This Underrated Italian City Boasts Exquisite Food And Awe-Inspiring Historic Sites

When you think of an Italian vacation, you likely consider the main tourist spots like Rome, Venice, Naples, or the ancient, destroyed city of Pompeii. However, Italy is a vast country with so many fascinating places. Many of them are undervalued, like Ostuni, the underrated Italian hilltop town (also known as White City as it's full of gleaming whitewashed buildings), or the dreamy seaside beaches of La Maddalena. If you're a history buff and a lover of amazing food, there is a perfect hidden gem in the northeast of the country, about a 50-minute drive from Venice. This delightful city is Vicenza, and it's full of incredible architecture, as well as some fabulous local dishes to fuel your sightseeing. 

You can visit restaurants and cafés serving mouthwatering offerings like bigoli with duck and tiramisu. Or, visit the 13th-century Santa Corona church built to house a piece of Christ's crown of thorns and marvel at the 16th-century Teatro Olimpico. Let's take a look at what to do, see, and, most importantly, eat in Vicenza, Italy. 

What to see in Vicenza, Italy

Vicenza has a long history predating the Roman Empire. One of its most famous inhabitants was the 16th-century architect Andrea Palladio, who created some of the most beautiful buildings here. One such building is the Teatro Olimpico, which was begun by Palladio in 1580 and completed after his death by his successor, Vincenzo Scamozzi. This incredible theater was added to Francesco Maffei's 17th-century frescos and features a scaenae frons or permanent architectural backdrop to resemble those of a classical outdoor performance space.

You can visit the Chiesa di Santa Corona, built in 1261, to become a religious pilgrimage site. Those were very popular (and brought in a lot of revenue) in the medieval world, and this one was said to have a relic of the Crown of Thorns, a gift from Louis IX of France. The awe-inspiring arches, the marble floors, and the wonderful artwork will have you staring in delight. Inside, you'll find "The Baptism of Christ" by Giovanni Bellini and "Adoration of the Magi" by Paolo Veronese, to name a couple. 

While looking at churches, check out the Vicenza Cathedral on the Via Garibaldi in the Piazza del Duomo, with its 15th-century Gothic architecture. Though it was damaged in World War II, it's been restored. Underneath, you can see the remains of earlier churches and a Roman road. You can even take a full-day tour around the city for $97 per person, with the option to use a free e-bike.

What to eat in Vicenza, Italy

Just look at the picture above and tell us your mouth isn't watering! That is bigoli co 'l'arna, or bigoli pasta with a duck ragout, a signature dish here. Bigoli is a thick pasta that resembles large spaghetti originally made with buckwheat. Now, it's prepared with ingredients like whole wheat or 00 flour. Bigoli is a rough pasta, meaning all the gooey goodness of whatever you add will stick to its sides. You'll see it with game meats, poultry, and some local asiago cheese. 

Risottos are big here, often with peas and mushrooms, as is sopressata vicentina. Another dish to sample is baccalà alla vicentina, which is dried fish (stoccafisso) with sardines, cheese, milk, and onions served over polenta. Or you can try the Bassano white asparagus with boiled eggs. If you're looking for a libation to wash down that deliciousness, try Bassano del Grappa, a spirit made from leftover grapes after wine is made. If wine is more your speed, try the local white called Vicenza Bianco (which can also be a frizzante or gently sparkling wine). 

You can also try a Vincenza Rosato, a blend of Merlot and one of several other red varietals. You can't skip dessert, so enjoy the local tiramisu, fritole or fried dough, torta della nonna, or lemon shortcrust with pastry cream. With these assortments, you will avoid eating like a tourist in Italy.