Padua is older than Rome, it’s a short trip away from many of Italy’s hotspots, and it has such a large number of sights that you will need several days to visit them all.
Plus, this intriguing city in the Northern Italian region of the Veneto is often overlooked by tourists in favour of the nearby Venice and Verona. Which is great! As it means that Padua remains mostly off the beaten track and it’s a pleasure to explore without having to run the gauntlet of large crowds and coach parties.
So, if you are looking for an exciting base from which to visit as much of Northern and even Central Italy as possible, Padua is a great choice.
Having lived next door to Padua now for five years, I take every chance to escape to this attractive city in order to see yet more of it and learn more about is history and art. There is so much to discover there! And so many delicious things to eat!
Having learned so much about Padua and experienced so many of its museums, sights, and food, I am only too happy now to pass the word along. So, let’s open the proverbial doors to a destination which you may have not considered but may turn out to be just what you have been looking for in terms of having a base in Italy during a vacation that may span a long weekend, a whole week or an even longer period.
Without further ado, here are the ten main reasons why you should stay in Padua during your Italy holidays. All chopped up and organised in nice and easy portions of information based on my extensive first-hand research and experience.
10 Reasons to Stay in Padua during your Italy Holidays
1. Padua Has an Incredibly Rich Historical and Artistic Heritage
Padua was founded in 1183 BC which makes it 430 years older than Rome! In addition, by the end of the 1st century BC, Padua is alleged to have been the richest city in Italy after Rome. Since then, the city has borne witness to many historical events. Its expansive historical centre is like a patchwork of styles and influences spanning many centuries.
From Roman ruins and medieval gates to Renaissance sculptures and Neoclassical architecture, you will find yourself in the midst of a place where people have lived and created for over three millennia.
Dozens of museums shed light on the different periods in Padua’s exciting history. Every walk you take around town will take you past memorable sights of great historic and artistic importance.
For example, in Padua, you can see the houses in which the polymath Galileo Galilei and the sculptor Donatello lived, the street on which the renowned architect Andrea Palladio was born and the church in which Elena Cornaro Piscopia – the first woman with a PhD in the world – was laid to rest.
For maximum and quick exposure to the art and history of Padua, don’t miss:
- Scrovegni Chapel and Eremitani Civic Museums – Frescoed by Giotto, the Scrovegni Chapel is considered to be the place where the spark of the Italian Renaissance was first lit. With originals by the likes of Tintoretto, Titian, and Giorgione in addition to important archaeological artifacts, the Eremitani Civic Museums offer a detailed introduction to the multilayered past of Padua and its surrounding area.
- Palazzo della Ragione – a splendid medieval town hall which is fully frescoed.
- Pratto della Valle – Italy’s largest square is dotted with 78 statues. They represent famous people connected with the history and culture of Padua. For example, statue number 36 is of Galileo Galilei who, in his own words, spent the happiest 18 years of his life living and teaching in Padua! Number 35 is Petrarch who was a regular visitor to Padua in the 14th century and number 21 is the eminent Renaissance painter Andrea Mantegna who studied and painted in Padua.
For More Information:
- Padua, Italy – 89 Reasons to Visit the City of the Saint
- Exploring Padua: Palazzo della Ragione
- Walking around Padua – A Day of Slow Exploration
- Padua’s Astronomical Clock – Where Time, Science and History Await You
- Cornaro Loggia and Odeon in Padua, Italy – History, Architecture and Art
2. Padua is Both a Scientific and a Religious Centre
Padua is a very curious city in so that both scientific innovation and religious tradition flourish here independently of one another.
Italy’s second oldest University was founded in Padua in 1222 and to this day it is a stalwart of science and scientific discovery. In fact, Padua University is one of the leading higher education institutions in Europe. Over the centuries, many famous scientists have studied and/or taught there and many important discoveries were made along the way.
For example, it’s widely accepted that Padua University is the birthplace of modern medicine. It was there that the world’s first permanent anatomy theatre was installed in the 16th century and systematic dissections regularly took place. This made it possible to completely re-evaluate the then available knowledge about human anatomy.
Padua University’s historical seat – Palazzo Bo – stands right in the city’s heart. Its portico is covered with the crests of former students and daily guided tours take eager visitors to the rooms where science was moulded and shaped for many centuries. Among the highlights is Galileo’s podium from which he taught his widely popular lectures during his time in Padua. Curiously enough, just opposite the podium, you can see one of Galileo’s vertebrae, too.
At the same time, Padua is the centre of the cult of St. Anthony. Or Il Santo as the Saint is lovingly referred to locally.
Make sure that you put at least an hour aside for the splendid Basilica of St. Anthony. This is a richly decorated and rather large church with countless Christian relics and priceless works of art. A lovely cloister, a number of museums and additional chapels make the visit to the basilica an unmissable experience for every visitor to Padua.
The city is rich in churches – both large and small. Each of them has countless stories to tell. From the:
- Church of the Eremitani – carefully restored after it was bombed during the Second World War; to the
- Baptistery – fully covered with frescoes from the 14th century
Padua is the right place to delve into the history and art of the Catholic faith.
For maximum and quick exposure to the scientific and religious traditions of Padua, don’t miss:
- Palazzo Bo – this is the historical seat of the University of Padua. Guided visits are, usually, held daily in a number of languages.
- Padua University Botanical Garden – the world’s oldest botanical garden which, nowadays, is also a UNESCO site.
- St. Anthony Basilica – a Roman Catholic church and a minor basilica dedicated to the cult of St. Anthony.
- Baptistery – dedicated to St. John the Baptist, you will find it next door to Padua’s Duomo. Its plain exterior hides a stunning 14th-century fresco cycle by Giusto de Menabuoi.
- Diocesan Museum – a very interesting museum next to Padua’s Duomo with priceless frescoes and a rich collection of devotional art.
For More Information:
- The Birthplace of Modern Medicine
- Padua’s Botanical Garden and the Basilica of Santa Giustina – A Great Contrast of New and Old
- Three Universities in Italy You Need to Put on Your Travel Wish List Now
3. Padua Offers Excellent Shopping Opportunities
Padua’s central streets are lined with tempting window displays. From multinational high-street favourites to historic shops that have been in business for dozens if not hundreds of years, you will be spoilt for choice.
Cosmetics, jewellery, and fashion stores are followed by shops specialised in rare prints, haberdashery, and priceless antics. Not to mention the many art galleries and book shops. Just take a walk through Padua’s historical centre, popping into any small boutique or larger shopping mall that takes your fancy. Soon, you will find yourself very much in love with dozens of drawings, paintings, rare jewellery pieces, daring outfits, imaginative textiles. Budget accordingly.
In addition, the daily market on Piazza dei Signori (Sundays excluded) and the regularly held bric-a-brac and vintage markets on Prato della Valle give you a chance to shop for bags, clothes, and all sorts of knick-knacks for pocket-friendly prices.
For maximum and quick exposure to shopping opportunities in Padua, go for a walk along:
- Via del Santo up to Palazzo Zabarella – for shops selling rare books and beautiful prints, among other things.
- Via Altinate – for all sorts of boutiques.
- The area between Porta Altinate, Via Baiamonti, and Piazza dei Frutti for all sorts of high-street stores and historic shops.
- Shops and shopping malls are all over Padua, though so explore as many as you can if shopping is your thing.
4. Padua Has an Active Nightlife
Padua is a city where every fifth inhabitant is a student. So, there is a vibrant nightlife and there are lots of places to go to when the sun comes down. Add to this the Italian aperitivo hour and you have a perfect idea of what Padua is about.
Countless cafes and bars line the main squares in town – Piazza delle Erbe, Piazza della Frutta, and Piazza dei Signori. In the late afternoons and early evenings of the hot months, tables and chairs are placed outside. Whole families and groups of friends start coming out in droves, all nicely dressed up, and ready to relax after a long day.
Chatter and music fill the air. Tall glasses clink and clank. Kids run around. Beautiful buildings stand around. It’s quite cinematic, really. Make sure that you take part.
On the other hand, Gran Teatro Geox is the place to head to for concerts by world-famous singers and bands as well as for musical theatre performances touring Europe. Just make sure that you book a ticket in advance.
For maximum and quick exposure to Padua nightlife, go for a:
- Passegiata! This is Italy’s traditional early evening walk taken by families and friends to see what’s new around town and to be seen in their best attire. Head to Padua’s historical centre. Starting from Caffe Pedrocchi walk around the three main squares – Piazza delle Erbe, Piazza della Frutta, and Piazza dei Signori – and see which cafe or bar would appeal to you the most. Have an aperitivo, tuck into dinner, have fun. It’s a great way to experience Italy authentically!
5. Padua is Close to Many Italian Hotspots
Padua’s train station is one of the main hubs of the Italian train system. In addition, a large bus network connects Padua with dozens of small towns and larger cities in the north and the centre of the country. The city is also on important Italian highways like the one leading from Milan to Venice.
All this means one thing: easy day trips with short travel times are a breeze when you stay in Padua during your Italy holidays. Here are some travel times by high speed (Frecciarossa/Frecciargento/Italo Treno) train and/or fast regional (Regionale Veloce) train from Padua to some of the most exciting Italian hotspots:
- Padua to Venice – from 25 mins
- Padua to Vicenza – from 15 mins
- Padua to Verona – from 40 mins
- Padua to Desenzano/Peschiera on Lake Garda – from 56 mins
- Padua to Brescia – from 1 h 19 mins
- Padua to Milan – from 1 h 57 mins
- Padua to Ferrara – from 29 mins
- Padua to Bologna – from 59 mins
- Padua to Ravenna – from 2 h 17 mins
- Padua to Florence – from 1 h 41 mins
- Padua to Mantua – from 1 h 59 mins
For maximum and quick exposure to the many opportunities for day trips from Padua, don’t miss:
- This blog post revealing 35 unmissable destinations to explore from Padua. It also includes a detailed list with tips and tricks on how to navigate the Italian train system.
6. Plus Padua is Next Door to Three Airports
No-one likes an airport transfer that lasts hours and costs the earth. You are in luck then, as Padua is very easily and cheaply reached from three airports with convenient connections across Europe and the world. Great!
Here they are together with tips on how to quickly get from each one of them to Padua:
- Venice Marco Polo Airport – a bus connects this stylish and busy airport with the Venezia Mestre train station. There you can get a train directly to Padua. The bus portion of the journey lasts just under half an hour and the train portion – around 15 mins.
- Treviso Antonio Canova Airport – bus number 101 connects twice an hour this small and compact airport with Padua. In just over an hour you will be arriving in Padua fresh from the plane.
- Verona Valerio Catullo Airport – a shuttle bus connects this compact and easy to navigate airport with the Verona Porta Nuova train station. Once there, get a train ticket to Padua. You will be arriving in 42 mins (with the high-speed Frecciarossa train) or in 59 mins (with the Regionale Veloce train).
To quickly find information about getting from one of the above three airports/cities to Padua, don’t miss:
- Trenitalia – the website of the Italian railway company.
- Padova – Canova Airport – the website with information about bus 101 which connects Padua with Treviso’s Canova Airport.
For More Information:
- Check the section with tips and tricks about quick and cheap train travel from and to Padua at the end of this blog post.
7. In Padua, There Is Great Local and International Food
Padua has some enviable culinary traditions and finding delicious food that doesn’t break the bank is not a problem here. After all, Padua is the city where:
- a daily fresh fruit and vegetable market has been going strong for over 800 years; and where
- the ground floor of the city’s medieval town hall – Palazzo della Ragione – has been occupied by butchers, fishmongers, bakeries, and eateries since it was originally built in the 13th century. A tradition which is going strong right to this day.
Not to mention that one of Italy’s most famous food carts sets up for business every evening (Mondays excluded) on Piazza della Frutta right by Palazzo della Ragione. Called La Folperia it specialises in seafood and most notably, octopus. It’s been in business since 1977 and it keeps alight Padua’s centuries-old tradition of octopus- and seafood-sellers.
The city is also host to many restaurants serving international cuisine. In case you are really hankering for a burger, a Chinese or a Mexican meal, you won’t be left disappointed. Yet, your best bet would be to tuck in the specialties of Padua, the Veneto, and Italy. From bigoli (thick spaghetti traditionally served with duck- or sardine-based sauce) and bollito misto alla Padovana (a stew combining different cuts of meat) to risotto and pizza, the choice is abundant.
From cheap street food to places to eat with friends on wooden tables, from sandwich-shops selling excellent tramezzini, piadine, and panini to refined restaurants, Padua’s food scene is a joy to explore.
For maximum and quick exposure to the many traditional food options in Padua, head straight to:
- Sotto Il Salone – the oldest food shopping centre in Padua. This is the narrow and long space on the ground floor of Palazzo della Ragione. You will find it right in Padua’s heart, between Piazza delle Erbe and Piazza della Frutta. Walk it from one end to the other taking in the rich displays of the resident butchers, fish shops, bakeries, etc. Buy lots of little things from many different shops to sample or stop for a generously stuffed tramezzino or piadina in one of the several bars and sandwich shops inside and outside Sotto Il Salone.
For More Information:
- Italian Food – 13 Ways to Eat Well in Italy Without Breaking the Bank
- Padua’s 800-Years Old Market
- Exploring Padua: Palazzo della Ragione
8. You Will Find Excellent Coffee and Cakes There, Too
Having a serious case of the sweet tooth?! No worries!
Padua is the right place to be if you love cakes, sweets and biscuits. Plus gelato, of course! There are many lovely cake shops and patisseries dotted all over town. Some of them have been at the same spot for dozens of years and the locals flock to them for local sweet specialties. Here is a couple of examples:
- pazientina cake – a glorious mix of almond pastry, sponge, zabaione, and large shavings of dark chocolate. A must-try!
- pevarini – a biscuit with a bite. It’s made of almonds and cacao and spiced up with black pepper.
Talking of excellent places to eat proper Italian gelato, don’t miss Gelateria Giotto – a cute little place with an interesting story behind it. All the gelato and other sweets there are produced by the patisserie workshop at Padua’s Prison where prisoners receive professional patisserie training. Year after year, their panettone, for example, receives some of the highest accolades in Italy.
Padua is not all about the cake, though! This Northern Italian city is also big on coffee. In fact, one of the most well-known historical Italian coffee houses is taking pride of place right in the heart of Padua’s historical centre. Called Caffe’ Pedrocchi, it was founded in 1831.
For maximum and quick exposure to the many amazing cake and coffee options in Padua, head straight to:
- Caffe’ Pedrocchi – one of Italy’s most famous historical coffee houses. In addition to excellent coffees, you will also find a lovely selection of sweets in addition to an in-house restaurant and a museum(!).
- Pasticceria Racca – a beautifully presented patisserie shop in Padua’s historical centre. Their cakes and sweets are like little works of art. Plus, the patisserie’s decor regularly changes according to the season. In the cold months it becomes a veritable Winter Wonderland.
- Pasticceria Biasetto – run by a World Pastry Cup winner, here you will find a wide selection of traditional pastries and sweets.
- Lilium Pasticceria – my guilty secret in Padua. Very close to the Basilica of St. Anthony, they specialise in many traditional for Padua cakes. Plus, they make the Dolce del Santo – a very tasty cake inspired by St. Anthony’s good deeds. My favourite thing in the shop is the Santantonino chocolate bar. Yum!
For More Information:
- Sant’Antonio’s Cakes in Padua, Italy – The Story of the Sweets of the Saint
- Coffee in Italy or 101 Facts about Italian Coffee Culture
9. Padua Has a Rich Programme of Fantastic Events
There is always something happening in Padua. From a rich palette of events during the Christmas holidays to a summer studded with concerts, festivals, and tastings, the city is an exciting place to find yourself at.
Padua’s tourist offices – one inside the train station and another right behind Caffe’ Pedrocchi – can provide you with the most up-to-date information about the latest happenings in town. Every summer, a temporary tourist office opens its doors at Piazza del Santo.
In addition, keep an eye on the website of Padova Fiere – Padua’s sprawling exhibition centre – for news and info about forthcoming large-scale shows and events.
All over town – in shops, cafes, and hotels – you will find bunches of brochures and leaflets. Pick as many as you like as they will give you information about interesting local events you simply cannot miss.
For More Information:
10. Padua Has a Well-Organised Public Transport System
It’s easy to get really tired when you spend your days sightseeing to the max. On such occasions, there is nothing better than being able to return to your accommodation in the quickest and cheapest way.
Padua is crisscrossed by bus lines in addition to a very modern and convenient tram. No matter where you are in town, you can easily get to its other end. No need to walk for miles or to spend a large chunk of your budget on taxis.
The website of Busitalia Veneto has all the details (in Italian, so if you don’t speak it, you can use Google Translate to orientate yourself) about the different public transport lines which run through Padua and connect the city with nearby towns and villages. This page (also in Italian) has up-to-date information about the different types of tickets and their prices.
If you are in the planning stages of a holiday in Italy and are looking for a great place to serve as your base, Padua may just be the perfect candidate.
Within a short distance from three airports and served by an extensive public transport network, Padua in Northern Italy is easy to reach and easy to navigate.
In addition, the city is older than Rome and it has an incredibly rich artistic and historic heritage. Within a short distance from several Italian hotspots like Venice, Verona, Lake Garda, and Milan, Padua is a great starting point for dozens of day trips.
Plus, the city has a thriving food scene, has an 800-years old market, and is home to one of Italy’s most famous historic coffee houses.
This blog post gives you ten reasons to stay in Padua during your Italy holidays. I hope you have found the information and the resources provided helpful and inspiring.
Enjoy planning your stay in Padua!
Are you organising a holiday in Italy? What would you like to see and do? What is a must for you when you pick a base for your Italy holidays? Have you been to Padua before? How was it for you?
Let me know in the Comments section below.
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