A short walk from the centre of Vicenza, Monte Berico is one of the range of hills to the south of the city. Combined with a visit to the nearby La Rotonda, it makes an ideal day out from the city. Walk up the hill through the shady arcade, visit the Sanctuary of Monte Berico, and then stop at the Villa Valmarana ai Nani, a house with a legend attached…
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The Portici Of Monte Berico
I came across the portici of Monte Berico by chance. I’ve never seen them mentioned in any guidebook and there were no other tourists (or anyone else, for that matter) about. But this 700m covered arcade is a spectacular walk to the top of Monte Berico, and it provides welcome shade on a hot day.
Designed by Francesco Muttoni in the 18th century, the arcade was built to take worshippers to the Sanctuary of Santa Maria di Monte Berico at the very top of the hill. It has 150 arches, with a small chapel after every 10th arch.
The Sanctuary Of Monte Berico
Those who make it to the top can explore the magnificent Sanctuary. According to legend, the Sanctuary was built in the 15th century after the Virgin Mary appeared on the top of the hill and promised that she would rid Vicenza of the plague if the people built a church on top of the hill. The church was built, and the plague came to an end.
Villa Valmarana Ai Nani And The Legend Of The Dwarves
It is a short walk from the Basilica to the Villa Valmarana ai Nani (Villa of the Dwarves). The first thing you will notice as you approach is the stone dwarves (nani) lined up on the walls outside. And of course there is a legend associated with them…
The story is that a daughter of the house was affected by dwarfism and, so that she would not feel different, the family only employed dwarves as servants. But one day a handsome prince climbed over the wall and, seeing how different he was from herself, the young girl became aware of her condition for the first time. In her despair she threw herself off the wall and the dwarves turned to stone in grief. They remain there to this day, guarding the soul of their mistress.
The villa is still owned by the Valmarana family but is open to the public. Unfortunately it was closed when I was there but the gardens and the interior, with its frescoes by Tiepolo are said to be well worth a visit.