Padua in one day

This is an excerpt from the book “Venice and the Veneto

Sant’Antonio – Photo © [devu]
Sant’Antonio – Photo © [devu]

Visit Padua in one day.

PADUA, another city which, after its Roman origins and a turbulent medieval existence, achieved a happy equanimity under Venetian rule. We enter the city by way of Piazzale Stanga, going immediately (by Via Ognissanti and Via Belzoni) to S. Sofia, the oldest church in Padua (1125) with a magnificent apse.

From here we go to the Scrovegni Chapel, a small Gothic church in the garden which now occupies the site of the Arena, the ancient Roman amphitheater. It contains the cycle of 38 frescoes, which constitute a gigantic undertaking by Giotto (1305-6): it is from here, one might say, that Italian painting set out on its long journey down the ensuing centuries.

Crossing the garden, we come to the Church of the Eremitani (1276), once another sanctuary of Italian painting, before Allied bombs (1944) almost completely destroyed the frescoes by Andrea Mantegna which decorated it; important fragments of them still exist, however.

From here, we go towards the center of the town, passing by the Caffe Pedrocchi, a picturesque neo-classical building, and one of the few old Italian cafes still in existence, to three charming squares, one after the other: Piazza dei Frutti, delle Erbe, and dei Signori. Between the first two, rises the harmoniously elegant Palazzo della Ragione, an oblong building with an arcade, a loggia and a curved roof (1218-1306).

In Piazza dei Signori, we see the elegant Loggia della Gian Guardia (1523) and the Palazzo (del Capimnio, with its Clack Tower, whose arcade leads into the Corle Capitaniato and into the nearby square of the same name. Once the Carraresi Castle, belonging to the lords of Padua, Stood on the site of the Liviano, with rooms originally painted by Altichiero and Guariento.

Prato della Valle Square – Photo © antanask
Prato della Valle Square – Photo © antanask

Nearby is the handsome Vabaresso Arch, built in 1632 in honor of a Venetian mayor. We then enter the Piazza del Duomo, containing the Cathedral, with its rough unfinished facade and its plan based originally on designs by Michelangelo. To the right of the Cathedral is a beautiful Romanesque Baptistery (1260) containing a magnificent Polypitch and Frescoes by Giusto de’ Menabuoi (1378).

In the nearby Via Vescovado, we come upon one of the most beautiful private residence in Padua, the House of Mirrors, so-called because of its polished polychrome marble surface. Returning to our previous route, we pass by the Town Hall and reach the ancient Palazzo dell’Universita with its attractive 16th century courtyard.

Going down Via Roma and turning into the quaint Riviera dei Pomi Romani, we come to the square before the Basilica di Sant’Antonio. This church which presents a fascinating mixture of styles with its Gothic Romanesque walls and the oriental aspect of its seven domes, contains an immense collection of art tress ores, including the marvelous High Altar by Donatello. Also by Donatello is the elegant equestrian statue al’ the Italian soldier of fortune, Erasmo da Norm, known as Gattamelata, which stands in front of the Basilica.

After visiting the church, the lovely cloister and the Museum of St. Anthony, we proceed to the adjacent Civic museum, which has a fine archaeological section, but most of all an excellent collection of paintings (works by Giotto, Lorenzo Veneziano, Jacopo and Giovanni Bellini, Foppa, Vivarini, Morone, Giorgione, Titian, Tintoretto, Veronese, Van Dyck, Piazzetta, Tiepolo, Ricci, Longhi, etc.).

Crossing the canal and going through the picturesque Botanical Gardens, we come into the elegant Prato della Valle, ornamented with canals, statues, trees and obelisks, an ingenious and poetical creation of the 18th century. From here, we move on to the imposing Church of S. Giustina, one of the largest in Christendom (16th century), containing numerous works of art. The Martyrdom of St. Justina by Veronese is in the apse.

Where to stay in Padova

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