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The Beautiful City of Padua

I came to Padua to see Giotto’s masterpiece, the Scrovegni Chapel, but I discovered a really amazing place.  I found a charming city with lovely streets, elegant architecture, fun sights, and locals out enjoying a pleasant fall weekend in the numerous parks and piazzas.  While Venice, its neighbor in the Veneto region, gets mobs of tourists, I realized that Padua definitely deserves a few days to explore and rewards its visitors with an unforgettable experience.

Saint Anthony Cathedral

An impressive sight when walking around.  Street view of the Basilica of Saint Anthony, Padua

While I was visiting for Giotto, Padua’s biggest draw is actually the Basilica of St. Anthony of Padua.  This Byzantine-Oriental structure is stylistically related to St. Mark’s in Venice and features a central tower over the high altar surrounded by seven domes.  The interior of St. Anthony’s is a mixture of frescoes, paintings, and other decorations spanning about 800 years of art history, from faded Gothic images of pious monks to a grandiose Baroque chapel of relics to an apocalyptic modern art dying Christ.  The highlights for me were an elegant crucifix and grouping of saints by Donatello, the ascending Art Nouveau saints painted around the high altar, and the friendly, almost cherubic Madonna and Child near the entrance to the Basilica by Stefano da Ferrara dating to approximately 1350.

Amid images of Anthony preaching and performing miracles, a steady line of pilgrims could be seen visiting the tomb of St. Anthony which was flanked by a wall of mementos, notes, and offerings left by those whose prayers had been answered.

Basilica of St. Anthony of Padua at night

The Basilica of Saint Anthony of Padua boasts five domes and a central tower.

Padua also boasts a botanical garden founded in the 16th century.  Originally created to cultivate and study medicinal plants, the Orto Botanico di Padova went on to become a 18th century botanical laboratory and was ultimately named a UNESCO World Heritage site because of it historic scientific importance.

The associated Biodiversity Garden science museum is absolutely amazing with living, global ecology rooms and interactive educational displays.  I never knew plants were so interesting!

Orto botanico di Padova, historical botanical garden

Plant specimens can still be found in their original, neat little rows at the historic botanical garden, Orto Botanico di Padova.

There are some gorgeous piazzas and urban parks in Padua including my favorite the Prato della Valle.  This oval shaped canal is ringed by 78 statues from the 18th century of great Italian poets, artists, statesmen, bishops, philosophers, historians, doctors and scientists.  (This is a university town after all.)  Lovely bridges bring pedestrians into a green space and a massive fountain in the center of the ellipse.  On this particular warm autumn day, the park was filled with picnicking friends, families with children, and students reading in the sun.

prato della valle, Padua

The oval-shaped Prato della Valle park in Padua

On the day I visited, the other historic piazzas in city center were hosting a classic car festival.  Perhaps a little anachronistic surrounded by 15th century civic buildings, I still liked seeing the elegant design of the cars and the crowds gathered for the show.

Padua classic car show

A vintage Jaguar on display at the Padua classic car show

Luckily the locals didn’t let the car festival interrupt their routines.  There were still plenty of people enjoying lunch outside, strolling, or reading in their favorite spots.

piazza Cavour statue

A Man and his dog enjoying the Sunday newspaper in Piazza Cavour

This was fun to see, but what I really loved about Padua were the city streets and the little architectural details in each of the homes and palazzos.  These ranged from evocative, historic windows to hand-crafted shutters and balcony railings.

historic windows Padua

These Gothic windows harken back to the Venetian Empire.

rustic Italian house with flowers

To 18th century building with rustic charm

The elegant store fronts turned window shopping into high art.

Italy shopping street

Lamp light, iron balconies, and elegant clothing

There were plenty of surprises too.  You just have to stop and look.

lion door ringer

Lion-shaped push style door bell.

annunciation detail

A faded painting of an Annunciation inside a portico architectural element.

dragon tie ring

Dragon heads ring embellishments along the exterior of a palazzo.

The streets themselves were beautiful no matter what the weather conditions.

Padua rainy streets

A rainy evening in Padua makes the stone streets shine.

Padua streets at sunset

A pink-colored sunset

Padua is an awesome city filled with beautiful architecture and art.  I loved my visit, and honestly, I already want to go back.

4 Comments Post a comment
  1. One of my favorite cities in Italy! I initially went to see the Arena Chapel, but was pleasantly surprised to walk through the most adorable college town 🙂 .


    October 29, 2014
    • Thanks! I was definitely pleasantly surprised too 🙂


      November 7, 2014
  2. Beautiful pics!


    October 29, 2014
    • Thanks! It’s easy to take good photos in a beautiful city! 🙂


      November 7, 2014

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