For its art, history and food, Padua in Italy is a great travel destination.
Free from the dense tourist mass which overwhelms the better known Italian places, Padua offers a chance to see and experience Italy authentically. The city is rich in churches, palaces, academic traditions and good food.
It is a crossroads where religion and science met centuries ago and still co-exist to this day. After all, this is the city where St. Anthony is venerated to the point of being simply called Il Santo (The Saint), the same way you would call your parents simply mum and dad. Hence Padua’s moniker is the City of the Saint. And, yet again, this is the place which Galileo Galilei called home for 18 years – the happiest of his life, in his own words.
The relationship between religion and science in Padua is not exactly symbiotic, though. Both occupy different strata of the city with art and history wedged between.
This makes Padua even more interesting to explore. You can literally choose which of its faces to see or opt to have a multifaceted approach to it.
So, if you are looking for a great place to add to your travel wish list, here are 89 reasons why you should be putting Padua, Italy right at the top.
These are curious bits of information I learned about Padua on my many trips to the city in the last three and a half years. Discovering its secrets one by one, lifting up the veil over its many layers, has been one of the greatest pleasures of my life in Italy so far.
So, read on! I hope that by the end of this extensive list you will be as intrigued by Padua, Italy as I am.
Padua, Italy – 89 Reasons to Visit the City of the Saint
1. Padua was founded in 1183 BC and there are claims that it is the oldest city in Northern Italy. Nowadays, Padua is also one of the most important cultural and economic centres in this part of the country.
2. The city has a population of 214 125 inhabitants (based on data from 2011). The University of Padua though has 62 577 students (as per data from 2015). So, Padua has a fresh young vibe. You can best experience it in the evenings when the central squares are alive with people sipping an aperitivo and socialising with their friends. And also during graduation days when young people proudly wear real laurel crowns as a testament to their hard work during many years of study.
3. In Italian Padua is called Padova. Its English exonym (the name of a place in a foreign language) is based on the medieval Latin name of the city, i.e. Padua. This itself was based on Padoa – the name of the city in the Venetian language. The current Italian form – Padova – is actually based on the Tuscan dialect which was accepted as the language of culture in Italy and standard Italian was based on it.
4. Padua’s current name derives from its Roman name Patavium (which, apparently, was pronounced as ‘Patauium’). Although its etymology is not certain, one theory is that it is based on the old name of the river Po – Padus. Yet another theory states that Patavium probably came from the Gaulish word ‘padi’ meaning ‘pine’.
5. Padua has a very interesting historic centre with countless sights and places to explore over several days. The most important sights can be seen in a day, but to truly capture the city’s spirit, be prepared to spend at least one night. Also wear comfortable shoes, as there is a lot of ground to cover. In the centre you can walk everywhere. Alternatively, make use of the frequent trams and buses to get from point A to point B. A single ticket currently is 1.30 euros if you buy it in advance (or 2 euros if you buy it from the driver of the tram/bus).
6. Padua’s train station is one of the main hubs of the Italian railway system. You can easily and quickly reach Padua for a day trip (or extended stay) from Milan, Verona and Venice. The city is also well connected with Ferrara, Bologna, Rome and dozens of other smaller and bigger towns and cities in Italy.
7. According to the myth (apparently corroborated by Virgil’s Aeneid), Padua was founded by Antenor. He was a Trojan prince and a counsellor of King Priam of Troy. Antenor, actually, advocated for the Beautiful Helen to be returned to the Greeks. After the fall of Troy, Antenor led the Eneti tribe (also called Veneti, who were allies of Troy) from what is now Northern Turkey to the lands around the river Brenta in modern day Veneto where he founded Padua in 1183 BC.
8. This makes Padua 430 years older than Rome!
9. In fact, nowadays you can see the so-called Antenor’s Tomb in the centre of Padua (just a few steps away from Palazzo Bo – the historical seat of the University of Padua). For centuries it was believed that the large sarcophagus displayed there contained the remains of the Trojan hero. Unfortunately, in 1985 modern technology dispelled this belief. Still, the Antenor’s Tomb remains a must-see sight in Padua.
10. Patavium (nowadays Padua) became an ally of Rome in 226 BC and a Roman municipum in 49 BC. Several bridges, an arena and a river port were built at that time. There was also an attempt to regulate the waters surrounding Patavium.
11. Many Roman roads crossed Patavium including the very important Via Annia. It connected the city with the main Roman centres thus stimulating commerce.
12. By the end of the 1st century BC, Padua is alleged to have been the richest city in Italy after Rome. With its 40 000 inhabitants and wealth based on horse breeding and the production of wool and woolen garments, Padua was also famous as a place of strict morals unlike Rome.
13. Unfortunately, the city was sacked several times between the 5th and the 9th centuries AD. The Huns of Attila in 450 AD and then the Magyars in 899 cruelly pillaged Padua. The result is that not much of its Roman heritage survived. Nowadays you can see the remains of the Roman arena of Padua in the park Giardini dell’Arena, right next door to the world-famous Scrovegni Chapel (see point 31 below).
14. The bloodiest siege that Padua suffered lasted 12 years! It started after the citizens of the city rose against Agilulf – the Lombard king. In 601 AD, the Lombards stormed the city after the long siege and burned it. Many citizens of Padua took refuge on the Venetian islands thus contributing to the creation of Venice. It took Padua centuries to return to its former glory.
15. The Paduan Basilica and Abbey of Santa Giustina houses the tomb of St. Prosdocimus. He introduced Christianity to Padua and the Veneto. He was sent there from Antioch by St. Peter the Apostle and became the first bishop of Padua.
16. St. Justina (Santa Giustina in Italian) – one of the first martyrs of Christianity – is also buried in the enormous Basilica of Santa Giustina. She is the patron saint of Padua and the second patron of Venice after St. Mark. In the Paduan basilica dedicated to her you can see The Martyrdom of St. Justina by the famous Renaissance painter Paolo Veronese.
17. 118.5 long and 82 m wide, the Basilica of Santa Giustina itself is one of the largest churches in the world. In fact, this article ranks it as the sixth largest based on its area. You will find it right by Padua’s enormous square Prato della Valle (see point 61 below). Initially built in the 6th century, the basilica had a tumultuous history having been both sacked by troops and devastated by an earthquake. Its present building took shape in the 17th century. Inside pay special attention to the floor. Covered with marble in yellow, white and red, its geometric design creates a tridimensional illusion.
18. Padua is known as the City of the Saint for its devotion to St. Anthony. The Saint (or Il Santo, as he is called locally) is venerated in the city. Recognised as one of the most celebrated followers of St. Francis of Assisi, the Portuguese-born St. Anthony is, among other things, the patron saint of lost things. His tomb in Padua’s splendid Basilica of St. Anthony is a place of pilgrimage for people from all over the world.
19. 13th June – the Day of St. Anthony – is a special day for Padua, Italy. A large procession carrying the relics and the statue of the saint takes to the streets of the city. A mass is served at the Basilica of St. Anthony hourly.
20. Initially built between 1232 and 1310 and then modified through the centuries, the Basilica of St. Anthony is Padua’s most important sight. In fact, five millions pilgrims visit it every year. With its architectural mix, splendid frescoes and treasure trove of masterpieces, the basilica is a must-see. I particularly love the fresco showing St. Anthony preaching to the fishes. In summer, the Basilica’s cloisters offer a welcome respite from the hot Italian sun and are a quiet place of reflection. The adjacent museums of the Basilica give you a chance to learn more about the life of St. Anthony. There you can also see the votive offerings donated in gratitude for graces received through the intercession of the Saint.
21. Although the remains of the Saint are in the splendid tomb in the Chapel of St. Anthony, his tongue, his vocal apparatus and his jawbone are kept separately in the Chapel of the Relics (also called Treasure Chapel) inside the Basilica. There is an interesting story behind this. In 1263 (32 years after the death of the Saint) his remains were moved to the Basilica that had been especially constructed in his honour. While the Saint’s body had succumbed to decomposition, his tongue was, quite miraculously, untouched. Nowadays, the Incorrupt Tongue of St. Anthony is kept in a crystal reliquary made in 1436 by the goldsmith Giuliano da Firenze. Another reliquary from 1350 contains the Saint’s jawbone. A third reliquary (created by C. Balljana in 1981) contains the Saint’s vocal apparatus which was removed during the last scientific examination. A fourth reliquary (created by R. Cremesini in 1982) contains a bone from the foot, a fragment of skin and some hair from the body of St. Anthony. The Chapel of the Relics also holds a silver case with a fragment of the True Cross.
22. On 15th February each year Padua celebrates the so-called Festa della Lingua -an occasion for the devotees to mark the miracle which had preserved the tongue of the Saint.
23. Next door to the Basilica of St. Anthony in Padua, Italy, don’t miss the School of the Saint. For a humble fee you will be able to see a series of 18 frescoes from the beginning of the 16th century. Three of them were painted by one of the most famous sons of the Veneto – Titian himself. Usually, there are very few visitors here, so you can lose yourself in the masterful works of art without the pressure that large crowds in museums put on us. Tickets for the School of the Saint are sold in the Oratory of Saint George next door. The Oratory can also be visited for a humble fee and it offers a magnificent 14th century series of frescoes by Altichiero da Zevio.
24. In front of the Basilica of St. Anthony in Padua, Italy you can see the statue of the Venetian general Gattamelata by Donatello – the renowned sculptor from Florence. The statue has been at this place on Piazza del Santo since 1453. It is the earliest surviving Renaissance equestrian sculpture and it has inspired the canons for statues depicting military heroes. It is also the first full-size equestrian bronze statue cast since antiquity. Donatello took ten years to create it. You may notice that one of the horse’s front hooves rests on a small cannonball. Otherwise it would have been too heavy to have it lifted in the air without any support.
25. Donatello also sculpted a bronze Madonna with Child and six statues of Saints for the high altar area of the Basilica. His are also the four reliefs with episodes from the life of St. Anthony there.
26. The University of Padua was founded in 1222 and thus is the second oldest University in Italy and the fifth still in operation today University in the world. Click here to find out more including how to visit its historic seat – the beautifully frescoed Palazzo Bo.
27. Padua’s Botanical Garden is considered to be the oldest University Botanical Garden in the world. It dates back to 1545. The garden is a UNESCO World Heritage Site with over 7000 botanical species and some impressive architecture. It has a Historical Garden and a modern Biodiversity Garden replicating the world’s climatic conditions and their respective plants.
28. The Historical Garden of Padua’s Botanical Garden houses, among other things, a 432 years old palm tree. This palm inspired Goethe himself to describe his evolutionary theory in the ‘Essay on the Metamorphosis of Plants’. Click here to find out more.
29. Padua’s market is 800 years old! In other words, for the past eight centuries a market has been held at the same place in Padua every day from Monday til Saturday. You will find the market at Piazza della Frutta and Piazza delle Erbe and it spills down Piazza dei Signori, surrounded by some of Padua’s most iconic buildings. Click here to find out more.
30. When the market closes each day, the market stalls are taken away. This leaves the squares free to be taken over by the nearby cafes. Tables and chairs are placed outside, directly on the paved squares, and late into the night people enjoy drinks and chats with friends. It is the best way to experience Padua’s vibe.
31. The famous Scrovegni Chapel is in Padua. Fully frescoed by Giotto around 1305, it is considered to be one of the earliest signs of the impending Renaissance. A visit is a must! Book your tickets in advance as entry is based on time slots and tickets sell out quickly.
32. Just a few steps away from the Scrovegni Chapel is the Church of the Eremitani with its own dramatic frescoes supported by a compelling story. Painted between 1453 and 1457 by Andrea Mantegna, the frescoes in the Ovetari Chapel of the church were destroyed during the Second World War. The Allied Forces bombed the nearby German barracks, but instead hit the Church of the Eremitani with disastrous results. The Mantegna frescoes fell to the ground in 88 thousand fragments. This was Italy’s most devastating art casualty of war. Only many decades later and thanks to a sophisticated piece of software, the frescoes were pieced back together. Read the full story here.
33. Padua has many fully frescoed on the inside (and some on the outside, too) historical and religious buildings. In fact, the city is currently applying for its 14th-century painting cycles to be included in the UNESCO World Heritage List. They all are a must-see. I particularly love the frescoes by Giusto de Menabuoi in Padua Baptistery next door to Padua’s Cathedral (see point 36 below). Stand in the middle of the Baptistery and lift your eyes up. Meeting the gaze of the dozens of saints and angels surrounding Christ Pantocrator is a hypnotic experience.
34. If you love frescoes, then don’t miss the Diocesan Museum in Padua, Italy. Housed in the 15th century residence of the Bishops of Padua, it has a lovely collection of works of art. Most notable among these though is the series of frescoes in the Bishops’ Hall. It depicts the first 100 Bishops of Padua beginning with St. Prosdocimus. The frescoes were originally painted by Bartolomeo Mantegna and subsequently re-worked and re-touched through the centuries.
35. Don’t expect to see just old-school frescoes in Padua, Italy, though. The city is home to one of the best graffiti artists in Italy, too. You will see Kenny Random’s murals all over the historic centre of Padua and beyond its confines. They are both romantic and cheeky, filling you with unexpected wave of emotion when you come across them either on the busy central streets or in the quiet side alleys.
36. Padua has many splendid churches, but its main place of Christian worship is the 16th century Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta at Piazza Duomo. The Cathedral is flanked by the Padua Baptistery on one side (see point 33 above) and the Diocesan Museum (see point 34 above) on the other. There are those who claim that Michelangelo himself took part in the design process of the Cathedral.
37. Padua’s Palazzo della Ragione is an early 13th-century medieval town hall where meetings and tribunals deciding the faith of Padua and its citizens have been held for centuries. Its fully frescoed Great Hall has to be seen to be believed. On the other hand, the ground floor of the palazzo houses food shops selling locally-sourced meat, vegetables and fish. Click here to read more about this extraordinary building which has been serving the social and physical needs of the citizens of Padua for such a long time.
38. Connected to Pallazo della Ragione and facing Palazzo del Bo, don’t miss Palazzo Moroni. This is Padua’s City Hall. It is an enormous yet elegantly proportional building. The names of the sons of Padua, fallen in the different wars led by Italy, are inscribed in a long list on the side of the City Hall.
39. Padua had a complex defensive system of walls and ramparts built in four phases: Roman, 13th century (medieval walls), 14th century (Carraresi’s walls) and 16th century (Renaissance walls or Venetian walls).
40. Padua’s Renaissance (or Venetian) defensive walls were built between 1523 and 1544. They made the city impregnable. These walls and their gates are still standing to this day, almost entirely intact. They are beautiful to look at, walk on and take photos of.
41. The first permanent anatomical theatre in the world was built in the University of Padua in 1594. Made of wood and with, they say, intentionally uncomfortable benches, so that the students wouldn’t fall asleep, it was used to teach anatomy through dissections until 1872. Nowadays, it can be seen as part of a guided tour of Palazzo Bo – the historical seat of the University of Padua (see point 26 above). Click here to find out how.
42. Galileo Galilei spent 18 years (1592-1610) living and teaching in Padua. In his own words, that was the happiest period of his life. At Palazzo Bo you can see the Aula Magna where Galilei used to hold his lectures, as well as the podium on which he used to stand.
43. You can also see (only from the outside) the house in which Galilei resided during some of his 18 years in Padua. There are brown signs pointing you to it as you walk around town. The house is on Via Galilei and it is marked with a humble plaque. It is incredible to think that the scientist discovered the four largest moons of Jupiter during astronomical observations with his telescope conducted in the garden of this house.
44. The University of Padua was also the first University in the world to give an academic degree to a woman. The Venetian Elena Cornaro Piscopia was awarded her degree in philosophy on 25th June 1678. She originally wanted to complete a degree in theology at the University, but was not allowed on the base that she was a woman.
45. A Veronese architect and painter called Giovanni Maria Falconetto introduced Renaissance architecture to Padua and completed several projects in the city. The Cornaro Loggia and Odeon in Padua, Italy were designed by Falconetto and were the first fully Renaissance buildings in the Veneto. Read more about these fascinating buildings here.
46. The Cornaro Loggia was the inspiration for the world-famous architect Andrea Palladio during his work on the design of the Teatro Olimpico in nearby Vicenza. Click here to find out more about Palladio’s friendship with the owner of the loggia – Alvise Cornaro.
47. In fact, Andrea Palladio – nowadays recognised as one of the most influential architects in the world for the past 500 years – was born in Padua, Italy. You can see a humble plaque testifying to this fact on the wall of a terraced house on Via dei Rogati in the historical centre of the city.
48. Gaspara Stampa is another celebrated Paduan. Born in 1523, she is considered to have been the greatest woman poet of the Italian Renaissance. Stampa wrote 311 poems, most of which were dedicated to a Venetian count she was in love with. Her poetry is inspired by her feelings of elation and depression brought to her by love.
49. Bartolomeo Cristofori (1655-1731) was also born in Padua. Even though his name may not immediately ring a bell, I bet that you have seen (and, perhaps, even played) his invention thousands of times. For Cristofori was the the inventor of the piano.
50. Before Palladio, Stampa and Cristofori though, one of the most celebrated Roman historians was born and died in Patavium (nowadays Padua). He was called Titus Livius (known as Livy in English). He was extremely proud of his home city and its conservative values. Livy wrote an exhaustive History of Rome and its people. His bones are kept in an urn in Prato della Valle (see point 61 below).
51. Another famous son of Patavium was the Roman senator P. Clodius Thrasea Paetus. As an opponent of immorality, Paetus disagreed with Emperor Nero’s plans to kill his own mother, which led to Paetus’ death in 66 AD.
52. Petrarch was not born in Padua, but found his last peaceful retreat in the city and the nearby Euganean Hills. The poet and humanist lived in Padua during its biggest cultural bloom under the rule of the Carraresi family.
53. Leaving art and culture aside, Padua also has some of the world’s best cakes, sweets and biscuits. Don’t leave the city without trying its famous Pazientina cake – a multilayered dessert that can be traced back to the 16th century. It has an almond paste base, two layers of zabaglione, and a layer of sponge cake, all covered in dark chocolate shavings.
54. Make sure that you also sample such local delicacies as zaeti (traditional cornmeal biscuits scented with oranges and studded with raisins), crostoli (crumbly sweets typical for the Carnival period), fregolotta cake (quite similar to the Scottish shortbread), huge meringues in pastel colours, and the mythical pevarini biscuits (made with cacao, almonds and black pepper which gives them a slightly spicy taste).
55. Above all, try the Dolce del Santo (the cake of the Saint) – a puff pastry based cake with a layer of sponge and a helping of apricot jam. Click here to find out more about it and where is the best place to sample it in Padua, Italy.
56. Padua has some truly fabulous cafes and cake shops. One of my favourites is the Pasticceria Racca with its out-of-this-world bite-size sweets and lavish seasonal decorations and displays. For Christmas, for example, the facade of the cake shop was adorned with huge branches sprayed in silver and covered in snow, while inside they had created a veritable Winter Wonderland.
57. Padua’s most legendary cafe though is Caffe Pedrocchi. Founded in 1772, it is one of Italy’s historic cafes. They used to call it ‘the cafe without doors’ as from 1831 (year of construction of its current grand premises) to 1916 it was open 24 hours and its doors were never closed. You will find Caffe Pedrocchi right opposite Palazzo Bo (the historical seat of the University of Padua). Enjoy a coffee, drink, a slice of cake or a light lunch or dinner in its coffee house, cake shop or restaurant. It is one of the most authentic experiences you can have in Padua, Italy. After all, Caffe Pedrocchi is a place where history and myth meet.
58. Curiously enough, Caffe Pedrocchi houses a museum, too! On its piano nobile you will find the Museum of Risorgimento and the Contemporary Age. It documents the events of a tumultuous for the Veneto century and a half – from the fall of the Venetian Republic in 1797 to 1st January 1948 (the day on which the Italian Constitution came into force).
59. Caffe Pedrocchi is in fact much more than a coffee house for the proud citizens of Padua, Italy. On 8th February 1848, the cafe (together with the University of Padua) became a veritable battleground where students and citizens fought side by side against Austrian rule.
60. The Austrian Empire ruled over Padua (as part of its Kingdom of Lombardy-Venetia) from 7th November 1813. With the Peace of Vienna in 1866, Padua joined the newly established Kingdom of Italy.
61. History and battles aside, walk off all those biscuits and cakes from Padua’s best cafes by going for a stroll along Prato della Valle. With its 90 000 square meters, this is the biggest square in Italy and one of the biggest in Europe. Prato della Valle has an elliptical shape, around which runs a canal adorned with two rings of statues. The green space inside is known as the Isola Memmia. Prato della Valle was created by Andrea Memo in the 18th century. Today the square regularly holds markets, festivals, parties and city-wide events.
62. There are 78 statues surrounding Prato della Valle. They represent famous people connected with the history and culture of Padua, Italy. See how many you can recognise (statue number 36, for example, is of Galileo Galilei). Bear in mind that, originally, there were 88 statues at the square. In 1797, after the fall of the Venetian Republic, Napoleon ordered the destruction of the statues of the Venetian doges.
63. Among the many buildings around Prato della Valle, you cannot fail to notice the elegant Loggia Amulea. This neogothic structure used to be the headquarters of Padua’s firefighters for most of the 20th century. Nowadays, it houses different offices and a hall where civil matrimonies are performed.
64. Padua has several splendid squares. The most famous of these are: Piazza delle Erbe, Piazza delle Frutta, and Piazza dei Signori. You can easily spend half of your day there marveling at the stunning historical buildings which surround them, shopping in the countless boutiques and high street shops, picking fresh fruit and knick-knacks at the daily market, having a light lunch at one of the many cafes and just watching the people of Padua go by.
65. My favourite shop in Padua is just past Piazza delle Erbe. Called Antica Drogheria Caberlotto, it stocks regional delicacies from all over Italy. Plus, some rare goodies like proper English tea and Scottish shortbread, too.
66. Piazza dei Signori has always been the hub of Padua’s power. The palaces of the city’s rulers have always surrounded this splendid city square. It was also used as the stage for public ceremonies. Tournaments, festivals and markets have been held there through the centuries. Piazza dei Signori is best enjoyed after the daily market is finished trading for the day, and after all the stalls have been cleared away. Then you can truly appreciate the beauty of the square and the buildings which surround it.
67. Padua’s stunning astronomical clock is the crowning glory of Piazza dei Signori. Embedded in the tower of the impressive Loggia del Capitanio, the clock has a very interesting story. Some even consider it to be the oldest clock in the world. There are three curious things about Padua’s astronomical clock. One is that at noon the hour hand points straight down instead of straight up. This is because the dial is divided in 24 rather than 12 sections (like the clocks we are used to). Click here to find out which are the other two things.
68. A lovely building you can admire at Piazza dei Signori, is the stunning Loggia del Consiglio (also known as the Loggia della Gran Guardia). This is where the Great Council of the City would hold its meetings after a large fire devastated in 1420 the nearby Palazzo della Ragione (see point 37 above). During the Austrian domination of Padua, the loggia was used as military headquarters. Nowadays, it is a centre where exhibitions and cultural initiatives take place.
69. Another historical sight you can see at Piazza dei Signori in Padua, Italy is the so-called Colonna Marciana. This is a pillar on top of which stands a statue of the Venetian lion (testifying that between 1406 and 1797 Padua was part of the Republic of Venice). The pillar was erected at that place in the mid-18th century. It is interesting to know that the pillar is composed of parts which are much older than that. For example, the marble column and the capital are Roman and were discovered in 1764 near the Church of San Marco. The column is thought to have formed part of the colonnade of one of Patavium’s large wool markets along the river. The lion was sculpted in 1870 by Natale Sanavio to replace the one destroyed by the troops of Napoleon in 1797.
70. Across from the Colonna Marciana stands a large flagpole. It has a marble base from the 16th century. The marble panels on its four sides depict the cardinal virtues. Plus, on one of its steps is engraved the antique Paduan measure brazz which corresponds to 64 cm. The engraved measure was used to establish if you had been a victim of fraudulent market traders.
71. If it starts to rain (not unheard of in this part of Italy) or if the sun shines too bright, take refuge under the Paduan porticoes. Easily explained, these are pavements with a ceiling above. Padua is one of the three cities in Italy and coincidentally the world (the other two being Bologna and Turin) with the longest in terms of km total length of porticoes. Padua has 12 km of porticoes to the 38 km of Bologna and the 18 km of Turin.
72. At the same time, Padua is second after Bologna in terms of the correlation between the length of its porticoes and that of its streets. The tradition of building porticoes in the city is ancient and nowadays you can find there porticoes of many different eras and styles: Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance, Neoclassical and even several modern ones. In fact, you can walk all over Padua’s historical centre barely popping out of its porticoes. You will soon be wondering why other cities around the world don’t have porticoes to save you getting wet in the rain or all hot and bothered in the sun.
73. Padua is built between two rivers – Brenta to the north and Bacchiglione to the south. Brenta connects Padua with the Venetian lagoon and navigable canals stretch all the way to the river Po.
74. Take a boat (called burchiello) for a mini-cruise along the Brenta canal. Soon you will be sailing past the grand villas which the Venetian aristocrats had built for themselves. Villa Pisani – the so-called Queen of the Venetian Villas – is a very short distance away from Padua. Visiting it is a great day out. Read more about it here.
75. An authentic way to explore Padua’s past is to go for a walk through the narrow cobbled streets of the city’s Jewish Ghetto. It is in the heart of the historic centre, just a few steps away from Piazza delle Erbe. Nowadays lined up with small boutiques and lovely eateries, the streets of the Ghetto bear witness to the lives of the Jewish citizens of Padua over several centuries. Since the 11th century there has been a continuous Jewish presence in the city. The best way to learn about it is to visit the Jewish Heritage Museum. It is very well curated and with some very hospitable people looking after it. I particularly loved watching the film ‘A Generation Comes, A Generation Goes’ which they show you as part of your visit to the museum.
76. The visit to the Jewish Heritage Museum also includes a visit to the nearby Italian synagogue. Originally built in 1548, it is the only one remaining in the city. It is interesting to note that the 16th century Torah Ark is made from the wood of a tree that was struck by lightning in the Padua’s Botanical Garden (see point 27 above).
77. Once a month you can also join a guided visit to the oldest of the Jewish cemeteries remaining in Padua, Italy. It has been used since the 16th century and until the 18th century it was outside the medieval walls. In the cemetery is the tomb of Rabbi Meir Katzenellenbogen who was born in Prague in 1565 and died in Padua in 1565. His tomb and that of his son Samuel attract pilgrims from all over Europe.
78. Padua, Italy is home to a number of exciting museums and galleries both in and outside of the city’s historical centre. You will be spoilt for choice and can easily fill up several days with museum visits and gazing at world-famous masterpieces and other priceless artifacts.
79. Set some serious time aside to explore the City Museums, the Archaeological Museum, and the Museum of Medieval and Modern Art. They are housed in the old cloisters of the Eremitani monastery. The Scrovegni Chapel (see point 31 above) also makes part of this splendid set of museums.
80. Head over to the nearby Palazzo Zuckermann to see the Museum of Applied and Decorative Arts (with over 2000 artifacts) and the Museum Bottacin with its art and numismatic collections. Nicola Bottacin, a rich merchant, bestowed them to the city of Padua in 1865. Expect beautiful jewellery, Chinese ceramics, and precious intaglios.
81. If you are travelling with kids, don’t miss the charming Esapolis – The Museum of Living Insects. There kids can observe insects from all over the world in glass displays replicating their natural environment. Click here to read more about it.
82. Kids and adults alike will also love visiting the Museum of the Astronomical Observatory of Padua – La Specola. 18th century instruments made by English craftsmen and used by Paduan astronomers are on display. A tall tower (called La Torlonga) plays host to the museum. In the past it was part of the Castle of Padua – a defensive structure which dates back to the 13th century. La Torlonga has been an astronomical observatory since 1761. Now that it is a museum, there you can see the lower observatory in the Meridian Hall and the upper observatory at 35 m height in the Hall of Figures.
83. If you love looking at the stars, head over to the Planetarium on the outskirts of Padua, Italy. With daily events, some of which in English, it is a great place to learn about astronomy and the sky.
84. Shoe-lovers will achieve Nirvana at the Rossimoda Shoe Museum in Stra – a small riverside town within a very short distance from Padua. Housed in the splendid Villa Foscarini Rossi, the museum has two permanent exhibitions and hundreds of pairs of exquisite shoes. You can combine a visit to the Shoe Museum with a visit to Villa Pisani (see point 74 above) for a great day out.
85. Explore Padua’s quirkiness by visiting the Museum of Fire and Matches. There are over 35 000 match boxes there among many other artifacts related to the theme of the museum.
86. Kids would love a chance to explore the Toy Museum of the Veneto (Museo Veneto del Giocattolo). Established in 2006, it has a large collection of toys and games from the 19th century up to the 1970’s. There are seven different sections and a special wing dedicated to toys produced by a local to Padua famous Italian toy company.
87. MUSME is an innovative museum dedicated to the history of medicine from ancient to our modern times. A special emphasis is placed on the history of Padua’s Medical School. The museum is in a 15th century building that for almost four centuries served as Padua’s hospital. Interactive and multimedia exhibits and itineraries explore the human anatomy, physiology, pathology and therapeutics among other things.
88. Padua offers countless opportunities for great days out exploring the rich heritage of the lands that surround the city. Hiking through the volcanic Euganean Hills; marveling at medieval walled towns like Montagnana, Este, and Monselice; dipping in the thermal waters of nearby Abano Terme and Montegrotto Terme… The choice, as they say, is yours.
89. Padua is proud to have its own breed of hen. The Padovana chicken looks really cool. Instead of a crest, it has a tuft of long feathers on top of its head. Originally imported from Poland in 1500, the breed took well to Padua’s climate and became quite symbolic for the city. The Padovana chicken lays lots of eggs and has excellent meet. Above all, it looks simply gorgeous. The tuft of feathers is not just ornamental, though. Apparently, it helps keep the chicken warm through the cold winter.
Here you have them: 89 reasons to visit Padua, Italy, known as the City of the Saint. I hope you enjoyed reading them!
Keep an eye on the blog as in a few weeks I will be posting a comprehensive itinerary for Padua. It will allow you to see up to 30 of the above sights within one day.
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