Is this Palladian-inspired Italian villa the most romantic in The Veneto?
Arriving at the historic Italian city of Vicenza, I wasn't able to walk more than a few feet without being dazzled by one of the 47 stunning buildings and villas designed by Andrea Palladio. The illustrious 16th century architect's influence permeates everywhere, including Villa Michelangelo Vicenza – Starhotels Collezione, the deeply romantic 18th-century hotel I stayed at while exploring The Veneto.
Widely considered to be one of the most influential individuals in the history of architecture, Palladio's designs are listed by Unesco as part of a World Heritage Site called City of Vicenza and the Palladian Villas of the Veneto. If that's not enough to keep you occupied, Vicenza is also celebrated for its museums, art galleries, monuments and elegant Renaissance palazzos. I could have done with a few more days to take it all in.
Palladio's work in Vicenza includes the majestic Basilica Palladiana in Piazza dei Signori, but the building that really stole my heart was the Teatro Olimpico, a Renaissance marvel that was the architect's final design and was not completed until after his death. I was entranced by the stage, which has a permanent set created originally for a production of Oedipus Rex in 1585. Modelled on the ancient Greek city of Thebes, it has streets built in steep perspective to give the illusion of a city sprawling towards a distant horizon. I could have looked at it for hours.
Hotel Villa Michelangelo was an ideal base to explore these marvels, as it's located mere minutes away from Vicenza and less than an hour away by car from Verona and Venice. Its elevated position enables it to offer panoramic views over Vicenza. Originally the country residence of the Tomi family, it was designed in the Palladian style. It attracted the most fashionable and noble members of society in the 18th century and even earned mentions in playwright Carlo Goldoni's theatrical works. I'm neither fashionable nor noble, but the welcome I received was just as warm.
Hotel Villa Michelangelo's stunning aerial perspective is due to its elevated location on the slopes of the Berici Hills, and I enjoyed taking in the famous views from my balcony. Standing there, I could pretend I was in another world, which was easy as my bedroom was decorated in period furnishings with high ceilings, exposed beams, antique furniture and traditional Venetian floors. The romantic setting makes the villa a very popular location for weddings and events, with its floor-to-ceiling windows and a panoramic terrace offering views of the surrounding hills.
For those wishing to sample local fare, the villa's restaurant, La Loggia, offers a menu that combines centuries of rich Venetian food and wine history. The chefs work with local producers, and as a pescetarian, I found plenty of creatively presented and extremely good seafood dishes on offer. I don't drink either - I know, I'm no fun - but the bar manager looked after me very well with non-alcoholic beverages.
Civil ceremonies can be celebrated inside the villa and its garden, and there's a chapel close by where religious ceremonies can be held. Wedding meals can be followed by poolside cocktails and music, and the romantic ambience is heightened because the villa is surrounded by a five-acre park where centenary trees and olive trees flourish. If I ever get married, I'll be heading there, although the staff needn't hold their breath, because at my age, I apparently have a better chance of being killed by a bus.
For further information on Villa Michelangelo Vicenza – Starhotels Collezione, please see here.
Andrea Smith travelled to Vicenza with support from Starhotels. Lonely Planet contributors do not accept freebies in exchange for positive coverage.