Pavia by train or bike

This is an excerpt from the book “Milan and day trips to lakes and art cities

Old Bridge - Photo © renatela
Old Bridge

Pavia is an ancient, exciting city just right for a one-day trip outside Milano. The old city center can easily be covered on foot: walking along the streets and squares, you can see the architectural sights from centuries and centuries of history. From the Roman Era to the Middle Ages, from the Visconti and Sforza eras to the Renaissance, from Neoclassicism to Liberty style you will see remains in Pavia.

I recommend you end your trip by seeing the beautiful Certosa di Pavia, that is 5 km outside the city, which was built around 1396 on the wishes of Gian Galeazzo Visconti, Duke of Milano.

Pavia was the capital of the Longobards, it summarizes, with its architecture, the historical periods of its history. The testimonies are the Visconti Castle and the university buildings, the Cathedral and the church of St. Peter in Ciel d’Oro, the church of St. Michael, where the Longobard kings were once crowned and just outside, the miracle of marble of the Certosa, the authentic jewel of the Renaissance arts.

Pavia Square in the evening - Photo © Giorgio Gonnella
Pavia Square in the evening

Pavia: an itinerary to visit the city

Pavia, the ancient Roman city of Ticinum, later the capital of the Longobards (571-774) and the Carolingians, at one point, overshadowed Milano in importance, then fell into decay.

What remains is a fascinating turreted city, medieval in aspect. Coming from Milano and the Certosa di Pavia, we cross Piazza Dante. Then we arrive immediately to San Pietro in Ciel d’Oro, a magnificent Romanesque church of sandstone and brick, so-called (a ciel d’oro n means “golden sky”) because of its ceiling which was one time gilded; in it are buried St.Augustine (in a magnificent marble Tomb of 1360), Severmus Boethius and King Liutprand.

Castello Visconteo - Photo © Tamurello
Castello Visconteo

From here we pass on to the Castello Visconteo, a handsome square building with towers, crenelated walls and lovely courtyard: at present, it houses many collections.

Turning down Corso Cairoli, we come to the Gothic church of S. Francesco (13th century) and from here to the University, one of the oldest in Italy. Beside the University rise three medieval towers; together with the two in Via Porto these are the only ones left intact of the hundred or more which once gave Pavia its peculiar aspect.

Pavia - Castello Visconteo - Photo © Giorgio Gonnella
Pavia – Castello Visconteo

Note also the famous Renaissance Colleges by Ghislieri, Borromeo, Castiglioni, etc. From the University take Via Roma to the Painting Gallery in the Palazzo Malaspina in Piazza Petrarca: it contains an outstanding group of works by Antonello do Messina, Giovanni Bellini, Correggio, Cima da Conegliano, Vivarlni, Foppa, and others.

Taking Via Venti Settembre and passing by the Lombard-Gothic church of S. Maria del Carmine, we reach the Renaissance Cathedral. Following Strada Nuova and Corso Garibaldi, we come upon the jewel of Pavia, the flawless church of San Michele, which is one of the most important creations of all Romanesque architecture.

Don’t miss in Pavia :

  • the large fortified Castello Visconteo (built in 1360 by Galeazzo II Visconti).
  • The Broletto
  • The Duomo di Pavia, the Cathedral was founded in 1488 and completed only in 1898, when the facade and the dome were completed according to the original design. The central dome has an octagonal plan, and stand at 97 m high, weighing some 20,000 tons. The dome of the Duomo di Pavia is the third for size in Italy, after St. Peter’s Basilica and Santa Maria del Fiore in Florence.
  • Next to the Duomo were the Civic Tower (existing at least from 1330 and enlarged in 1583 by Pellegrino Tibaldi): its fall on March 17, 1989, was the final motivating force that started the efforts to save the Leaning Tower of Pisa from a similar fate.
  • The covered bridge of the Ticino River.
  • The Certosa di Pavia (see the dedicated page.

Where to stay in Pavia

There are hotels, apartments, B&Bs, and guesthouses available, check it out and make a reservation here.