Monday, August 2nd, 2010

Padova is a city with quite a long history. In fact it claims to be the oldest city in northern Italy dating from almost 1200 BC – yes that’s right –  BC. It has gone through a long and somewhat tortured history as is true of most cities that are quite old. Stuff happens: conquests, wars, fires, bad governments, but somehow they mostly recover. When I visited there I was unaware of all of that. The only thing that I was aware of regarding the history was the University of Padova where Galileo Galilei taught for almost twenty years. It is the second oldest university in Italy and perhaps the world. It was founded by some malcontents (probably for good reason) that left the the University of Bologna in 1222. In touring the oldest part of the university you can see the lectern from which Galileo lectured as well as a very famous anatomical theater, the first of it’s kind in the world. Not surprisingly the university was instrumental in many advances in medical science. One modern phenomenon of the university is strange hazing, if that is the word for it, of students graduating from the university. Students publicly make fools of themselves as shown in the picture below and are the object of rather, ahem, pornographic posters tacked to the walls of university building as also shown in an example below for a woman graduating in the field of medicine (part of the poster that was cropped out). Those crazy Italians!

[gallery,gallery include=”93,94″ columns=”2″]
Aside from the university I found that actually one of the most famous things in Padova is the Scrovegni Chapel built by a wealthy businessman of that name and filled with frescos by Giotti, the most celebrated painter of that time – completed in 1305. I know that it is probably heresy but this kind of thing is interesting but not nearly as interesting as oddball discoveries like the student hijinks from the posters above. What interested me more is the Palazzo della Ragione. This is a large and imposing building with a daily outdoor market and permanent food stalls of various sorts on the ground floor. Good food markets always turn me on and so that was a great place to go. I also really liked the upper floor which is a single great hall with frescos around the walls and this monumental wooden horse at one end. I can find very little information about this monster horse which seems surprising. One cannot help but notice that it is, uh, quite anatomically accurate and, well, you might say quite virile.
[gallery,gallery include=”95,96″ columns=”2″]
I did mention the food markets. Like so many markets in Italy and France these places have such beautiful ingredients that they are quite inspiring. Here is a picture of  just one very small area of the market. Inside the ground floor of the palazzo there are additional market areas for meats, fish, bread and all of those other things that you didn’t even know that you needed until you stumble upon them. Fresh porcini mushrooms at a very attractive price anyone? The more expensive ones have less dirt on them – an important consideration.

Last for this post but certainly not least is the Prato della Valle. This is an elliptical square and in fact the largest square in Italy. Now that last sentence really doesn’t make much sense does it – elliptical square. Well, it is an elliptical piazza – that makes more sense. While I took photos there the best are really from the air because of the design and extent of this really different piazza. So, of course, I found a nice one on the web.

Overall I loved Padova. It is beautiful on its own, is a great place to stay for exploring other parts of the Veneto and is a short train ride from Venice. Venice is quite an adventure in itself but I will leave that for another day.

As always I’d love to have your comments and of course you can be maybe the 4th email subscriber now that my wife and a couple of in-laws have signed up. I have also added a new feature that let’s you share a post via an email or lists that I really didn’t even know existed.  The wonders of modern technology.

6 Responses to “Padova”

  1. Scott Says:

    Hey Joe,

    I was disappointed you didn’t have full pictures of the med student or the horse. After all, that was why the internet was created.


  2. Joe Says:


    Sorry to disappoint. Now I had to go back and look at the poster photo. The photo was just a little large. There was a larger version of the, uh, telephone that she’s holding while on her windsurfing board. That’s about it. I had a closer photo of the horse but not of the, uh, anatomical detail. I’ll let you use your imagination.


  3. Dana Says:

    Nice description of Padova. I will be visiting this fall. I have friends who live in Abano Terme who have insisted that I should visit the university, Verona and “their” Venezia. They aren’t so wild about the Scrovengni Chapel either, but I plan to visit to see more of Giotto’s work. I love the local markets and I look forward to visiting the one you mention here. Thank you!

  4. Joe Says:


    I’m glad that you liked it. It really is a great place. There are a bunch of places to visit in the Veneto as well. We also visited Bassano del Grappa – a place that I highly recommend. In addition to those that you mention there are Vicenza, Treviso etc, etc. I do wish we had rented a car to see the Dolomiti. The photos I’ve seen are quite dramatic. Ah well, a good excuse for another trip!


  5. Angela Says:

    My husband’s maternal grandparents come from San Vito di Cadore in this area. When we took a trip to Italy, we made sure we visited there as a cousin and family is still in the area.

    What an incredible experience. The cousin and her husband took us sightseeing all over in their car. They showed us the Dolomiti……..ohhhh, the most beautiful sight I’ve ever seen. The color of the water in the lakes is indescribable…a gorgeous aqua. It’s like heaven.

    We were invited to mangia at her house antipasto…Pasta, made by hand, meatballs, sausage, the works!! Wine, cheese and fruit and then after dinner drinks. She was learning to speak English and we tried our best to speak Italian. Don’t ask me how we did it, but everyone understood each other!! And, we found, with enough wine it doesn’t matter what language you speak.

    Something else we noticed was that the town is immaculate. They take such pride in keeping everything clean. You see people outside sweeping every morning and picking up any litter no matter how tiny.

    This was probably the nicest part of our vacation.


  6. Joe Says:


    I’m sorry to have been so long in responding. When I was in that area I am really SO sorry that I missed seeing the Dolomiti. All of the photos I’ve seen show that they are absolutely spectacular. I agree that wine makes conversation go more smoothly when all are not quite on the same plane whether different languages or not. The food sounds fantastic as well.

    I have been distracted by moving to an apartment among other things so again I apologize for this late response.


Leave a Reply