With Verona, Italy as a home base, we drove to Padua (also spelled Padova), which is 82 km or 51 miles from Verona or 40 km (25 miles) from Venice (which is another option for a home base).
A view of the more modern part of Padua, with its exclusive shops.
The town of Padua is home to a few world-class sights, one of the most famous being the Scrovegni Chapel.
This private Chapel of the Scrovegni family (the only structure remaining of the 13th century family palace) is one of the great historical gems of Europe. The family hired Giotto to paint the interior between 1303 – 1305, and he, with his assistants created a masterpiece. (The featured image of this post shows the Scrovegni Chapel altar alcove).
A view of the interior of the Scrovegni Chapel. The far end of the Chapel contains scenes from the Last Judgment.
A few of the panels showing scenes from the New Testament.
A close-up of the betrayal of Christ scene.
We are fortunate that the Chapel is still standing to this day. The paintings represented a breakthrough for their time with the use of color and perspective (3-D-like). Within the Chapel’s walls are numerous biblical scenes, in chronological order. To allow for preservation of these 700 year-old frescoes, there are significant restrictions on the number of visitors allowed each day, so you need to plan ahead.
Note: You must purchase your tickets in advance. Once you know your itinerary, go to this website to purchase your tickets, which you then print and bring with you to the visitors center. You must arrive early enough to go through the dehumidifying chamber that helps protect the Chapel’s environment and frescoes.
The dehumidifying room next to the Scrovegni Chapel. They show a video of the history of the Chapel while you wait (about 15 minutes).
During the busy summer months, I am sure tours book quickly (we visited in May, and I made our reservations in March). As I recall, you are allowed about 15 minutes for your visit, in groups of 25 or so. Pictures are allowed without flash. The Chapel is on the outskirts of the old center of Padua, and you can walk to the center of the old town in about 10 minutes. We used a car park just two blocks from the Chapel, not far from the train station.
Other Sights in Padova
Adjacent to the Scrovegni Chapel is the 13th century Church of the Eremitani, definitely worth a stop even though it’s largely ignored by tourists. This church reminded me of ancient Roman basilicas, with its austere rectangular shape.
Interior of the Church of the Eremitani. It has an unusual “boat like” wooden 14th century ceiling and remnants of frescoes, which were unfortunately damaged in World War II.
Some of the surviving frescoes in the Chiesa Eremitani.
We lucked out and were just in time to take a tour of one of the oldest and most famous universities in Europe, founded in 1222. The university is in the heart of the old town. Tours are the only way to see the university’s primary historical sights including Galileo’s pulpit and lecture hall (he was on the faculty here for 18 years) and the anatomy theater. Unfortunately no photos are allowed inside.
Coats of Arms of some of the alumni of Padua University.
Within this building are the anatomy theater and the hall where Galileo taught, with his original podium. Hard to get a decent photo of the University – it’s completely surrounded by other buildings.
The anatomy theater, where students would stand in narrow concentric rows above a cadaver table is small, and you are only allowed to view up into the theater from below the cadaver’s point of view. The theater was built in 1594 and is the oldest surviving medical lecture theater in the world.
This photo, courtesy of Wikipedia, provides a view of the anatomy theater in Padua University. The tourist is only allowed a view up through the center of the main floor table area.
Duomo (Cathedral) Baptistery
The 13th century baptistery is beautiful, and should be a definite stop on your visit to Padua. The frescoes date from 1378. The good news is that although an entrance fee is required, a visit is not time restricted, nor are reservations needed.
An exterior view of Padua’s Cathedral, the baptistery is the circular building on the right.
A view inside Padua’s Duomo baptistery.
A view of the dome of the baptistery. How hard would it be to paint this ceiling and keep any perspective!
Padua’s Palazzos and Piazzas
One of Padua’s main piazzas (Piazza delle Erbe) features a large, magnificent 13th century hall adjacent to the piazza. This building is used for various art exhibits. The entry fees are fairly expensive, so we did not go inside.
A view of the Palazzo della Ragione, a 13th century great hall that housed medieval law courts, located in the center of Padua.
The Palazzo del Capitanio is located on Piazza dei Signori. It was built between 1599 and 1605, for the head of the city’s militia. A large astronomical clock is located on the front tower.
On our way back to Verona, we stopped briefly in Vincenza, a town that would be worth exploring a bit more. This city is known for its great architecture. We saw students studying and drawing several buildings. We walked around for about an hour before returning to Verona.
Vincenza’s southern gated entrance.
Vincenza’s main piazza, Piazza dei Signori. The tower, Torre di Piazza, was built in the 12th century (my wide angle lens makes it look like it’s leaning, but in reality it’s still standing straight up!).
Vincenza’s Duomo (Cathedral).