Teatro Olimpico – Vicenza, Veneto, Italy

Palladio’s Masterpiece of Scale, Perspective, and Trompe I’Oeil

Vicenza is the hometown of Andrea di Pietro della Gondola, or Andrea Palladio, who helped define Western architecture, and of his last and possibly greatest work, the Teatro Olimpico.

Begun in 1580, the year of his death, and completed five years later by his student Vicenzo Scamozzi, the Teatro Olimpico was inspired by the theaters of antiquity, with a backdrop representing ancient Thebes.

Cunningly designed trompe l’oeil makes the stage appear far deeper than its actual 14 feet. The first theatrical production here took place in 1585, and plays are still performed today. Before arriving at the Teatro Olimpico, a walk along the length of Corso Palladio leaves no doubt that its namesake was the greatest architect of the High Renaissance.

He designed two churches in Venice and a number of coun­try villas on the outskirts of Vicenza (his most famous, Villa la Rotonda, is a substantial but enjoyable walk from the city center) and along the Veneto’s Brenta Canal. But Vicenza boasts the highest concentration of his urban palazzi and is a magnet for architecture buffs.

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