Exploring Padua: UNESCO World Heritage Site

Padua, a city in the Venetian region, boasts an abundance of captivating museums, monuments, and scenic landscapes. With its pedestrian-friendly layout, exploring Padua is an absolute joy. The city’s attractions are conveniently located within walking distance from one another, eliminating the need for buses or public transportation to discover its most enchanting sights.

Come rain or shine, you can walk peacefully under the cover of the arcades. In Padua, just like in Bologna, arcades are a common architectural feature in the historic center.

Padova was included in the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1997 due to its botanical garden, located in the heart of the city. Since summer 2021, the dispersed cycle of 14th-century frescoes located throughout the historic center has also been added to the UNESCO World Heritage List, with a total of 8 UNESCO sites.

While a single day may not suffice to visit all the attractions, it is still possible to explore the most significant ones. A well-planned itinerary will allow you to experience the city without rushing and make the most of your time. Here is a recommended itinerary designed to help you leisurely discover the city’s highlights and ensure you don’t miss out on any key experiences.

The itinerary commences from the train station and continues towards the city center, making stops at the main attractions along the way. Personally, I prefer to begin the visit with the main attraction as it usually requires more time. This allows me to better manage my time and proceed with the rest of the visit in a relaxed manner. However, if you prefer, you can choose to take the opposite route or skip certain sections based on your preferences. If we exclude the time dedicated to visiting the attractions, it takes approximately 1 hour to complete the route on foot.

Itinerary

Scrovegni Chapel

One of Giotto’s most precious and spectacular masterpieces is the Scrovegni Chapel. Included among Padua’s UNESCO sites, the frescoes covering the chapel’s walls, dating back to 1303-1305, depict stories of the Virgin Mary, Christ, and the grandiose Last Judgment. Access to the chapel is only possible through prior reservation, and it is advisable to plan ahead due to the high number of visitors. The visit begins with a 15-minute video narrating the chapel’s history (necessary for stabilizing the microclimate inside the chapel). Afterward, visitors can enter the Scrovegni Chapel and spend an additional 15 minutes admiring its beauty.

Eremitani Church

Built in the 13th century for the Augustinian hermit monks, Eremitani church features a blend of Romanesque and Gothic elements. Inside, visitors can admire stunning frescoes by Andrea Mantegna, depicting religious scenes. The church suffered damage during World War II but has been extensively restored.

If you have a passion for history and museums, the Civic Museums of the Eremitani in Padua are a must-visit. Located near the Scrovegni Chapel and the Eremitani Church, these museums include the Archaeological Museum and the Museum of Medieval and Modern Art. The Archaeological Museum houses artifacts from the Paleovenetian, Roman, and pre-Roman eras, as well as Egyptian findings. The Museum of Medieval and Modern Art holds magnificent works, including Giotto’s Crucifix, paintings by Giorgione, Tiziano, Veronese, Tintoretto.

Basilica di Sant’Antonio

The Basilica of Saint Anthony is a true masterpiece. Its exterior facade is Romanesque, adorned with Byzantine domes and Moorish bell towers. The interior is truly breathtaking, with every square meter covered in frescoes and a ceiling depicting a starry sky. There are several frescoed chapels, but the most precious parts are the Chapel of Saint Anthony (or the Ark) and the Chapel of Relics.

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The Chapel of Saint Anthony, designed in Renaissance style, features five arches and walls adorned with marble reliefs depicting scenes from the life and miracles of Saint Anthony. At the center stands the impressive altar-tomb of the Saint, created by Tiziano Aspetti. The Chapel of Relics, in Baroque style, consists of three niches that house the relics of Saint Anthony, including his incorruptible tongue, chin, and vocal apparatus.

Botanical garden

UNESCO site,the Botanical Garden of Padua was founded in 1545 and is the oldest university botanical garden in the world. Initially, it was used for cultivating medicinal plants, which is why it was also known as the “Garden of Simples”. The aim was to make it easier for students to recognize and study these plants. Today, the Botanical Garden of Padua houses 6,000 species of plants.

Prato della Valle Square

Prato della Valle is an immense square, ranking second in size only to Moscow’s Red Square. What makes it unique is its large central island, which can be reached from four avenues, each connected by a bridge. Encircling the central island, known as Memmia, is a 1.5 km canal, surrounded by a double row of statues depicting renowned historical figures. In total, there are 78 statues adorning the square.

Palazzo della Ragione

The Palazzo della Ragione, the ancient seat of the courts and the covered market of Padua, is one of the largest covered spaces in Italy. Today, it is dedicated to exhibitions and events. On the ground floor, the food market still takes place. However, it is not just a collection of stalls, but rather shops that offer high-quality products, gastronomic novelties, and typical local products from Padua and the Veneto region.

Undoubtedly, the interior of the Palazzo della Ragione is worth visiting. It consists of a gigantic hall measuring 80 meters long by 27 meters wide, with a soaring pointed arch ceiling reaching a height of 40 meters. The hall is adorned with approximately 500 frescoes, making it one of the longest pictorial cycles in the world. The frescoes depict astrological and religious figures, as well as various references to Venice. Initially, Giotto was commissioned to paint the frescoes, but unfortunately, his works were destroyed in a fire that occurred in the palace in 1420. However, the interior also features other remarkable monuments to admire, such as a wooden horse, clocks, sundials, the Stone of Vituperation, and Foucault’s Pendulum.

The Historic center

The historic center of Padua is a delightful place to explore. It is filled with narrow cobblestone streets, charming squares, and beautiful architecture that showcases the city’s rich history.

Piazza Erbe and Piazza della Frutta. You can recognize Piazza delle Erbe by the large fountain that stands on one side of the square, distinguishing it from its twin Piazza della Frutta on the other side of the Palazzo della Ragione. Here, in the morning, you will find the picturesque fruit and vegetable market of the city.

Piazza dei Signori is one of the most charming squares in Padua. Overlooking the square is the Clock Tower, a medieval building dating back to the mid-14th century, situated between the Palazzo del Capitanio and the Palazzo dei Camerlenghi. The impressive astronomical clock is the oldest surviving clock of its kind in the world, and as you admire the clock, you may notice a unique and interesting detail: among the zodiac signs, the Libra is missing. This is because it refers to a pre-Roman zodiac system where the constellations of Libra and Scorpio were combined into one.

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Caffè Pedrocchi. Before returning to the station, take a break at Caffè Pedrocchi. It is conveniently located near Palazzo della Ragione and the squares: it has been a popular meeting place for intellectuals, artists, and locals since its opening in 1831 and now is a notable attraction in Padua.The café is known for its distinctive neoclassical architecture and elegant interiors. It consists of various rooms, each with its own unique design and purpose. The Sala del Risorgimento, for example, pays tribute to Italy’s unification and is adorned with patriotic artwork.

Caffè Pedrocchi is famous for its unique coffee preparation called “Pedrocchino.” The Pedrocchino is a traditional coffee beverage that consists of a base of espresso served in a small glass, topped with a generous dollop of whipped cream. The combination of the strong espresso and the velvety whipped cream creates a delightful and balanced taste. It’s the perfect treat to enjoy while immersing yourself in the historical ambiance of Caffè Pedrocchi.

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