Padua in one day.
This time “City Guides” by STG, will bring you in the noble Italian town of Padua, full of history and of interesting places to see. Such a long history would deserve a longer visit, two or maybe more days but, as you should know, goal of these guides is providing you with a one-day visit plan and we are going to keep our promise once again.
Padua is located in the northern part of Italy in the region called Veneto and it is not far from Venice so, if you like, you can also have your basis here and go to visit Venice by train having this way some financial benefit since Padua is much cheaper than its most famous neighbour town. Even in this case don’t go to Venice without spending at least one day in Padua. Here we are going to show you how, with a complete itinerary.
In the list you will find some special icon. The icon marks my favourite place, represents a suggestion for a rainy day and points out a spot where you can go if you have some additional time to spend. The following itinerary can be integrated by my post about the visit I did in Padua as first step of my ’round the world trip.
One day itinerary (and some extra spots)
- A – Lodge and Odeo Cornaro
- B – St Anthony Basilica
- C – Prato della Valle
- D – Specola
- E – Cathedral
- F – Ragione’s Palace
- G – Piazza dei Frutti & Piazza delle Erbe
- H – Pedrocchi Café
- I – Eremitani’s Church
- J – Scrovegni’s Chapel
Our tour in Padua starts from this quite peculiar building. Cornaro name comes after Alvise Cornaro that financed this place and built it with the support of the architect Giovanni Maria Falconetto in 16th century. Odeo stands for Odeon, theatre, and actually this was a place for plays and music. There are beautiful frescos to see in this renaissance style complex and the ticket is not expensive. Visits are scheduled every half hour.
Padua is known as the town of the Saint and it is not even needed to add the name. Everybody knows they’re referring to St Anthony and of course we can’t miss the famous Basilica named after the saint born in Lisbon but world known as St Anthony from Padua. The church is impressive and has some spectacular chapel on the sides of the nave. Very important place of worship for all Catholics around the world is visited by millions of pilgrims every year. In the square there is the horse statue of Gattamelata made by Donatello.
We reach my favourite place in Padua with a short walk along via Belludi. Prato della Valle is a very large square of triangular shape with a elliptical island in the middle (Memmia island). It is said to be the widest square in Europe but it is always difficult to confirm such kind of assumption. It is surely huge and full of statues of noble and important people of Padua.
Specola, from the latin word specŭla meaning observatory, is one of the oldest astronomical observatory in Italy. It is located in one of the tower of old castle of Padua and nowadays is a museum that can be visited to see old instruments such as telescopes and tools used for forecasting the weather.
From the Specola, following the canal and then turning right on via San Gregorio Barbarigo we reach the square (Piazza Duomo) where are located the Cathedral of Padua and the Baptistery. The Cathedral with its white and quite plain interior is by far less imposing than the Basilica of St Anthony. Much more interesting is the nearby Baptistery with beautiful frescos by Giusto de’ Menabuoi telling about life of Jesus, Virgin Mary and St John Baptist.
The former city’s court, the Ragione’s Palace, is one of the symbol of Padua with its long open lodge located at the first floor and the shops you can find within. The great hall on the upper floor, known as Salone, it is allegedly the largest roof unsupported by columns in Europe being 81 meters long and 27 meters large. In the palace it can be found the so called “stone of reproach” where who wouldn’t be able to pay his debt was forced to beat his bottom three times.
These two large squares, separated by the above mentioned Palazzo della Ragione host one of the greatest market in Italy by several centuries. It is of course a very lively place. In the evening the market leaves place to cafe where you can sip the local Spritz.
It is one of the most famous café in Italy and in Europe, located in an historic building, it was opened in 1831. In addition to the café it hosts also a museum in the rooms located in the upper floor. It is interesting to know that Pedrocchi café was continuously open from its inauguration until 1916 and for this reason it is also known as the café without doors. This, together with Prato della Valle being without grass until end of 19th century and “Prato” in Italian means meadow and with St Anthony that, as we said here is known simply as “The Saint” without adding the name, makes of Padua the town of the three “without”.
We are now close to the end of our tour of Padua and we can take a look at the Eremitani’s church. Built in XIII century was almost completely destroyed during War World II and rebuilt afterward. Two original frescos of Andrea Mantegna are still visible.
We end up our tour with the beautiful Scrovegni’s chapel named after the banker that decide to build it to wash away his sins (he was also an usurer). The chapel is world famous because is the most complete serie of frescos painted by Giotto. Only a limited amount of people can enter to visit it: 25 person every half hour. The good news is that usually it is possible to come even in the evening. In any case, book in advance online on this site. The chapel is absolutely astounding and the small amount of visitors makes the visit a pleasure.
- – Civic Museums of the Eremitani
- – Arquà Petrarca or Montagnana
If it rains, you can stay more time in the Ragione’s Palace and in the churches listed above but, in addition, you can go also to the Civic Museums of the Eremitani. This place hosts actually two museums, the Archaeologic Museum at the ground floor and the Medieval and Modern art museum at the first floor. The most interesting one, in my opinion, is the art museum where we can find masterpieces by Veronese, Tintoretto and Tiepolo. The garden hosts some bizarre modern sculpture.
If you have more time to spend and I mean at least an additional half day, I suggest you to visit one of these two medieval villages not far from Padua. Arquà Petrarca takes the second half of its name by Petrarch (Petrarca in Italian) since the author of Canzoniere lived last years of his life here. The other town is Montagnana, a great walled little gem with a lot of beautiful buildings. They’re not included in the map below and they’re both located south west of Padua and can be reached by train (Montagnana) or Bus (Arquà Petrarca) in about 50 minutes. If you have a car you should be able to visit them both in the same day.
One specialty to try in Padua
There are a lot of similarity between local cuisine and the strongly influencing cuisine of the nearby Venice. Talking about something that it is absolutely peculiar from this area we could start from the wines produced in Euganei hills. There are both white wines such as Fiori d’Arancio (Orange flowers) that is available either dry or as a dessert wine, and red wines such as the local version of the Bordeaux Cut rich of strong peculiarities due to the terroir.
Switching to the food, a very peculiar dish, quite hard to find in restaurants is the Rovinassi Risotto. Rovinassi means chicken giblets. It is a traditional specialty and it is made with giblets and of course also with onion and butter as in any good risotto.
Padua art and other amazing facts
In such a noble town with long history as Padua it is difficult to mention all the interesting facts about local art and the contribution of the town to the scientific development so I will surely forget something.
I will start from something that was not written by a Paduan artist but by an English one (or as someone says, Sicilian… 🙂 ). I’m talking of course about the Bard and his play “The Taming of the Shrew” that as anyone knows was set here in Padua where the shrew to be tamed (Kate) was living.
I’ve talked about art and science also above so I will not repeat any reference to already mentioned topic. An interesting additional story is about the local University that was founded in 1221 making of it one of the oldest in Italy and in the world. What maybe many people do not know is that this University saw the world’s first female graduate. Her name was Elena Lucrezia Piscopia and she was awarded of a degree in philosophy in 1678.
If you go in the nearby town of Vicenza you will see celebrating everywhere Andrea Palladio, read my post on this matter, one of the world most influencing architect but it should be said that he was actually born in Padua.
Switching to a much more modern artist but also very famous worldwide, also Maurizio Cattelan comes from Padua. One of his most famous work is The Ninth Hour where Pope John Paul II is struck down by a meteorite. Well, I don’t know if it is just a coincidence but I would like to end this post mentioning that in the science fiction novel “Rendezvous with Rama” written by Arthur C. Clarke, author also of 2001: A Space Odyssey, the town of Padua is destroyed by an asteroid in 2077. Well, we still have some time…
Padua Photo Gallery
And if you like there is also a short video showing the beauty of this town.