Padua, the treasure trove of Northern Italy

Students zipping by on bicycles, gossip and jokes being exchanged across the counter of a local salumeria along with a bundle of freshly cut prosciutto, weary wanderers stopping by a corner bar for a glass of spritz and a panino, colossal domes of the Basilica di Sant'Antonio rising monumentally into the azure skies and an atmosphere steeped in the history of the world-famous education hub that is Padua... This is a city that will both delight and inspire. 

The most famous sight in Padua is undoubtedly the Cappella de Scrovegni, a humble looking chapel containing Giotto's masterpiece of frescoes. This chapel has been credited with signalling the end of the dark ages and a turning point in art's history.Set on the beautiful Piazza delle Erbe, the magnificent Palazzo della Ragione once served as Padua's medieval town hall and the seat of its town courts. The building is thought to have the widest roof unsupported by columns and is richly decorated with frescoes - 333 panels in total.

The University of Padua is a true historical monument to learning. Founded in 1222, it is one of the oldest surviving universities in the world and has attracted greats such as Galileo, Copernicus and the world's first female doctor of philosophy Elena Lucrezia Cornaro Piscopia, either as students or teachers. There are several sections to visit, depending your particular interests and scientific heroes. The Botanical Garden, Orto Botanico, was created by the University's medical faculty in 1545 and recognised a World Heritage site in 1997. It has always served as a place to plant, study and preserve rare plants, contributing to botanical, biological and medical advances over the years. The original layout of the garden has been kept intact and modern extensions including interconnected greenhouses to simulate different climates have been added more recently

The Palazzo del Bo includes the anatomical theatre where public dissections were carried out, Galileo's Aula Magna (the Great Hall), technically used by the jurists, Galileo being an exception, the Sala dei Quaranta (the Hall of the Forty) with the portraits of forty exceptional people who studied there, and the Aula di Medicina, where lectures on medicine were originally given. The Palazzo Liviano and the Hall of Giants are artistic monuments to culture and education.

The Specola, an observatory tower turned museum, was once a guard tower and a dungeon for the 13th century tyrant Ezzelino de Romano, appearing in Dante's Inferno. The Sala Meridianahouses one of Italy's largest sundials. This is just one of the few department museums of the university.

The city is alive in its intimate devotion St. Anthony of Padua. The majestic Basilica di San'Antonio or St. Anthony Cathedral, lovingly called Il Santo by the locals, is an international shrine attracting pilgrims from all over the world. It is also an architectural wonder - inspired by St. Mark's Basilica in Venice and melding together Romanesque, oriental domes and Gothic elements, it has a truly distinctive style. Notice the nine radial chapels, each with their own specificities, as you work your way to the Chapel of St. Anthony to venerate his relics - a Renaissance work with marble bas-reliefs depicting the Saint's life and miracles and a baroque reliquary. The cloisters are not all open to the public, but some host museums, others open only to groups or pilgrims.

As a religious centre, Padua offers many other churches and chapels to visit. One of these is the Duomo Basilica and its annexed baptistery with a view of heaven full of saints. You should also see the Basilica of Santa Giustina, a 10th century abbey which faces Prato della Valle, Padua's spectacular square featuring an island enclosed by a canal lined with 78 statues.

Saint Anthony of Padua
Patron saint of lost and stolen things  

Born in the 12th century in Lisbon and canonised in 1232 by Gregory IX, St. Anthony of Padua was also named doctor of the church. He is best known for his eloquence, to such an extent that when his body was exhumed his tongue was preserved. It is now kept in his Cathedral as a relic known as the incorrupt tongue of St. Anthony with it. 

St. Anthony owned a psalter full of his notes, from which he taught. When a novice decided to leave the order and stole the book, St. Anthony prayed that it would be returned to him. The book did indeed return and the repentant novice with it. This is why St. Anthony is the patron saint of lost and stolen things.
"The creator of the heavens obeys a carpenter; the God of eternal glory listens to a poor virgin. Has anyone ever witnessed anything comparable to this? Let the philosopher no longer disdain from listening to the common labourer; the wise, to the simple; the educated, to the illiterate; a child of a prince, to a peasant." - St. Anthony of  Padua

Posted 14/07/2017