I’ll never forget the moment I was given a globe as a little girl. I would spin it round and round excitedly and dream of all the wonderful places I would visit one day and to me to be an explorer was the most exotic and best job in the world!
It was then that my wanderlust started and has never left me since. I made up my mind very early on in my life that I wanted to become a tour guide with a difference, not just one of those that would deliver a string of facts and dates in an unexciting and bored tone and wave around a multi-coloured umbrella.
So here I was, more than 40 years later and feeling a mixture of excitement and tension at my new role as Tour Manager and ready to leave for my first travel adventure in Italy. I was actually accompanying a Lecturer who knew all about Vicenza and the wonderful villas we visited. Nonetheless it was up to me to make sure that everything went according to plan and that people made the most of their experience.
I felt like a school girl on her first trip away from home and it reconnected me with my 8 year old’s dream, now become a tangible reality! It was all and more that I could have wished for, learning about and discovering new places, that I didn’t know existed and it renewed in me the passion for helping like-minded people find and enjoy the Italy that’s overlooked by guide books, but it’s all the same the ‘real’ Italy.
Vicenza a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which is only an hour’s away from Venice, is one of those cities you wouldn’t normally think of putting on your itinerary and yet it’s incredibly beautiful. Brimming with outstanding buildings and architecture at every turn, it has an old-fashioned charm that lingers on in its cobbled streets and the fancy wrought ironwork of its street lamps.
Like a miniature Venice, minus the crowds and the canals, Vicenza is a city immensely proud of its past and while people watching in its main square, I felt instantly transported to the Renaissance period.
This feeling of momentarily reliving a grander past was even more overwhelming, when we visited a number of awe-inspiring villas, created and built by Andrea Palladio, a famous Italian architect active in the 1500’s during the Republic of Venice.
These villas dot the countryside surrounding some of the smaller towns in the region of Veneto. Extraordinary homes built for noble families, they immediately became architectural icons, whose influence reached far outside Italy.
Elegance and form blend with function in each of these magnificent noble residences, that feature agricultural annexes, and cultivated fields and vineyards. They are also complete with storage areas and spaces for peasants and field hands.
Wandering around their beautifully preserved interiors full of detailed frescoes, I felt an instant sense of gratitude for the opportunity to be part of this very special tour, and also for being able to share it all with interesting people, whose passion for Italy and its treasures on occasion surpassed mine!
If you haven’t yet discovered Vicenza and its beautiful surroundings, I really recommend using it as a base for easy access to other historic and amazing cities, like Venice and Verona for example. You can easily reach Venice by rail within one hour and cheaply too and also Verona which is even closer.