8 Top Tourist Attractions in Treviso & Easy Day Trips
Treviso, capital of the province of the same name, lies in the Veneto plain, 20 kilometers north of Venice. It's often called one of the "Little Venices" for its canals with buildings rising straight from the water, as well as for the distinctly Venetian lions on its gates. But you would never mistake Treviso's vine- and flower-draped canals or its candy-colored buildings for Venice, even though a modern wall decoration depicts a gondola prow and gondolier. Treviso is its own place, and a thoroughly charming one at that. This is an old-world town of narrow streets, many of them lined with arcades, and it is still surrounded by well-preserved 15th-century walls. The canals and walls make it a pleasant town to stroll through and admire the many frescoes decorating house façades. And although badly damaged by World War II bombing, Treviso's art-filled churches have been remarkably well restored and are worthwhile tourist attractions. You can even see frescoes by Tommaso da Modena in several of them.
1 Cathedral and Museo Diocesano
The five-domed cathedral of San Pietro was built in the 15th and 16th centuries on the site of an earlier Romanesque church. Below it is the crypt of the original church, dating from the 11th and 12th centuries; the porch was added in 1836. Inside the cathedral, look for The Annunciation by Titian, painted in 1517, and the frescoes by Pordenone, completed in 1520. The Cappella del Sacramento is decorated with excellent examples of the sculptures by Pietro and Tullio Lombardo and by L. Bregno. To the left of the cathedral stands the Romanesque Baptistery from the 11th and 12th centuries, with 13th-century frescoes and a fine font.
Portions of a mosaic floor from a paleochristian baptistery have been exposed on Via Canonica, where there is also the Museo Diocesano d'Arte Sacra di Treviso (entered through the cathedral), containing sacred art and archaeological finds.
Address: Piazza del Duomo
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Treviso
2 City Walls and Gates
The well-preserved 15th-century walls that surround Treviso are not the first; Treviso was a Roman city and the Romans fortified it from the earliest days. The River Sile flows alongside the walls, and together with the River Cagnan, it was used to further protect Treviso from attack. The waters were diverted into canals that encircled the city and were designed so they could also be used to flood the surrounding lowlands, making a siege difficult. The present walls, strengthened by earthworks, were built by the Venetians, as you can guess from the winged lions on the imposing gates. Treviso was Venice's major stronghold protecting it from invasions from the north.
Take time to walk the path alongside the river, or at least to see the three major gateways into the city, Porta San Tommaso, Porta Santi Quaranta, and Porta Altinia. From Porta San Tommaso, built in 1518 at the northeast corner of Treviso, you can walk along the northern rampart, where there are beautiful views of the Alps.
3 Museo Civico di Santa Caterina
The status - and location - of Treviso's municipal museum has been the subject of some confusion for almost a decade, as its original building on Borgo Cavour has been undergoing a long (and some say endless) restoration. Happily, the contents have been moved to the Santa Catarina complex, which has been repurposed to display them. You will still see confusing references to the old location, but don't be misled. The artistic highlights of the Museo Civico are the frescoes by Tommaso da Modena and Girolamo da Treviso, and paintings by Bellini, Titian, Lotto, Pisanello, and many other artists. Perhaps Tommaso da Modena's best-known works are here, his fresco cycle depicting the life of St. Ursula. But don't stop with the art: the archaeological collections are impressive and well displayed.
Address: Piazzetta Mario Botter 1, Treviso
4 San Nicolò
At the southwest corner of the old town, the Dominican church of San Nicolò is a spacious Gothic church built in brick during the 13th and 14th centuries. It has round piers and an unusual vaulted timber roof, which has been restored. On the high altar is Madonna Enthroned by Fra Marco Pensaben and Savoldo from 1521, and the tomb of Senator Agostino Oningo is by master sculptors Pietro and Tullio Lombardi dating from 1490. The elaborate organ, completed in 1779, is by Gaetano Callido, and a nearby fresco represents St. Christopher.
But the frescoes in the chapterhouse of the former monastery are especially impressive. Wrapping around the room is a frieze of 40 fresco portraits of Dominicans by Tommaso da Modena, painted in 1352. What makes them so outstanding, even in this city where there are so many examples of his work, is their personality, even humor. Each friar is shown at work, engaged in mundane duties at his desk, and the liveliness and individuality of their portrayal is surprising for its day, even for a follower of Giotto, as Tommaso was.
Address: Via San Nicolò, Treviso
5 Canals and Water Mills
Two rivers encircle Treviso, and in addition to their confluence here, their waters have been contained into a series of canals and tiny waterways that wander picturesquely through the city. Houses rise directly from their water and it flows under the arched foundations of others. Every bridge reveals another vignette of balconies above the water. Adding to all this is an occasional waterwheel, remnant of those that once drove mills throughout the city. You'll see them as you walk around Treviso, but there is one quite near the Pescheria, the fish market.
6 Pescheria (Fish Market)
One of the oldest and least changed quarters in Treviso includes the colonnaded buildings of the Buranelli and the convent of the Camaldolese nuns. Until the mid-1800s, there were three small islands in its midst, where fishermen from Burano brought their fish to sell. Then the three islands were joined, and a proper fish market was built on its own little island. Surrounded as it is by elegant old buildings, this bustling morning market is one of the city's most atmospheric sights. Recently some incongruous, but attractive contemporary sculptures of fish and a mermaid have been added in the river.
Address: Via Pescheria, Treviso
7 Piazza dei Signori
In the center of Treviso is the picturesque Piazza dei Signori with the Palazzo dei Trecento, built in the late 1100s and once the seat of Treviso's government, and the 15th-century Palazzo del Podestà with the tall Torre del Comune. The Palazzo Pretorio, a Renaissance palace, now houses the town council. Between Piazza dei Signori and Piazza del Duomo runs Via Calmaggiore, Treviso's main street, lined by fine 15th- and 16th-century houses. Although only three blocks long, it has a number of buildings with decorated facades and lunettes above their arched doorways.
8 San Francesco
The mix of Romanesque and Gothic features in this church hints at its origin in the 13th century when Gothic was beginning to replace the older, heavier Romanesque. Hence its rounded transept and entrance arches and lighter sleeker arches of the windows and some chapels. History has not treated the church kindly. Like many others in Treviso, it was commandeered by the French army when they took control of Venice and Treviso in 1797, robbed of its art, and used as a military storehouse. The monastery was demolished and it was robbed of its cloisters, and a house was built with the bricks of two cloisters. The church floor was removed and the interior divided into several floors to create more storage space. What's amazing is how much has survived. Inside the restored church is the 1364 tomb of Dante's son, Pietro Alighieri, a coffered timber ceiling, and in the altar to the left of the main altar, a Madonna and Child with the saints painted by Tommaso of Modena.
Address: Viale San Antonio, Treviso
Day Trips from Treviso
One of the great architect Andrea Palladio's most spacious villas, the 16th-century Villa Emo was also a statement of social change, incorporating all the business of the great agricultural estate (the family made its fortune growing corn for polenta) under one roof, from the life of the family to the work done by farm laborers. Giovanni Battista Zelotti painted the interior frescoes of mythological and agricultural scenes that glorify hard work and rural life. Look for the playful use of trompe l'oeil to simulate architectural elements that appear to frame the scenes.
Address: Via Stazione 5, Fanzolo di Vedelago, Treviso