europe quick trips
Beautiful gardens await in Vicenza's city center
By NANCY MONTGOMERY | Stars and Stripes | Published: April 22, 2021
Salvi Gardens packs a lot into a small space in the heart of Vicenza’s old town.
A mansion with a moat is a UNESCO Heritage Site, but some of Salvi Gardens’ less-heralded pleasures, including statuary, fountains, rose gardens and giant conifers, make it a place to return to often.
It’s usually occupied in temperate weather by lovers, dog walkers, people having lunch and others. They sit on benches in the sun, lie on the grass or amble alongside the moat. A few read the signs with the names of the many tree and flower species. Once on a Sunday I caught a concert there.
In a city where yards are unknown, the garden provides a free green space. It has been especially welcome during the coronavirus pandemic, and along with other parks is among the few places open.
An hour or two at Salvi Gardens can also be an opportunity to reflect among nature on the passage of time and vicissitudes of fortune. The Vlamaranas, one of the region’s wealthiest families, bought the land and planned the gardens in the 16th century.
It was opened to the public in 1592 by order of the will of Leonardo Valmarana, the youngest of 10 sons who made his fortune by outliving the other nine. He sired 18 children, one of whom closed the gardens to the public for a couple of centuries.
By the 19th century, the property, now owned by the Salvi family, had been turned into an English garden. It was sold by the last Salvi descendant to a charitable organization and bought in 1907 by the city of Vicenza. It opened to the public once again two years later.
The mansion includes a loggia, or covered exterior gallery. Its Palladian architecture earned it the UNESCO designation in 1994. The Valmarana Loggia was probably built in 1591, supposedly as a meeting place for the local elite.
The main gate is also of architectural interest, attributed to Venetian architect Baldassare Longhena and erected in 1645.
The garden has been redeveloped many times over the centuries, including in 2008, when a path for people with disabilities was built and a rose garden was added.
But it’s not necessary to know all that to enjoy strolling under the junipers, cypresses, cedars, magnolias and elms, or just to relax and watch the ducks.
Address: Corso SS. Felice and Fortunato, 3, 36100 Vicenza VI
Hours: Daily 7:30 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Food: Plenty of to-go snack bars nearby