Love Touring Italy -The University City Of Padua (Padova) by
Padova Hotels / The
Veneto Self-Catering Accommodation
If you are in the mood for
a European tourist destination, you should consider the Veneto region of
northern Italy on the Gulf of Venice. Venice is its best-known city and
one of the most popular tourist destinations on earth. But the Veneto region
is a lot more than this great city. It hosts many other excellent tourist
attractions, and you won't have to fight the huge crowds.
With a little luck you'll
avoid tourist traps, and come back home feeling that you have truly visited
Italy. This article examines tourist attractions in the university city
of Padua in central Veneto.
Padua, population over two
hundred thousand, is only about twenty-five miles (forty kilometers) west
of Venice but has always had a life
of its own.
|It was the setting for Shakespeare's
The Taming of the Shrew. Padua claims to be the oldest city in northern
Italy, founded early in the Twelfth Century B.C. It held out against the
Lombards for twelve years at the beginning of the Seventh Century only
to be burnt to the ground. Padua was the headquarters of the Italian Army
in the First World War and the site of the Austro-Hungarian Empire's surrender.
The historic city center
surrounded by seven miles (eleven kilometers) of Sixteenth Century walls
is home to the City Hall, whose wall is covered by the names of the Paduan
war dead. Other sites of interest include the Palazzo della Ragione described
next and the Nineteenth Century Neoclassical Caffé Pedrocchi. This
caffé is one of the largest in the world and the hub of the uprisings
in 1848 perhaps not surprising given its proximity to the university described
The Twelfth Century Palazzo
della Ragione (Palace of Reason) in spite of its name is not a philosopher's
hangout, but a huge centuries-old marketplace. The hall itself is about
two hundred seventy feet (eighty meters) long so when people say you can't
miss it, they aren't kidding.
This magnificent building
was heavily damaged by fire early in the Fifteenth Century, unfortunately
completely destroying a great collection of frescoes. So the frescoes you'll
see are somewhat more modern. By the way, the collection includes one of
the few complete sets of the zodiac signs. The palace is no longer the
seat of the Padua government and often hosts art shows.
Padua University in
the city's historic center at the Palazzo del Bo' (Ox Palace, named for
a inn that it replaced) was founded in 1222 when many professors and students
left the University of Bologna over the issue of academic freedom. Jurisprudence
and theology were the first courses offered. From the Fifteenth Century
to the Eighteenth Century the university was renowned for its research,
particularly in the areas of medicine, astronomy, philosophy, and law.
On June 25, 1678, Elena Lucrezia Cornaro Piscopia became the world's first
woman graduate when awarded a doctorate in Philosophy in the Padua Cathedral.
|In addition to mathematics,
philosophy, and theology Piscopia mastered the following languages: Italian,
Latin, Greek, Hebrew, Spanish, French, and Arabic. Other famous professors
and graduates include Nicolaus Copernicus, Galileo Galilei, and Giacomo
Casanova. You may want to visit its Anatomy Theatre, the oldest in the
world built in 1594. To deal with the issue of overcrowding many university
faculties have recently moved to other cities in the Veneto region.
Along the Piazza dei Signori
(Seigneurs' Square) you'll see the early Seventeenth Palazzo del Capitanio,
the residence of the Venetian governors with its great door. The palace
included its own church, the church of San Nicolo. The nearby Duomo (Cathedral),
remodeled in the mid-Sixteenth Century after a design by Michelangelo,
is not one of his best works. The Thirteenth Century Baptistry includes
a series of frescoes illustrating the Book of Genesis by an early Renaissance
This piazza is home to the
city's St. Mark's Lion. If you read my companion article on southern Veneto
you'll know what to look for when you get there.
The Fourteenth Century Cappella
degli Scrovegni (Scrovegni Chapel) is Italy's best-known chapel after
the Sistine Chapel. It is also called the Arena Chapel because it stands
on the site of a Roman-era arena. The chapel's fresco collection devoted
to the life of the Virgin Mary is virtually unmatched. Before entering
the chapel you must spend 15 minutes in a climate-controlled air-locked
room reducing the temperature difference between the outside world and
the inside of the chapel. Nearby you will find the Musei Civici degli Eremitani
(Civic Museum) a former monastery with its collections of Venetian paintings,
ancient coins, and other archeological treasures.
|Padua's most famous church
is the Basilica di Sant'Antonio da Padova (Basilica of Saint Anthony
of Padua) started around 1238 but only completed after the turn of the
century. His remains repose in a beautiful chapel. In front of the church
is a Donatello statue of a Venetian general riding horseback. This statue,
cast in the middle of the Fifteenth Century, was said to be the first full-size
equestrian bronze statue cast since antiquity.
Nearby are the Thirteenth
Century St. George Oratory and the Sixteenth Century Scuola di San Antonio
(St. Anthony's School) both of which boast great fresco collections, the
first by Altichiero and the second by the more famous Titian. There are
several other churches to see if you have the time and energy.
Padua's Orto Botanico
(Botanical Garden), founded in 1545, was the first in the world. The
Botanical Garden still maintains its original layout, a circular central
plot symbolizing the earth surrounded by a ring of water. It has expanded
over time. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is a center for scientific research.
Nature lovers will appreciate the Eighteenth Century Villa Pisani (Pisani
Palace) about eight miles (thirteen kilometers) southeast of the city on
the Brenta River, home to many fancy, fancy homes. This Palace contains
114 rooms in honor of the 114th Doge, a member of the Pisani family. Napoleon
spent a night here before giving the palace away. Make sure to see the
trompe-l'oeil frescoes on the ceiling. The adjoining park is a-maze-ing
if you get my drift.
One of Padua's best-known
symbols is the Prato della Valle (Valley Meadow), often called the
Grassless Meadow, said to be the largest square in Europe after Moscow's
Red Square. It measures approximately one million square feet (ninety thousand
square meters) or about fifty football fields. In its center, if you don't
mind the hike, you'll find a wide garden surrounded by a ditch and lined
by 78 statues portraying famous citizens. The site includes the abbey and
the basilica of Santa Giustina (Saint Justine), with an interesting art
collection. This complex was built around the Fifth Century tomb of Saint
Justine of Padua. Napoleon suppressed the monastery in 1820 and it didn't
reopen for more than one hundred years. You can find tombs of several saints
as well as relics of the Apostle St. Matthias and the Evangelist St. Luke.
|What about food? Padua is
a unique city and has quite a selection of food specialties, some of which
you may not care to sample. Specialties include torresano allo spiedo (pigeon
raised in tower lofts), sfilacci (salted, dried, and smoked horsemeat),
mushrooms and truffles (that sounds better already), and peaches. Like
I said, Padua is a unique city.
Let's suggest a sample menu,
one of many. Start with Prosciutto Veneto Berico Euganeo (Montagnana Sweet
Cured Ham). Then try Bondole (Smoked Pork Sausage). For dessert indulge
yourself with Crema Fritta (Fried Cream Custard). Be sure to increase your
dining pleasure by including local wines with your meal.
We'll conclude with a quick
look at Veneto wine. Veneto holds third place among the 20 Italian regions
both in terms of the area planted in grape vines and for its total annual
wine production. About 45% of Veneto wine is red or rosé, leaving
55% for white. The region produces 24 DOC wines and 3 DOCG wines, Recioto
di Soave, Soave Superiore, and Bardolino Superiore. DOC stands for Denominazione
di Origine Controllata, which may be translated as Denomination of Controlled
Origin, presumably a high-quality wine.
The G in DOCG stands for
Garantita, but there is in fact no guarantee that such wines are truly
superior. Nearly 30% of Venetian wine carries the DOC or DOCG designation.
Bagnoli di Sopra DOC also called Bagnoli DOC is made in a variety of styles
from a variety of international and local red and white grapes in the area
approximately between Rovigo and Padua. Colli Euganei DOC is made in a
wide variety of styles from local or international white or red grapes
on the volcanic hills southwest of Padua.
/ Featured Padova Hotels / The
Veneto Self-Catering Accommodation
About the Author - Levi Reiss
is the author or co-author of ten computer and Internet books, but to tell
the truth, he would rather just drink fine Italian or other wine, accompanied
by the right foods. He knows about dieting but now eats and drinks what
he wants, in moderation. He teaches classes in computers at an Ontario
French-language community college. His new wine, diet, health, and nutrition
links to his other sites.