Let’s talk about what to do in Vicenza, but not about the Renaissance city designed by Andrea Palladio. Instead, let’s delve into the mysterious and captivating side of Vicenza, a city composed of eerie nature, mythical creatures, medieval towers, castles, and ruins scattered throughout the villages. It’s a place where the past and present blend to create a hauntingly beautiful atmosphere.
The split mountain in the Veneto Prealps
This rock formation, north of Vicenza and near the Veneto Prealps, is closely linked to the nearby Little Dolomites and has a history dating back 200 million years. The Torrazzo stream eroded the formation into the rocky structure we see today. This area in Vicenza has long been associated with mysterious female and aquatic creatures known as “anguanas”. These beings are often seen near bodies of water at night, emerging with their wicker baskets to wash clothes. However, these shape-shifting and dangerous females can take on many forms and lure unsuspecting individuals to the bottom of wells or holes, where they are imprisoned forever. At other times, “anguanas” are portrayed as hideous hags who reside in the hollows of the earth. Legend has it that the most famous of them all, Aetele daughter of Uttele, once lived in the split mountain as Jordan’s faithful bride before transforming into the spirit of the mountain, its torrential waters, and wind.
The dwarf princess at Villa Valmarana
Villa Valmarana ai Nani in Vicenza is a well-known and frequently visited villa in Veneto, particularly renowned for the works of art by Giambattista and Giandomenico Tiepolo, who adorned the rooms with their frescoes. These works are considered to be the pinnacle of 18th-century Venetian painting. However, what many may not know is that Villa Valmarana ai Nani is also home to a famous legend, which is the source of its name. “Nani” in Italian means “Dwarfes”.
The legend tells the story of Princess Layana, a dwarf girl and daughter of one of the noble owners of the villa. Due to her stature, Layana’s parents decided to confine her within the high walls of the estate and chose only dwarves to serve as the mansion’s servants and janitors, so as not to disturb the girl. One day, a prince set out to find the maiden, and upon entering the villa, Layana caught a glimpse of herself in the prince’s presence and was overcome with despair, ultimately ending her life by jumping from the tower. The dwarf servants were devastated by their loss, and to this day, the 17 stone dwarf statues remain motionless on the villa’s boundary wall, guarding Layana’s eternal sleep.
The gnomes of Asiago Plateau
It is said that the little people of the gnomes have found a home on the picturesque Asiago plateau. These creatures, originally from northern countries, roamed for a long time before discovering the silent and wild forests of the plateau. Enchanted by the place, the gnomes decided to make it their permanent residence. In order to celebrate this playful spirit, a gnome village was constructed to help both adults and children understand the power of imagination. Allowing your imagination to run free, you may stumble upon a gnome gathering wood, warming himself by the fire, or even sleeping among the roots of a magnificent old tree – if you’re lucky!
Were you aware that the famous tale of Romeo and Juliet, which inspired Shakespeare’s magnificent tragedy, was originally penned by Luigi Da Porto? Near Vicenza, in Montorso, stands the Palladian villa “Da Porto Barbaran,” where the nobleman retreated following the events of the League of Cambrai in 1508. It was here that he wrote the novella of Romeo and Juliet, which served as the inspiration for Shakespeare’s renowned tragedy. While standing in the pigeonhole, Da Porto gazed upon the silhouette of the Castles of Montecchio Maggiore and, lost in thoughts of love for his distant beloved, conceived the plot of the dramatic story. According to legend, Da Porto’s restless ghost still wanders the surrounding areas of the villa, and some locals claim to hear his moans and footsteps.