“So stinkin’ FUN!!!” So well put by my five-foot, fun-loving, bundle-of-energy friend, Silvia to describe our visit to Vicenza, Italy. The Mabie family is hands-down one of our favorite families on the face of the earth. Imagine two great people with three awesome kids each as individual in their gifts and personalities as the other. The kids are encouraged to work hard and play harder as modeled by their parents. We first met them when they were stationed in Crete and now they are enjoying the perfect mix of the spice and sweetness of life – La Dolce Vita – in Vicenza, Italy. As expected, they have all dived into the new culture with vigor, not wanting to miss anything – sounds like my kind of people and all the more reason to visit Italy again!
Vincenza lies just west of its other more famous cousin Venice, and although it can’t boast about streets of water or San Marco Square, the area has its own charm of old Italian architecture, palaces, towers and piazzas. The only thing missing is the hoards of tourists. Vincenza itself is more of a typical small Italian city. In Silvia’s words, “Vicenza is the epitome of Italy to me. It has a country, small town feel, but also the hustle and bustle of the bigger cities. The townspeople are passionate about their history, and welcoming. I also love the fact that within 45 minutes we can be in either Venice or Verona and either discover for ourselves and teach our kids about the culture, traditions and history of these beautiful cities that most people only dream about visiting.”
The Mabie’s home is nestled outside of Vincenza in a quaint little village called Quinto Vicentino. As different as our experiences were each day, our morning routine was always the same – a walk down into their village to the local coffee shop/bakery for a rich cappuccino and croissant – no better way to start the day. After that, we would all pile into their minivan and sit back and enjoy having our own private tour guides complete with the entertaining commentaries of three energetic kids ages 7-10.
Our visit to the city of Vicenza started out with a stroll into the city center where we discovered, oh happy day! a chocolate festival. Dozens of tents were set up each displaying a plethora of shapes, sizes and flavors of chocolate creations for the passerby to sample.
Most of Vicenza’s structural wonders are credited to the architectural genius of Andrea Palladio and include the Basilica Palladiana in Piazza dei Signori and the Teatro Olimpico, the first indoor theater in the world. This theater was designed to represent the classical Roman theater and was constructed by Palladio between 1580 and 1585. When Palladio died during its construction, another prominent architect, Scamozzi, took over the project and contributed its most impressive asset – an elaborate wood and stucco three-dimensional stage set designed to give the illusion of a long street scene from the classical era. This set was such a technical accomplishment that it was never replaced and is still used today.
Not far from Vicenza is Marostica – a typical walled city that lies beneath the shadow of its imposing castle fortress. One of the interesting characteristics of the large piazza in Marostica is the giant chessboard etched into the paving stones where an elaborate game takes place every two years using live performers as chess pieces, including horses and knights. A walk up to the fortress ruins was rewarded with a stellar view over the city and the landscape beyond.
Another day we took a road trip up into the hills to a village called Valrovina, where we relished a phenomenal lunch at the popular Melograno Restaurant and then walked around the postcard pretty little town.
Our nights were spent mostly relaxing in the Mabie home making homemade pasta, enjoying good Italian wine or coffee and playing games with the kids – Farkel “pro-move!” Our visit to Vicenza was made special not so much by the places we visited or the things we did but by the people with whom we shared those times. Mille grazie, Mabie family!