Monte Berico, Vicenza
It is said Madonna appeared on this hill twice in 1426 & 1428. The first church was built as a promise to Blessed Virgin who was to have rid the city of the plague, which became a sanctuary. The basilica was designed by architect CArlo Borrello in 1688. It was a plan modeled on the Rotundsa. The Madonna was sculpted by Nicolo da Venezia in 1430. Over the years the basilica has been restored, one by Palladio. The three large stair entries have beautiful statues.
The church inside is fabulous and colorful gold hues, and much marble. A stairway constructed in 1595 leads up the hill to a small opening.
Many tour buses park at the lot, and take a quick view of the church. Avoid that during those times, if possible. They also obfuscate the view of the valley below.
War Museum-This great museum holds artifacts form World War I and WWII. You climb the stairs of Villa Guiccioli, a building constructed in 1700's. The villa was a strong defense area during the Italiano struggle for freedom/democracy in 1848, that lasted until 1863. There is a large garden area to walk through and many paths that go back toward the Monte Berico and La Rotunda.
The museum is a fantastic display of the Italiano struggle throughout the war, focusing on WWI and WWII for the armaments; swords, and guns, and bombs. Many pictorals also explain the people and the times of war. Self guided tour is at least one hour, maybe two hours. Ticket is Euro 3, but we got with the Vicenza multi entry tour card.
A wonderful overview of the city from these small hills. The main feature at the peak of the overlook is the Shrine of Our Lady of Monte Berico. This is a fabulous church on the inside and the arched walkway that leads into the church and parking area is wonderful. It extends for about 200 steps to the top from the road at bottom of the area. You can see the arched stair entry with its region symbol of the lion, all designed by Palladio.
In the area also is La Rotunda (Villa Almerico-Capra) and Valmarana Nani, both Palladio built pallazzi. Past the Sancturary Berico and up the hill is Museo Risorginmento, a commemoration to the soldiers of the Italian army throughout the wars. It is a great place to see the cannon and armaments.
For Vicenza’s most stunning 360-degree views and some good exercise, hike up the ancient volcanic plug called Monte Berico. The mountain – well, hill – presides over town’s south side, with an imposing baroque basilica marking a consecrated site where images of the Virgin Mary once appeared
The walk uphill begins at the Arco delle Scalette, a Roman-inspired triumphal arch designed by architect Palladio, but completed by others after his death (photo #2). From here, a classic stairway (1595) ascends the hill – be prepared for 235 steps. The walk to the top takes about 10-20 minutes.
Once on top, the views look across the city, with many Palladian buildings that you can pick out with binoculars. Directly downhill are some lavish villas, typical of the outskirts of Vicenza (photo #3). On your left, you will pass the still-active Carmelite nunnery. Continuing along Viale X Giugno is very pleasant, with a long colonnade of 150 archways that offers relief from the sun on a hot day (photo #4).
At the apex of the hill is the stunning basilica, the Santuario de Monte Berico (photo #5). This magnificent 1703 edifice of baroque architecture has an interior whose every surface is covered with a wealth of Corinthian columns, sculptural details, frescos, paintings, and statuary. The centerpiece is the baroque statue by Nicolo de Venezia of the Virgin, whose image was seen on this spot during the plague of 1426-28, and who inspired the construction of an earlier Gothic church (thus erasing the plague successfully after two intensive construction efforts). At noon, there is usually a quiet service of chanting, and it’s eerie to sit in the back and listen.
Nearby is a park for wandering, and El Pellegrino Restaurant, where all those calories you burned walking uphill can now be expended without guilt on a delicious pizza (Tip to come).
One can continue further around the hillside to Palladio’s masterpiece, Villa Rotunda, but be forewarned that it has very limited opening hours (Wednesdays only).
For a great view of the city (and dolomites on a clear day) head up the hill to the pilgrimage church/shrine of Monte Berico. It is about 1 mile up the hill behind the train station; if walking, you'll at least be shaded by a unique collonade, built for pilgrims heading to the church, that covers most of the walking.
Inside the church you'll find some nice art including The supper of St. Gregory the Great by Paolo Veronese, and a Pieta by Montagna; the former having been used as bayonete practice by occupying Austrian troops in 1848. It has since been painstakingly restored.
Take in the view that surrounds the parking lot (see photo 3), there's a park up here, and if you're hungry, I have'nt had a bad meal at either of the 2 restaurants located at the top of the hill (see restaurant recommendations).
From here, you are close to "La Rotonda" and Villa Valmarana.
Legend has it that the Virgin Mary appeared to a young girl on the Mount Berico. To consecrate this occurance, the Vicentini built a church on the site, now simply called "Monte Berico."
This building also houses an active convent. The overlook from Monte Berico gives a view of downtown Vicenza.