Foto Francesco Castagna
Il Torrione (literally “The Big Tower”) is one of those very rare places where several completely different historical periods in art and architecture coexist. It was acquired by the Fondazione Coppola in 2017 and was then restored and transformed into the headquarters of the foundation. This 12th century tower soars to a height of 41.60 meters, from which visitors can enjoy a panoramic view of Vicenza encompassing the Basilica Palladiana, the cathedral, the city’s bell towers and its more modern buildings.
The foundation has made a threefold commitment: first of all the purchase of the Torrione, which was then donated to the Municipality of Vicenza in exchange for a 30-year concession for it to be dedicated to contemporary art; secondly a complex process of restoration supervised by the company UP3 Architetti Associati and the local Superintendency of the Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities; and lastly the creation of an exhibition space with a modern lighting system and panels, specially designed for displaying various different types of artworks to the best advantage.
The visitor experience is enhanced by the sophisticated plan of the architects Paolo De Biasi and Francesco Durante for the exhibition areas throughout the entire building. The artworks on every floor are illuminated by an innovative LED system that can be adjusted according to their specific aesthetic requirements. With a minimal visual and structural impact, which is however highly versatile and flexible, the panels and lights also enhance the internal areas of the tower.
The Torrione was built in the 12th century as a tower house, enlarged in the following century by the feudal lord Ezzelino III da Romano – the so-called “tyrant” – and then largely demolished after his death. In the mid 14th century, during the occupation of the city by the Della Scala family from Verona, the fortress was rebuilt and integrated with the medieval city walls. It stood at the city’s western gate, that now gives access to the historic centre of Vicenza. Mastino II and then Antonio Della Scala transformed the area around it into a large castle, with a square ground plan delimited by a deep moat. A tower stood at each corner with the Torrione rising up in the middle.
During the rule of the Visconti family of Milan, crenellations and a lantern were added to the top of the Torrione, giving it its present shape and appearance. By the seventeenth century the castle had lost its defensive function and it was sold to the Valmarana family, except for the Torrione itself, which presided over the public entrance to the city centre. The Valmarana turned the northern wing of the castle into a noble palazzo overlooking a garden, but in the 18th century most of these structures were demolished, leaving only the Torrione intact. The site of the ancient castle now corresponds to the rectangular courtyard known as the “court of arms”, which precedes the main entrance to the Torrione, alongside Corso Palladio.
In the 19th and 20th centuries a second arch flanked by two pedestrian corridors was added to the walls adjoining the Torrione, to accommodate the increase in traffic. The most recent restorations of the tower were in 1999 and 2018.
With a height of 41.60 meters, the Torrione is one of the tallest historical buildings in the city centre of Vicenza. The site of the foundation's activities has eight distinct levels, rising from a reception hall on the ground level that is open to the public, to a magnificent space at the top, from which visitors can enjoy an exceptional view of the entire historical city centre, and the surrounding landscape of hills and mountains.