“Venezia la bella e Padova sua sorella” (“Venice the beauty and Padua its sister”) it recites a famous popular saying.
Padua, the city of the Saint (Anthony), the city of the University: from the Middle Age until today, Padua attracted travelers and pilgrims, students and intellectuals, everybody is fascinated by the monuments, the history, the cultural melting pot which you can breathe. Padua is the perfect destination for a weekend or for a holiday, or also as base to visit Veneto, from Venice to Verona. Here you can find some advices about how to see in Padua!
Scrovegni Chapel in Padua
A distracted visitor, who is walking close to the Scrovegni Chapel building, could keep going for his way, thinking there is nothing exceptional which worth come inside.
Actually, that “simple building” (as Giotto defined it) hosts the most important frescoes cycle of the world. You can be surprised admiring the starry sky under which the Gioacchino and Anna life episodes, the Mary life episodes and the Christ life and death episodes are playing. Be a little more surprised thinking about Giotto only needs two years to do this masterpiece. In 1303 he received the assignment by Enrico Scrovegni and he finished it in 1305. Enrico wanted to build the chapel in memory of his father, Reginaldo Scrovegni, a banker and moneylender, as famous and feared to be located in the Dante’s Inferno of Divina Commedia. Giotto started the revolution of the modern painting with the Scrovegni Chapel.
St. Anthony Basilica in Padua
Padova people call St. Anthony Basilica “Il Santo” (the Saint), without add the name. This is because they love and really care about the Basilica which hosts the St. Anthony remains. St. Anthony Basilica is the destination of a pilgrimage which reaches the pinnacle on 13th of June, so it deserves a visit also for the presence of many Italian’s masterpieces inside it. The first thing you can see is the coexistence of different styles due to the many interventions: the Romanesque façade, the Gothic ambulatory (with the seven chapels), the Byzantine domes and the bell tower in Moorish style. If you come in, starting from the right side, you can see Gattamelata chapel and St. James chapel, which has been frescoed in 1300 by Andriolo de Santi, one of the best Venetian architect and sculptor of that time. Continuing, you can see the cricifixion chapel and the Capitolo room. The treasure of the Basilica (the St. Anthony remains) is inside the ambulatory. You can see the tongue and the chin of St. Anthony. In the square where is located the Basilica, you can also see the Gattamelata statue, sculpted by Donatello: a real revolution in art history because it was the first big equestrian statue without other architectural elements around it.
Piazza delle Erbe and Piazza della Frutta
Piazza delle Erbe is the place where you can find the market, for centuries. There were many names for it, all about its commercial function: “Piazza della Biada”, “Piazza del Vino”…and also the stairs of Palazzo della Ragione were called “Scala delle Erbe” because the vegetables sellers sold the vegetables on the stairs. Same thing for the streets around it: butchers and greengrocers, every corner had its specialization. Behind Piazza delle Erbe there is the other commercial square: Piazza della Frutta where now there is a clothes market. It’s important to notice the Peronio, a medieval column, and the name comes from the latin “perones”, which were a type of shoes sold here. The two squares are united by “Volto della Corda” (also called “Canton delle Busie”), which is a covered passage called this way because in this place liars and debtors were hit on their back with a rope. The corner under the “Volto della Corda” is where the traders took place their negotiations. You can see some white rocks with the old measures, which have been done to prevent that the traders cheated the customers.
Palazzo della Ragione
Palazzo della Ragione is the symbol of Padua and it took its name from the fact it was a court. Padua’s citizens call it also “Il Salone” because the first floor is an open space like a big living room (for many years it has been the biggest of the world). Inside it you can see one of the biggest pictorial cycle with zodiac theme, astrological theme, religious theme, animal theme and all of this rapresent the life of the city in different times of the year. In this room you can also see the Vituperio’s rock, where the debtors were forced to undress and beat for three times their buttocks before leave the city.
Prato della Valle
Padua’s citizens are proud of the greatness of Prato della Valle, the biggest square in Europe after the Red Square in Moscow. It is composed by a green island in the center, which is called Isola Memmia. Around the island there is a canal which is surrounded by 78 statues of famous characters of the past. Here, in the Middle Age, took place fairs and celebrations and today it’s a site where tourists and citizens walk, cycle, lie in the grass and have some fun. On Saturday it hosts a market with more than 100 stands.
Musei Civici Eremitani
In Piazza Eremitani, close to Scrovegni Chapel, there are Musei Civici which include the Archaeological Museum (with Roman, pre-Roman and Egyptian artifact) and the Medieval and Modern Art Museum (with masterpiece of Italian painting and the Crucifix of Giotto, which was in the Scrovegni Chapel in the past).
The Duomo Cathedral
The Duomo Cathedral is dedicated Saint Mary of the Assumption and it was built in 1522. Next to the Duomo Cathedral there is the Baptistery where you can admire the pictorial cycle of Giusto de’ Menabuoi. When you look up, towards the dome, you can see thousands of angels’ eyes which are looking at you. On the wall you can see the history of the Genesis, Messengers and Evangelistic and the histories of Christ and John the Baptizer.
Palazzo Bo and Anatomical Cabinet
It’s not usual to looking for something to see in a University, but here in Padua there is the exception. From 1222 Padua University have seen important characters like Galileo, Copernico or Elena Lucrezia Cornaro Piscopia (the first woman in the world to have a graduation), and many others. Inside Palazzo Bo you can admire the Galileo’s Chair in the Sala dei Quaranta and the Anatomical Theatre where students could watch the body autopsies.