Often overlooked by Venice or Verona, this city of 200,000 people was founded around 1183 BCE and is rich in detail and history. It’s home to many cafés, markets, and even a university. There are so many historical sights, beautiful views, and gorgeous pieces of art scattered throughout the city that it is hard to take them all in at once. I only spent a few hours touring here, but I would love to return and experience it all over again.
Here is what I would propose for a day trip to Padua and the background that goes with it:
Prato Della Valle:
This large square in Padua wasn’t always what it is now. Its land has seen many drastic events, from housing a temple, providing a scaffold for executions, a place to stage fights, and a swampland. However, it was drained and land was added to create its unique shape we see today. The statues were added later, of which many are of those who contributed greatly to the city or worked at the university.
Basilica of Saint Anthony of Padua:
Construction of this building started in 1232 and has been a sight for pilgrimage since then, even though it isn’t the official cathedral of the city. Its Byzantine style domes make it an iconic part of Padua scenery and it offers lots of history and character. If you decide to take a tour, you will see the numerous construction styles that it has gained over the years, from gothic to baroque to romanesque.
Piazza della Frutta:
This lively plaza is home to the local fruit and vegetable market, where vendors and buyers come together in the numerous stalls. Where I am from, we only have this once a week and it seems to be less of an importance, but here, it is as important as a grocery store. The woman I was staying with even purchases some veggies here before our trip home. There is also some beautiful architecture nearby, including the twelfth century clock tower and Palazzo della Ragione, which is a massive hall covered by frescoes.
Piazza dei Signori
This plaza with its infamous clock has played several roles over the years. It has served as a grounds for the Austrian army, when it was under their rule, and played a heavy part for numerous medieval traditions including courtships and battles. You will also see a lot of construction styles, especially medieval buildings on the sides of the palace. Also, there are markets here too!
This interesting café was opened on New Year’s Eve of 1772 by Francesco Pedrocchi, but it was passed on to his son, who remodeled it and opened in again in 1831 with flair. There are three rooms which all have a separate purpose:
- The Green Room is a spot for college students or other busy people to sit and work without needing to buy anything.
- The Red Room is where the historic bar sits (which is fantastic!) and here is where you would stop to drink some coffee or hot chocolate. Remember that most Italian cafés will charge extra if you sit down!
- The White Room is more of a restaurant where you can eat lunch and dinner. Also, during Austro-Hungarian soldiers once fired a gun in this room and you can still see the bullet hole today. You will also notice an upside down map. According to my host, this was to show that Italy was above and superior to Austria, who controlled the Veneto region during the second opening of the café.
If you are looking for some of the most beautiful European art, stop right here. This chapel is absolutely stunning with its frescoes from Giotto during 1803-05, which are so well preserved. From the outside it doesn’t look like much, but as soon as you enter, you will be absolutely blown away by the beauty of this building. Circling around the building are depictions of the story of salvation, which were large and detailed for their time. They also feature emotion, which was some of the first artwork to do so. At the front of the building is a depiction of Last Judgement, which there are paintings of both heaven and hell. There are also panels on each side with the seven virtues and vices. This was honestly one of the best pieces of art I had seen. The entrance fee isn’t bad but the wait can be long, especially because you have to wait in a room to be decontaminated in order to preserve the paintings. Nearby are museums and even an old Roman arena.
Overall, Padua is a fantastic place to stop and explore while en route to Verona or Venice!