A lesser visited university town in the north of Italy, within easy reach of Venice or Verona. Majestic buildings, arcaded streets and peaceful canals. And not just one, but two, UNESCO World Heritage Sites. These are just a few of the reasons to spend a day in Padua.
Why Visit Padua?
Padua is home to the second oldest university in Italy (the oldest is in Bologna). This, plus the historical wealth of the city, has created a legacy of grand buildings, many filled with the medieval frescoes for which Padua is famous.
It is also an important place of pilgrimage: St Anthony is buried in Padua and the 25 km Walk of Saint Anthony ends here. Then there is the Shakespeare connection: this was the setting for his play Taming of the Shrew. As you walk the shady colonnaded streets you can imagine yourself back in that world, in the place that Petruchio describes as “fair Padua, nursery of the arts”.
Perhaps best of all (especially if you are day tripping from Venice) is the relative lack of tourists, allowing a respite from the crowds.
What To See And Do On Your Day In Padua
Padua suffered bomb damage during World War II, meaning that it is now a mixture of old and new. However enough of the old town survives to give you a flavour of the city in the Middle Ages. You will find the arcades that are so common in northern Italy (most notably in Bologna), churches and monastic buildings, and Roman remains.
Most of the 13th century town walls have now disappeared (or have been incorporated into later buildings) but you can still see two of the original city gates: the Porta Molino and the Porta Altinate.
UNESCO World Heritage
For many visitors the highlight of a day in Padua will be the two World Heritage Sites. The eight buildings that collectively make up Padua’s Fourteenth-Century Fresco Cycles include the magnificent Scrovegni Chapel (in my opinion the single most important sight in Padua) and the pilgrimage church of the Basilica di San Antonio.
The second World Heritage Site is the small but peaceful 16th century botanic garden, claimed to be the oldest garden of its type in the world.
- UNESCO World Heritage Of Padua’s Fourteenth-Century Fresco Cycles
- Visiting The Padua Botanical Garden, A UNESCO World Heritage Site
The approach to the Scrovegni Chapel is via the Arena Gardens (Giardini dell’Arena). This public park, once owned by the Scrovegni family, contains the remains of the Roman amphitheatre and its surrounding wall.
The chapel itself is adjacent to the Eremetani Museum, housed around the cloister of a former monastery. The ground floor is an archaeological museum with statues, mosaics and other artefacts from the Etruscan and Roman periods. There are also some Egyptian antiquities. The first floor houses a medieval and modern art gallery. In the cloister and a separate garden area there are Roman statues and other fragments.
Piazzas And Markets
A notable feature of Padua is the many piazzas, many of them hosting lively food and clothing markets. The largest and most popular is Prato della Valle, not far from the Botanic Garden. This massive square (more accurately, an ellipse) is surrounded by a canal edged with 78 statues of notable Paduans. The piazza itself is a favourite meeting place and home to a daily food market and occasional weekend antiques markets.
Practical Information For Your Day In Padua
- Padua is an easy day trip by train from Venice, Verona or Bologna. It is also possible to take a full day tour from Venice by boat.
- The city is compact and walkable. Alternatively, to make the most of your day in Padua, you could explore with the Hop On Hop Off Bus.
- Because Padua is not over touristed you can visit at any time of the year. However, you may find that some cafés and restaurants have restricted opening times during the winter months.