Local boy makes good

Born in nearby Padova, Andrea Palladio, widely considered to be the most influential individual in the history of architecture, spent most of his life and his career in Vicenza. We made a pilgrimage there today to honor him.

Beloved of our country’s founding fathers (particularly Thomas Jefferson), builders of English manor homes, and developers of McMansions, Palladio, thanks to several insightful patrons, began to develop his own architectural style around 1541. It adhered to classical Roman principles he rediscovered, applied, and explained in his works.

There are 22 buildings in Vicenza that are on the Palladio tour. Some were definitely built by him, some were probably built by him, and several are considered to be buildings he might have built if he had just thought about it. You get the drift. This is his town and it is a very lovely one.

Of all the Palladio treasures, we were most overwhelmed by the Olympic Theater, his last work. We have often seen images of this stage, with a set modelled on the ancient city of Thebes that was completed by another designer after Palladio’s death. This one really is astonishing – and is still in use.

Other buildings that decorate the town include palazzi, a chapel, and the lovely basilica shown on top, which is not a church.

Palladio’s impact on this town was enormous, but his style traveled far beyond Vicenza. Just look at the back of our nickel, or at the key buildings in Washington. Those guys knew an impressive architectural style when they saw it.

Other parts of Vicenza were also worthy of our admiration. No, it doesn’t beat Verona, but it is a lovely city.

Don’s Food Corner

We resolved today not to just drop in at any old restaurant but to search out something special.  Happily, the place with multiple recommendations had an outdoor area overlooking a a handsome, but largely empty, piazza. And weather couldn’t have been more pleasant.

Supposedly the restaurant specializes in using fresh ingredients of the season.  That turned out to be accurate and we tried to order accordingly.

I started with an asparagus flan, light and creamy and on a bed of whipped ricotta with Parmesan.  Little white asparagus spears decorated the edge of the dish.  Having seen the luscious asparagus in the markets, it was great to sample some prepared.

Jo had a bowl of soup made from fresh spring peas with roasted rounds of goat cheese floating on top.  Again, the freshness of the peas gave a burst of spring flavor.

Next, we both had pasta dishes.  I had fresh fettuccine with a sauce that featured saffron, salt cod, the tiniest and sweetest cherry tomatoes I think I’ve ever had.  For some reason, salt cod features prominently in this region, as, I think, it does in Venetian cooking.  Since cod is not a fish that can be caught locally, I assume it entered the regional cuisine because of some type of trade-route history.  (I’ll have to look into this.)

Jo tried thick spaghetti topped with duck ragu.  Gamey, but an interesting twist on the classic ragu of the region.  Like others we’ve had, this one was obviously of the “slow food” school.

A very nice bottle of local Merlot tied it all together.  A lovely lunch to go along with this lovely city.

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