Last Updated on September 5, 2023

Most travelers have heard of Verona, Italy due to its connection with “Romeo and Juliet.” Vicenza, Italy, however, remains an unknown gem, but in a dramatic plot twist worthy of the Bard himself, fair Verona has been accused of stealing the claim to “Romeo and Juliet” from nearby Vicenza. Starry-eyed visitors should pilgrimage to the true location of the Juliet House, skipping neighboring Verona and its decades-long masquerade.

The plaintiff province insists Shakespeare lifted his star-crossed lovers from Vicentino writer Luigi da Porto, whose novella “Historica Novellamente Ritrovata di due Nobili Amanti” was inspired by two, side-by-side fortresses in Montecchio Maggiore, Vicenza. In fact, the last name Montecchi – Montague in English – derives from the town’s moniker, further illustrating Vicenza’s dibs on this stolen origin story.

While tourists have been flocking toward the fraudulent Juliet’s balcony in Verona, Vicenza’s aptly named I Castelli di Romeo & Giulietta that actually inspired the legendary tragedy accepts visitors today.

Verona’s Juliet House, meanwhile, is nothing more than the former residence of a local family; the infamous balcony wasn’t added until the 20th-century. Although the landmark has earned Verona the nickname “City of Love,” the House and Balcony itself amount to touristic fluff. Vicenza hopes visitors to Veneto will now seek out I Castelli di Romeo & Giulietta, the duo of medieval towers that gave rise to Shakespeare’s iconic, doomed lovers, located just a half an hour from Verona.

Beyond Romeo and Juliet, Vicenza makes for a great day-trip or overnight excursion for travelers to Italy.

Vicenza bridges and rivers
Flowered balcony of Monte Furo in Vicenza, Italy, with a view of retrone river and the clock tower in the distance. Courtesy Deposit Photos.

Eat

Influenced by the cuisine of its greater region, Veneto, Vicenza has no shortage of tempting traditions. Asiago shines as the province’s cheese of choice, often produced in malghe, traditional alpine huts perched high in the mountains; Vicenza also holds a soft spot for the cheekily named bastardo del grappa, a soft, cow’s milk variety.

Staples like bigoli pasta with duck ragu and codfish dish baccalà alla vicentina anchor their menus. 

This traditional restaurant overlooks the centrally located Piazza dei Signori, Vicenza’s beating heart. Angolo Palladio has perfected regional dishes like bigoli con ragù di anatra, baccalà alla vicentina, polenta, and gnocchi scattered with the province’s signature black truffle. They also shimmy thick-crusted pizzas topped with local ingredients out of wood-burning ovens. 

Drink

Vicenza serves as the birthplace of grappa, Italy’s fragrant, brandy-like beverage. Grappa hails from vicentino city Bassano del Grappa, home to Italy’s oldest distillery, Distilleria Nardini.Family-run to this day, this more than 200-year-old distillery off Renaissance architect Andrea Palladio’s wood-covered Ponte Vecchio has led the evolution of grappa production since its inception. Nardini is responsible for cult favorite Mezzoemezzo, an Italian aperitif made with equal parts rhubarb liqueur and the bitter, herb-infused Nardini Rosso, finished with soda water and a lemon peel.

This jazz club & cocktail bar sits snugly on the bottom floor of the 16th-century, UNESCO status Basilica Palladiana, Vicenza’s symbolic landmark Today, Bar Borsa now serves as one of the pillars of Vicenza’s nightlife: with a bird’s eye view out onto central square Piazza dei Signori, the vintage-inspired watering hole offers an eclectic drink list, live jazz performances and an annual jazz series.

Stay

Vicenza boasts serious real estate swagger, flush in a staggering 4,300 historic villas – many of which are available for rent — including 23 sweeping 16-century villas designed by legendary architect Andrea Palladio. Mercifully, you don’t have to earn like an aristocrat to live like one: Vicenza’s lavish showstoppers prove reasonably priced, especially compared to nearby Venice and Verona. 

Seven rooms in this sweeping, historical palazzo are now rental vacation apartments. Designed by Andrea Palladio in 1566, this unique accommodation is smack in the center of the city and is part of Vicenza’s UNESCO World Heritage site collection. It was originally the property of the aristocratic Valmarana family; family matriarch Isabelle commissioned it in memory of her late husband. Damaged in a WII bombing, the villa was eventually acquired and restored by Luigi Braga Rosa. His daughter, architect Francesca Braga Rosa, currently owns and runs it today. Details on each apartment can be found here.

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The province also enjoys a rich artisan tradition and architectural history. Travel through time in Vicenza’s UNESCO World Heritage site where coppersmiths, lithographers, and ceramicists still thrive and Palladian architectural masterpieces reign. Tour your way through La Rotonda, the Basilica Palladiana and the glorious Teatro Olimpico, equipped with the oldest surviving stage set still in existence. Vicenza’s Beric Hills, Brenta river, and scenic grottos also play host to rafting, hiking, biking, and other outdoor sports.

Fair Vicenza, not Verona, is also where Shakespeare’s Juliet paced her balcony: the Bard lifted the idea for his star-crossed lovers from vicentino Luigi da Porto’s novella Historica novellamente ritrovata di due nobili amanti, inspired by a duo of fortresses in small town Montecchio Maggiore. The medieval castles, aptly named I Castelli di Romeo & Giulietta, accept visitors today — and even host weddings!

Author

  • Chadd Scott

    Chadd Scott is an arts contributor with Forbes and the founder of See Great Art, where he writes about his travels from big city museums to small town galleries in search of great art.

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