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Say Veneto and you immediately think of Venice. But also the Dolomities of Cortina d'Ampezzo, the Palladian Villas and Verona the city immortalised by Shakespeare in his Romeo and Juliet, a night at the opera in the Arena should not be missed.
When you leave the terraferma, the mainland, behind and you enter into Venice (the only city made up of 118 islands), you will discover that the most striking thing about Venice -beside its unusual urban development- is the mixing of rhythms and colors which from San Marco and Palazzo Ducale spread throughout the center, onto the bridges and in the canals. Unlike any other place, architecture -the result of necessity and unusual circumstances- has been able to display its best as it has given the city a particular urban space where the water is the defining characteristic. In this sense, Venice is a real water-city, and the presence of the sea influences its life’s every aspect, in that original environment that is the lagoon.
Verona is one of northern Italy's loveliest and most alluring cities. Its picturesque center, set on the fast-flowing Adige River, is filled with Roman and medieval remains as well as churches, monuments, and enchanting old streets. It's no wonder that Shakespeare chose romantic Verona as the setting for Romeo and Juliet.
During your visit see Piazza Brį, the city's main square that holds the 1st century A.D. Arena, one of the largest surviving amphitheaters of the Roman world. It holds 20,000 spectators and still provides the stage for the city's famous summer concerts and operas. Performances are free of charge. Piazza delle Erbe is the city's heart and social meeting place, with renaissance palaces and medieval houses surrounding it.
Alongside it lies the Piazza dei Signori, once the city's main public piazza, which is why it is home to three 12th-century civic buildings: the Loggia del Consiglio, the Palazzo del Governo, and the Palazzo della Ragione. In its lower corner you'll find the Arche Scaligere, some of the most impressive Gothic funerary monuments in Italy. They are the tombs of the Scaligeri, principally Cangrande I ("The Big Dog"), a patron of the arts, well remembered as protector of Dante after the latter’s exile from Florence.
In the region where lights and color play on the palette, the city of Vicenza has its origins in the Roman Empire, as the urban layout still shows. Yet, it is to its most famous son, the Renaissance architect Andrea di Pietro best known as Palladio, that Vicenza owes several of its most important buildings. As Palladio looked attentively at the elegant game of light and shape, he built the Basilica Palladiana in the Piazza dei Signori; the Loggia del Capitano, Palazzo Barbaran da Porto, Palazzo Chiericati (today a museum). From the hills around Vicenza, you can see "La Rotonda" in the "Villa Almerico Capra di Valmarana". Here, the architectural genius plays on empty and full spaces as the villa slowly unfolds its artistic originality to its onlookers with its four identical sides. Not to be missed is the Loggetta Palladiana in the Salvi Gardens, which is an elegant construction from 1592. At its entrance is the winsome inscription "Hilariati ac genio dicata", dedicated to laughter and light-heartedness. Also worthy of a visit is the wood Olympic Thater, the unsurpassed masterpiece which was envisioned by Palladio for the Olympic Academy, and built by Vincenzo Scamozzi. In our times, Vicenza has been included in the UNESCO World Heritage List thanks to works of art by palladio and other great architects.
The human eye is the only lens capable of capturing the grandeur of the Dolomites at Cortina d'Ampezzo, and even this fine-tuned instrument can be somewhat overwhelmed by the majesty in the areas surrounding Cortina. Yet this is a place of dramatic contrasts. In summer, the sunset light striking the majestic mountains' earth and stone creates none other than dramatic, moment by moment, changes both in the landscape as in the blue lakes reflecting the hard-edged peaks. The contrast continues as you view the stark difference between the bare jagged formations and its green meadows as these descend into the valley dotted with delicate wild-flowers.
Until the 1900's, Cortina used to be for a few mountain climbers, who had heard about its soaring peaks from the French geologist Deodat de Dolomieu who described this area. Foreigners soon began to arrive at Cortina for its superbe skiing and for its mountain climbing and hiking. In time, it has become the preferred site of high ranking guests: from kings to to princes, from movie stars to politicians, business leaders and authors. Whether filling up the stores ro doing window shopping, a walk down Cortina's main street "Il Corso" has become synonymous with being chic. The choices for a pleasant evening stroll are many since the Corso is lined with hotels, art galleries, antique shops, boutiques of all types, caffè and restaurants.