Padua is considered to be one of the most important economical and cultural centers of the Veneto area.
It also represents a destination for millions of pilgrims who wish to visit Saint Anthony’s tomb inside the Basilica built in 1332. Another cultural attraction is the Scrovegni Chapel which contains some beautiful paintings by Giotto.
Nearby the Basilica there is also the ancient arboretum (managed by Padua University). The structure was built in 1545 originally to cultivate medicinal herbs. It was later enriched with numerous exotic plants and offers today a wide selection of prestigious and ancient plants.
Coming from the Basilica del Santo, having visited the botanical gardens, you will arrive in Prato della Valle, a wide oval shaped square (one of the biggest in Europe) surrounded by a circular canal and adorned with numerous statues standing above the canal itself
The square comes to life especially on Saturdays when the market is on. During this day the square is filled with colorful stalls full of fabrics, flowers, clothes and most of all lots of people who live this experience for work or for pleasure.
Near the square is the imposing church Basilica di Santa Giustina which contains paintings and structures from the 15th century.
An interesting building to visit is the astronomical observatory (nowadays headquarters to Padua University’s institute of astronomy). During summer, on occasion of the “notturni d’arte” (evening visits of the main city monuments), it is possible to visit the astronomical observatory’s top floor in which the ancient optical instruments are still kept.
Another particularly interesting religious building is the Baptistery (12th century) a circular structure whose walls inside are completely covered in affrescos (by Giusto da Menabuoi 1376-1378). The surrounding square (Piazza Duomo) is a very pleasant place to have an aperetif, a coffee or an ice-cream. There are in fact a number of bars which thanks to their outside chairs and tables give the possibility of a short stop surrounded by architectural beauties of our past.
The squares represent an area of particular interest: Piazza delle Erbe [“Herb Square”], Piazza della Frutta [“Fruit Square”] and Piazza dei Signori [“Gentlemen Square”]. The squares surround Palazzo della Ragione [“Palace of Reason”] (which originated in 1218). In Piazza dei Signori you can also find the Torre dell’Orologio [“Clock Tower”]. The clock lacks the sign of libra (which was the sign of the commissioner) as the agreed payment wasn’t paid in full so the builder decided not to include his sign for revenge. Instead of giving detailed descriptions of the buildings we suggest visiting the squares on Wednesday and Saturday evenings as they get crowded with students who gather for the “spritz” ( a typical Veneto aperitive) ceremony, an aperitif in the open. Another important time to experience these places is Saturday morning during the market. A mixture of colours, products and scents.
These places are really lived as markets even below the halls of the Palazzo della Ragione filled with a number of small shops (mainly selling meat, cheeses and other foods) where you can experience a taste of the genuine everyday paduan lifestyle.
Palazzo del Bo: represents Padua University’s historical headquarters and was founded in 1222, it has an anatomical room built in 1594 and other very interesting rooms built in different periods.
Some of the famous students which gave prestige to the university are:
Nicolò Copernico, Francesco della Rovere (Pope Sisto IV), Giovanni Pico della Mirandola, Leon Battista Alberti, Paolo Toscanelli, Francesco Guicciardini, Pietro Bembo, Torquato Tasso, Paolo Sarpi, Bernardino Telesio, Tommaso Campanella, Roberto Bellarmini, William Havery e Gerolamo Cardani.
Amongst the lecturers the most famous one is certainly Galileo Galileo whose desk is still kept.
Nonetheless Padua University has a very particular historical world record: The first woman to get a degree in history.
Elena Lucrezia Corsaro Piscopia (1646-1678), born from a noble veneto family, expressed her desire to enroll in Padua’s theology faculty. The bishop, however, didn’t consider it appropriate for a woman to engage in such studies so she then changed to philosophy. She then got a degree in philosophy and the legend tells us that the number of people who assisted at the presentation of her thesis was so great that it had to be held in the courtyard of the basilica of Santa Giustina as the university classrooms where not sufficiently big to accept all the spectators.
One last particularity for those visiting the city on foot are the arcades which edge most of the roads inside the city walls. Even when it rains it is possible to walk around the city without an umbrella and enjoy the atmosphere of a fascinating city rich in history.
A residence such as the Matrixrelais luxury residence, furnished apartments with hotel services, is an alternative to Inns, Hotels or bed & breakfasts for those of you who wish to visit Padua. Secured car park for those coming by car and public transport a few minutes away on foot.