Located in the north of Italy about 60 kilometres west of Venice and 200 kilometres east of Milan, Vicenza is the third-largest Italian industrial centre, as measured by the value of its exports, and is responsible for about one fifth of the country's gold and jewellery production.
Tracing its history back more than 2000 years, it was declared a Roman "municipium" in the year 49 B.C., and evidence of that period are still visible in the Criptoportico, mosaic floors, bridges, the Lobia aqueduct and the Berga theatre.
The town became a free Commune in 1164; but later it fell under the rule of the Da Carrara family of Padua, the La Scala family of Verona and the Visconti family of Milan. But it was under the rule of the Serene Republic of Venice that Vicenza acquired that unmistakable appearance that earned it the name of "Mainland Venice."
It was during that time that occurred a period of construction with which Vicenza has ever since been associated.
The individual responsible was Andrea Palladio (1508-1580), who today is widely considered as one of the most influential individuals in the history of Western architecture.
All of his buildings are located in what was the Venetian Republic, and his architectural treatise I Quattro Libri dell'Architettura (The Four Books of Architecture), is considered a foundation stone of the discipline. It is in his honour that the city of Vicenza and the Palladian Villas of the Veneto were declared UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 1994.
Vicenza was occupied by the armies of Napoleon Bonaparte in 1796, and handed over to the Emperor of Austria under the Treaty of Campoformio a year later. It became part of the Italian Kingdom from 1806 to 1813, but then was returned to the Austrians after the fall the French emperor. It was only in November 1866 that the town was united with the Kingdom of Italy.
Vicenza greets million of visitors each year, many of who travel to see the 23 building of Palladio still standing. Among the most famous are the Villa Almerico Capra, which also is known as "La Rotonda;" the Basilica Palladiana, located in Vicenza's Piazza dei Signori; and the Teatro Olimpico.
Other famous sites include the Cathedral of Vicenza, which dates back to the early 11th Century; the Church of Araceli (1244), designed by by Guarino Guarini; the Churches of the Carmini and St. Catherine ;the Torre Bissara (clock tower),which at 82 metres in height is one of Vicenza’s tallest buildings; and the Biblioteca Civica Bertoliana, a public library founded by Count Giovanni M. Bertolo and opened 1708.