Vicenza, Italy

Ideas for a Perfect Day in Vicenza, Italy (Photo Philadelphia Traveling Mom Sarah Ricks)

More About Italy

You can find practical tips for first time travel to Italy, here. For why your kids would enjoy Pompeii, Italy, look here. And for why Sardinia, Italy is fun even off-season, when it is too chilly to swim, look here.

What would a perfect travel day be for you or your family? Tell us about it in the comments.