Padua is the ideal place to trace the history of man’s progress and achievements in the field of science, technique and creativity. Probably better known as the city of St. Anthony or as the economic capital of Veneto, Padua is one of the most important Art Cities in Italy. The classic itinerary includes the visit to the most important monuments of the town, especially those realized between the 13th century and the 15th century, the most extraordinary economic and cultural period, that left an indelible mark on the town: the Medioeval City Walls, the great civil and religious buildings, the University, the wonderful frescoe-cycles realized by Giotto and his followers, and later the works by Andrea Mantegna and Donatello. In its ancient and glorious University fundamental contributions to the progress of science and technology have been made thanks to the presence of enlightened and ingenious personalities. The University of Padua, which was established in 1222, is one of the oldest in the world (the second in Italy after Bologna University) and keeps several places of great historical value: the anatomical theatre (1594), which is the oldest in the world, the 14th-century Medicine room, Galilei’s chair, the Aula Magna and the 16th-century old cloister, both decorated by students and professors’ coats of arms, the statue of Elena Lucrezia Cornaro Piscopia, the world’s first female graduate (1678). For info www.musme.it
The botanic garden is another scientific treasure. It was founded in 1545 by Padua University for the study of the ‘simples’, i.e. medical plants. It is the oldest university botanical garden in the world, which has never moved from its original settlement. It keeps about 6000 plants: exotic, medicinal, poisonous and insectivorous. The oldest tree here is a Palm planted in 1585 and known as Goethe’s palm, having supposedly played a role in the German writer’s work on the Metamorphosis of the plants. Since 1997 the garden is part of the Unesco World Cultural Heritage. Another scientific monument belonging to Padua University is the astronomic observatory, called La Specola. It was built in the 18th century on a tower belonging to Padua medieval castle to test the astronomic theories elaborated at the University.
Padua boasts the title of Città dell'Affresco (City of frescoes) because of the extraordinary range of frescoed surfaces that reveal an artistic heritage from the 11th to the 20th century. One of the main series of paintings from the 14th century is preserved in the Scrovegni Chapel, the work of the brilliant artist Giotto.
In Padova art, culture, nature, science and spirituality blend in a unique mix that makes the visit a complete enjoyment.
The Eremitani City Museum (Museo Civico degli Eremitani - position 27 on the map) displays a rich collection of roman and pre-roman finds in what used to be the Augustinian Hermits monastery, along with etruscan and paleochristian ones, and precious works of art dated back between the 14th and the 18th century. The Eremitani Church (Chiesa degli Eremitani - position 28 on the map) keeps 14th century's frescoes by Guariento and Altichieri da Zevio; the juvenile masterpieces by Andrea Mantegna, frescoed around 1448-1457 and badly damaged by Allies'bombing in 1944, can still be admired in the Ovetari chapel. The church is also remarkable for its wonderful wooden ceiling and many monumental tombs.
In Piazza del Santo, the square laying in front of the Basilica, stands Donatello's masterpiece, the bronze equestrian monument dedicated to venetian military leader, Gattamelata, Donatello spent a few years in Padova working also at the Basilica on bronze statues and the bronze reliefs of the High Altar. Near the Basilica, besides St. George's Oratory, the Scoletta del Santo, also frescoed, partly by Titian, and the Museo Al Santo, venue for temporary exhibitions. Not far away is the first example of multifunctional entertainment complex, the Renaissance's Odeo and Loggia Cornaro (Loggia e Odeo Cornaro - position 6 on the map), decorated by statues and frescoes as natural background for plays, dance, music and debates.
La Specola houses a university museum dedicated to astronomy, where various scientific instruments coming from different countries are displayed and reminds us of the importance astronomy had in town since Pietro d'Abano, later with Galileo, who spent 10 years teaching and researching here, making some of his most important discoveries such as Jupiter's satellites.
Two more locations could leave you speechless due to the beauty of their frescoes.
First the enchanting Baptistery (Battistero) of the Cathedral, entirely frescoed, with the stories of St. John the Baptist, the Stories of Mary, the Passion, Death, the Resurrection of Christ and the breathtaking representation of the Paradise on the dome, by De' Menabuoi; also the nearby Bishops' Hall in the Bishop's Palace (now Museo Diocesano), is adorned by the portraits of hundreds of Paduan bishops and the Chapel of St. Mary of the Angels, in Piazza del Duomo (position 19 on the map). Michelangelo probably took part in the design of the present Duomo.
Not second by importance, the magnificent Palazzo della Ragione (also known as Salone - position 15).
The Salone (literally "large hall") is one of the symbols of the town and used to be the meeting hall and Court of Justice during the Commune age. The Salone is an architectural defeat to gravity, being a huge room (mt.81x27) on the upper floor standing on a column base. Giotto was called again in town to paint the internal walls with a superb astrological cycle based on the philosophical thoughts of Pietro d'Abano, one of the greatest medieval scientists, at the time internationally known for his thinking. Unfortunately the Salone took fire on 1420 under Venice government and local painters Nicolà Miretto e Stefano da Ferrara painted the rebuilt palace, trying to follow the original work. The hall also contains a giant wooden horse (1466) and a contemporary version of the Foucault's Pendulum.
To make the best of your visit, make sure you have a Padova City Card that will ensure you admittance to most monuments and museums and discounts on many other services including boat trips and the City Sightseeing Bus. The card can be bought in all IAT (Tourist Information Office) points. PadovaCard is valid 48 or 72 hours from the start date and hour that you specify at purchase. See more here: http://www.turismopadova.it/en/context/sthash.z7RYvatw.dpuf
Prices: 48-hour card: 16 € , 72-hour card: 21 €