The classical amphitheaters of Ancient Rome provided the blueprint for Palladio’s final masterwork: a monumental Renaissance theater constructed in the 1580s.
Take a seat in Andrea Palladio’s extraordinary Olympic Theatre and experience the stage as envisioned by one of Italy’s most famous architects. The UNESCO World Heritage-listed building is one of only three remaining Renaissance theaters and contains one of the world’s oldest surviving stage sets. Admire the theater’s intricately adorned interiors, which feature woodcarvings and stucco that imitates marble.
Enter the building via its modest stone façade and make your way into the immense cavea, or seating area. The sweeping arc of tiered seats mimics those of Ancient Roman amphitheaters and is backed by a magnificent loggia, or columned portico. A series of niches and figurines adorns the top of the colonnade, almost touching the mesmerizing sky-painted ceiling. Palladio’s breathtaking reimagining of classical architecture makes the Olympic Theatre one of his finest works. It was also his last work, as the architect died before it could be completed and the project was taken over by Vincenzo Scamozzi.
Look down on the Roman-style “scaenae frons” that spans the stage’s vast proscenium arch. Check out the central porta regia, or triumphal arch, which is flanked by two wings and niches showcasing ornate statues. One of the stage’s highlights is the trompe-lœil scenery, which was designed by Vincenzo Scamozzi. Dating back to the theater’s premier performance in 1585, this stage set depicts the streets of Thebes receding into the distant horizon.
Today, you might catch one of the classical music performances and concerts held at the Olympic Theatre in spring and fall. Check out the annual Vicenza Jazz Festival, Omaggio a Palladio or the Season of Classical Performances. Audience numbers are limited to 400 in order to protect the theater’s heritage value.
The Olympic Theatre is situated on Piazza Matteotti near the River Bacchiglione on the northeastern edge of Vicenza’s historic district. Reach the theater by bus or walk from the city’s main railway station in about 15 minutes. You can enter the theater for an admission fee any day of the week, except Mondays. Alternatively, attend a performance to see the theater come to life.