Padua – The Center of World Religious Tourism

The most popular attractions of Padua (Italy). Guide "What to see in the city of Padua alone in one day." Scrovegni Chapel with frescoes by Giotto, Arena, University, the largest square in Italy, Galileo Galilei
St. Anthony of Padua Cathedral

One of the most popular attractions in Italy is Padua. The Guide What to See in the City of Padua Alone in One Day recommends the Scrovegni Chapel with frescoes by Giotto, the arena, the university, the largest square in Italy, and Galileo Galilei.

Located north of the Euganean Hills, Padua originated and developed in the basins of the Brenta and Bacchigilione rivers, which affected the buildings and the general appearance of the city and sights, the presence of numerous canals, and the development of river tourism. The city received its name from St. Anthony of Padua, whose relics are kept in the Basilica of San Antonio and are the object of pilgrimage for Christians from around the world.

Historians date the founding of the city in 1185 BC based on archaeological excavations, which makes Padua the oldest city in the Veneto province and one of the oldest cities in Italy. The architecture and historical and cultural heritage of Padua reflect the different eras of the eventful and famous people of the past.

The canals of the city were the basis of the economy for medieval Padua thanks to the large number of mills, as well as the direct access to Venice by water—the route along the Brenta River took just over three hours. Because the city is located in the Padua lowland (pianura padana) and is below sea level, the system of canals and rivers protects the city from flooding to this day.

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  1. Padua Attractions
    1. Scrovegni Chapel and Giotto’s Frescoes
    2. Arena in Padua
    3. Prato della Valle: The Largest Square in Italy
    4. University of Padua
    5. St. Anthony’s Cathedral
    6. Palazzo della Ragione
  2. Famous People
    1. Donatello
    2. Galileo Galilei
  3. Padua in Photos
  4. Padua Alone in One Day
  5. How to Get to Padua

Padua Attractions

What to see in Padua, you ask?

In Padua, it is easy to find numerous pieces of evidence that the city has been one of the European cultural centers for centuries—the Roman arena, the frescoes of Giotto and other masters, medieval towers, palaces, churches, and other architectural monuments are found everywhere.

Preserved in parts, the city walls defended Padua for centuries from the dangers from the outside. Today, some parts of the ancient walls fit organically into the architecture of modern buildings.

Another highlight of the Padua is the Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance, Neoclassical and Modern porticoes that the locals are proud of. Entire arcades of porticoes of a length of about 12 kilometers make it possible for tourists to walk the streets of the historic part of the city even in rainy weather.

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Click here for a bird’s eye view of Piazza Prato della Valle in Padua. A photo http://www.volarelontano.it

Another place that you should definitely visit while walking through Padua is the Botanical Garden, which was founded in the 16th century.

Padua is also a famous center for religious tourism. Here you will find Gothic churches, an abbey with Christian relics, chapels, and basilicas, as well as a synagogue.

Among the city museums, the Eremitani complex with a multimedia hall where a virtual tour of the Giotto frescoes is demonstrated, an archaeological museum with pre-Roman, Roman, Greek, Etruscan, and Italian exhibits, and a museum of the Middle Ages and modern art with works by Titian, Tiepolo, Giotto, Veronese, and so on.

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Scrovegni Chapel and Giotto’s Frescoes

The Scrovegni Chapel is a Catholic place of worship in the historic center of Padua. Initially, the Arena was connected to the Scrovegni Palace and was the dwelling of the banker who wished to build a chapel. However, after the municipality bought the chapel in 1881, it was made into a separate building and has since been restored several times.

The famous Cappella cycle Giotto frescoes (early 14th century) belong to the world’s masterpieces of art. Work on the restoration of the frescoes was carried out for dozens of years, after which a special room was attached to the chapel building where visitors in groups of 25 people can enter for just 15 minutes. This measure is necessary to minimize the dust and moisture in the chapel, which can damage the Giotto frescoes.

Padova Italy sights chapel scroveli murals Giotto chapel del Arena
Inside the Scrovegni Chapel

The paintings in the Cappella del Arena (the unofficial name of the Scrovegni Chapel) in Padua is truly magnificent. In 15 minutes, you can look at the whole story of Jesus in chronological order from the expulsion of childless Joachim (the grandfather of Jesus Christ) from the temple to the birth of Mary (the mother of Jesus Christ) to crucifixion and resurrection Jesus.

jotto capro della arena in padua
Scrovegni Chapel (del Arena) outside. A photo http://mapio.net

In 2006, the Scrovegni Chapel was nominated for inscription on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

Giotto’s Murals in the Scrovegni Chapel

• The Expulsion of Joachim from the Temple
• Joachim Finds Refuge among the Shepherds
• Annunciation to St. Anne
• Sacrifice of St. Joachim
• Dream of St. Joachim
• Meeting of St. Joachim and St. Anne at the Golden Gate in Jerusalem
• Mary’s Birth
• Introduction of Mary to the Temple
• Transfer Staffs of St. Simeon
• Praying for the Blossom of One of the Staffs
• The Marriage of Mary
• Mary’s Wedding Procession
• God the Father Instructs the Archangel Gabriel to Bring Mary the Good News
• Annunciation
• Mary’s Meeting with Elizabeth
• Christmas
• Adoration of The Magi
• Introduction of Jesus to the Temple
• Flight to Egypt
• Massacre of the Innocents
• Jesus Among the Teachers
• Baptism of Jesus
• Marriage in Cana of Galilee
• Raising of Lazarus
• Jesus Entering Jerusalem
• Expulsion of Merchants from the Temple
• Jude Gets a Betrayal for Betrayal
• Last Supper
• Foot Washing
• Judas Kiss
• Jesus Before Kaifa
• Crowning with a Crown of Thorns
• Climbing Calvary
• Crucifix
• Coffin
• Sunday
• Ascension
• The Descent of the Holy Spirit
• Allegories of Virtues and Prophets

You need to book tickets to Scrovegni Chapel at least 1 day in advance. Tickets are € 12. Click here to book tickets on the official website. https://cappelladegliscrovegni.vivaticket.it/

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The Arena

Why does the Scrovegni Chapel have the unofficial name Capella del Arena? Because on its land is a Roman amphitheater from the era of Emperor Augustus (27 BC). The Roman arena was discovered by archaeologists by chance in the 17th century, and excavations were carried out for two years—from 1880 to 1881 and from 1906 to 1907.

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The Remains of the Arena

The arena in Padua is an elliptical structure with 80 arches and the dimensions of 135 meters long and 98 meters wide. According to archaeologists’ theories, the arena was made of Tuscan trachyte, and the flooring was made of red marble brought in from Verona.

Giotto Cappella del Arena in Padua

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The remains of the arena in Padua. A photo http://www.padovaoggi.it

Unfortunately, it is impossible to completely reconstruct the arena in today’s urban surroundings because it extends beyond the fence of the park and onto Corso Garibaldi Street.

chapel del arena in padua
Click here to see photos of the arena and plans showing the location of Corso Garibaldi street and Scrovegni Chapel. http://www.archeoveneto.it

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Prato della Valle: The Largest Square in Italy

At the time of the Roman Empire, there was a Roman amphitheater with a capacity of 6,500 people on the site of today’s Prato della Valle square. The Padua orator, philosopher, and writer Publius Clodius Thrasea Paetus (1–66 AD) was the lead designer of the amphitheater. From his essays, it became clear to historians that the amphitheater had the name Zairo, was built in the year 60 AD, and was equal in size to the arena in Verona.

In 1775, ruins of the arena were discovered in the square and could be observed until the beginning of the 19th century. Subsequently, the ruins were dismantled for the construction of nearby structures.

padua prato della valle square
Prato della Valle Square. A photo http://www.immaginarte.org

There are 78 statues of famous residents and guests of Padua in the square. Among them are statues of Galileo Galilei, Titus Livius (Livy), Francesco Petrarca, and Pietro d’Abano.

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The square is the largest in Italy and one of the largest in Europe.

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University of Padua

Padua is home to one of the oldest universities in the world. It was founded in 1222 thanks to the migration of a group of medieval students from Bologna.

university of padua
The Courtyard: Palazzo del Bo

In 1594, the university built the first anatomical theater in Europe, designed for 300 seats and consisting of six wooden elliptical tiers. From 1592 to 1610, physicist Galileo Galilei taught at the university.

In the heart of the university, in the Palazzo Bo, you can see the coat of arms of noble families and rectors on the walls and ceilings of almost every rooms.

university of padua
Coats of arms of teachers and outstanding students at the university.

Today, the University of Padua has eight schools, 32 departments, and more than 60,000 students. The university includes the University of Galilee and a network of libraries and museums.

From 2001 to 2007, the university was annually recognized as the best Italian university. The main areas of study are economics, law and political science, agriculture and veterinary medicine, medicine and surgery, and cultural studies.

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St. Anthony’s Cathedral

St. Anthony’s Cathedral, or the Church del Santo, has been the main place of Catholic worship in the city since the fourth century. However, the present building is newer—it was built in the 16th century, and Michelangelo Buonarroti himself took part in its construction. For hundreds of years, the heads of the council were called “little popes” and were among the richest and most influential people in the state.

The interior of the cathedral is harmoniously divided into three aisles. Above the central one are two large domes, and there are chapels along the side aisles. There is also a musical chapel in which organ concerts are given.

St. Anthony of Padua Cathedral
St. Anthony’s Cathedral. On the right, you can see the bronze monument of Gattamelata, the Venetian commander.

St. Anthony’s Cathedral is the most important place in Padua for pilgrims from around the world. In the cathedral is the tomb of the miracle worker, and huge masses of Catholics from all continents flock to her.

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Church of St. Anthony of Padua
St. Anthony’s Cathedral in Padua.

Why St. Anthony Is Famous

St. Anthony was a preacher from God. His sermons, “Sunday Sermons” and “Sermons for the Feasts,” so deeply uttered the doctrine of Catholicism that the people loved him incredibly strongly. One day, in 1231, over 30,000 people gathered for his sermon, many of whom later converted to the faith. The city of San Antonio in the United States is named in his honor.

Church of St. Anthony of Padua
The Chapel of San Giorgio and Scuola del Santo is the place where, after the death of St. Anthony, the next generation of preachers studied his works.

St. Anthony believed that nothing could be more beautiful than death for faith. One day, inspired by the martyrdom in Morocco of five acquaintances of the Franciscans, Antonio went to Africa to fulfill his dream of preaching Christianity to Muslims. However, in Africa, the preacher fell seriously ill and was forced to return to his homeland—not his original homeland but his new homeland, Italy. His ship was wrecked off the coast of Sicily, and St. Anthony took it as a sign from God and remained in Italy until death.

After the death of St. Anthony, the next generation of preachers studied his works the Chapel of San Giorgio and the Chapel of Scuola del Santo.

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Palazzo della Ragione

The Palazzo della Ragione (Palace of Justice), was built in 1206 and was used as the court and financial institutions in Padua.

palazzo della rajone paduya
Palazzo della Ragione in Padua. A photo https://it.pinterest.com/

On the upper tier, there is one single room, which is considered the largest suspended room in the world—it’s 81 meters long, 27 meters wide, and 27 meters high. Inside, you can find various fresco paintings from the 13th century, including Giotto’s frescoes. The murals generally have an astrological theme based on the research of Pietro d’Abano.

Palazzo Rajona Padua
The largest suspended room in the world.

On the north and south sides of the Palazzo della Ragione are the Piazza delle Erbe and the Piazza della Frutta (the Squares of Herbs and Fruits). On the west side of the palace, there is the Piazza dei Signori with a tower with an astronomical clock from the 14th century. Markets are held every day in the squares except for Sundays. There are shops with typical farmer products from the Veneto region: meat, cheese, wine, fish, honey.

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Famous People from Padua

For centuries, Padua was famous for its freedom of thought, which attracted protestors, great scientists, thinkers, and philosophers. The city walls witnessed performances and disputes involving Leon Battista Alberti, Galatée, and the Martyrs, who had already been brought to life.

Donatello

Italian sculptor, painter, and jeweler Donatello is recognized as one of the three fathers of the Florentine Renaissance and the most famous sculptor of all time. Starting in 1443, Donatello lived and worked in Padua for ten years. This period is considered the apogee of his work. Donatello became the founder of the individualized sculptural portrait and adhered to realistic and classic styles in his works.

In Padua, he created his masterpieces Reliefs for the Altar of Santo, The Crucifixion of the Basilica del Santo, bronze bas-reliefs for the church of St. Anthony, a sculpture of St. John the Baptist, and so on.

Galileo Galilei

Philosopher, mathematician, astronomer, physicist, and one of the founders of modern science, Galileo Galilei lived in Padua for a long time. Padua’s mild climate and relative religious tolerance and Galileo’s good relationships with philosophers and scientists made for productive work during his “Padua period.” He rotated among the scientific luminaries of that time, talked with theologian and mathematician Paolo Sarpi, and met with Giovanni Francesco Sagredo, whom he later made the main character of his Dialogue on Higher Systems.

Of paramount importance are Galileo’s contribution to the theory of dynamics, his support for the theory of Copernicus, the development of the principles of the heliocentric system, the improvement of the telescope, and the introduction of the scientific method.

gallileo gallile padua observatory
Observatory at the University in Padua, in which Galileo conducted research of the stars.

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Padua in Photos

The sights in Padua cannot be described in one article. I suggest you admire the city of Padua in through photos.

Padua attractions
View of Prato della Valle from the side St. Anthony’s Cathedral
Padua Italy attractions
Echoes of the Venetian rule. Such faces are quite common.

Padua Italy attractions

Padua Italy attractions
Church of Santa Justin, 17th century.
Padua Italy attractions
Museum of Saints. At the end of the street is the Botanical Garden.
Padua Italy attractions
Duomo Cathedral and Baptistery. Constructing in the fourth century.

Padua Italy attractions

Padua Italy attractions

Padua Italy attractions

Padua Italy attractions

Padua Italy attractions

Padua Italy attractions

Padua Italy attractions

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Padua Alone in One Day

If you’re asking yourself, “What should I see in Padua on my own in one day?” then this is the guide for you. It will help you explore the city on your own in one day.

Please note that this guide is intended for those who arrived in Padua by bus from nearby cities, including Abano Terme and Montegrotto Terme. For those who come by train, the route may be a little different.

With a visit to the Botanical Garden, Scrovegni Chapel, and St. Anthony’s Cathedral (the three main places to visit in Padua), this city tour will take you about 3–4 hours.

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How to Get to Padua

“How to get to Padua” is one of the most popular questions on Google and Yandex. Padua’s public transportation system is a separate topic of conversation, as the system is very well structured.

By bus and metrobus (something between a tram and the bus), you can get to any part of the city and the surrounding areas for only €1.25. There is some parking in the city, but not as much as we would like. Much of the parking Padua is paid, and the cost starts at €1 per hour.

how to get there
Click here to see a photo of the metrobus in Padua at the Prato della Valle stop. http://www.psc.it

Trains are the most convenient way to get to Padua because the city is a major railway junction. In the city center, there is a railway station at which arrives not only Italian trains but also international trains. Here is a small list of available train routes:

• Venice to Padua (starting at €3)
• Padua to Verona (starting at €6)
• Milan to Padua (starting at €19)
• Bologna to Padua (starting at €7)
• Padua to Florence (starting at €13)
• Vienna to Padua (starting at €20)

You can get to these cities directly from the station and without a transfer. Tickets for the train to Padua can be bought at train stations at the box office or at automatic terminals. At the station, you can see the train schedules.

There is an airport in the city of Padua, but it is only used for training purposes and private jets.

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