Padua is a small town located 35 km to the west of Venice. It would be very good for one-day excursion, if you spend your vacation at one of resorts of Venetian Riviera, have been to Venice, and are bored with beaches.
You`ll need at least half a day to deliberately look around the city. So, you must be aware that having started from Lido di Jesolo in the morning or some other resort, you will return there only in the evening. Padua would be very interesting for all those who like art and culture, who want to get more closely acquainted with works of Giotto or deeds of St. Anthony.
Padua has a fairly compact historical center, allowing for quiet foot promenades. If there remains time, you may have a boat ride on the streams and canals of the city. Upon arrival at the railway station of Padua, you`d better take a tram and go to the Basilica of St. Anthony. As the church is the main sight of the city, and, of course, it is worth visiting.
Saint Anthony was a monk of the Franciscan Order. He was a well-known Catholic preacher and miracle-worker. Saint Anthony died in Padua in 1231, and already in the next year he was sanctified. Since the moment of its construction the basilica has been visited by thousands of pilgrims from all over the world asking for healing of illnesses. Saint Anthony`s Basilica is a huge church crowned with Venetian style domes. The relics of the saint are kept in the chapel of Saint Anthony`s Reliquary. It was made by Donatello. There is a small building in the court of the basilica, the School of Saint Anthony`s (Scuola del Santo). It was built in 1427, and in 1499 there was added the Chapter Chamber, which was painted by Titian with his apprentices.
In front of the basilica there stands an equestrian statue of Erasmo di Narni (better known as Gattamelata) by Donatello. This was the first big monument in Europe since ancient times. There are two doors in the pedestal. One of them is the symbol of life and closed, and the other is the symbol of death and adjar. The remains of this condottiere are also kept in the Basilica of St. Anthony.
A singular square, Prato della Valle, is near the basilica. It means the ‘meadow of the valley, in Italian. It is considered to be one of the biggest squares in Europe. The square is oval and covered with grass. There is a fountain in the center of the square, and the square itself is surrounded by artificial canal. On both sides of the canal there are sculptures of once renowned inhabitants of Padua – people who have done something good for the city. St. Justine`s Basilica is not far from the square making it even more picturesque.
The main sight of Padua is Scrovegni Chapel, or Cappella degli Scrovegni, also known as the Arena Chapel, as it is located in the immediate vicinity of ruined ancient Rome amphitheatre. A merchant Enrico Scrovegni, after he had read Dante`s ‘Divine Comedy’, understood that the soul of his father-usurer would be placed in the Seventh Circle of Hell. To atone the sins of his family he decided to build a chapel, and commissioned its painting to a famous painter of that time Giotto.
For two years Giotto created a series of 37 frescoes dedicated to Jesus Christ and Virgin Mary. The frescoes are arranged in three tiers occupying the area of more than 900 m2. They have a great cultural value. If you want to visit Scrovegni Chapel, you should reserve tickets in advance. Tourist groups are admitted inside the chapel for 15 minutes precisely.
To the north of Prato della Valle there`s the center of the city where you may see interest-ing palaces and cathedrals, as wells as narrow medieval streets. The Palace of Justice, or Palazzo della Regioni, is the main palace of the city. The palace features very beautiful frescoes lending it a peculiar primitivistic style.
At one time it was a seat of Town Council. Now it is open for visiting. The first-floor hall astonishes by its sizes. The building is reputed to have the largest roof unsupported by columns in Europe. The hall frescoes date back to XV century. Palazzo del Bo is near the Palace of Justice. Today it accommodates the University of Padua, the second-oldest university in Europe after that of Bologna.