We present the VST Early-type GAlaxy Survey (VEGAS), which is designed to obtain deep multiband photometry in g,r,i, of about one hundred nearby galaxies down to 27.3, 26.8, and 26 mag/arcsec2 respectively, using the ESO facility VST/OmegaCAM. Aims. The goals of the survey are 1) to map the light distribution up to ten effective radii, re; 2) to trace color gradients and surface brightness fluctuation gradients out to a few re for stellar population characterization; and 3) to obtain a full census of the satellite systems (globular clusters and dwarf galaxies) out to 20% of the galaxy virial radius. The external regions of galaxies retain signatures of the formation and evolution mechanisms that shaped them, and the study of nearby objects enables a detailed analysis of their morphology and interaction features. To clarify the complex variety of formation mechanisms of early-type galaxies (ETGs), wide and deep photometry is the primary observational step, which at the moment has been pursued with only a few dedicated programs. The VEGAS survey has been designated to provide these data for a volume-limited sample with exceptional image quality. Methods. In this commissioning photometric paper we illustrate the capabilities of the survey using g-and i-band VST/OmegaCAM images of the nearby galaxy NGC 4472 and of smaller ETGs in the surrounding field. Results. Our surface brightness profiles reach rather faint levels and agree excellently well with previous literature. Genuine new results concern the detection of an intracluster light tail in NGC 4472 and of various substructures at increasing scales. We have also produced extended (g-i) color profiles. Conclusions. The VST/OmegaCAM data that we acquire in the context of the VEGAS survey provide a detailed view of substructures in the optical emission from extended galaxies, which can be as faint as a hundred times below the sky level.