Today it proved – again – that staying in Mestre has many advantages: To get away from the weekend’s hustle and bustle in Venice (as if Venice is a serene place during the week….) I took the train to Padua, 14 (!) minutes from Venice and the perfect place for a day trip when in Venice for a longer time.
|Even if there was nothing else to see in Padua, the Scrovegni chapel alone is already worth the visit.|
Although Padua is an orphan compared to glamorous, mysterious Venezia, it’s absolutely underrated. Of course there aren’t these fantastic palazzi at every corner, hello?! this is the real world. But there are a couple of nice spots and buildings absolutely worth the visit once you’re tired of this constant pushing and shoving of masses of people.
Coming from Padua main station my first steps led me to the Scrovegni chapel to see the famous Giotto frescos. Only that a funeral service just had ended there and in front of the church stood the undertaker’s car with the coffin half in it. I was a bit irritated, went in, saw no Giotto frescos, actually very few decoration. Fortunately the people there were quite distracted mourning the decedent so they didn’t realize that I was looking for Giotto; or maybe they thought I was the secret mistress. Whereby I don’t even know whether the deceased was a man or a woman since luckily the coffin was closed. I felt stupid an thought, this is so me, and if the story was longer and I had any sort of adequate pictures I had written another post for the ‘um…funny little story’-section of this blog. But this short party crashing was already it, enough embarrassment for the early morning.
Museo d’Arte Mediovale e Moderna
I found my way to the real chapel after all, but you need a reservation and I got a time slot for 6.15 p. m. so I had all day to explore the city.
Since I already was on the spot, I visited the adjacent museums. The Museo Archeologico has some vessels and coins and statues and all the stuff that every archeological museum houses; it’s not mind blowing. The art museum houses an unimpressive collection of many Gothic and some Renaissance.
This painting at the museum make the wait for the Scrovegni chapel easier.
It’s funny, after all the modern, crazy art I’ve seen over the past week, visiting the old masters was sort of refreshing. I’ve known this phenomenon the other way around: Years ago when I did Venice, Florence, and Rome for the Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque art, it was such a pleasure visiting the Ca’ Pissaro at the end of the trip and looking at the classic moderns.
|Andrea Mantegna Madonna col bambino|
Musei Civici agli Eremitani
Piazza Eremitani 8
Phone: + 39 – 49 – 820 45 51
The museum complex is open from Tuesday to Sunday from 9 a. m. to 7 p. m., for the chapel the reservation of a time slot is needed.
Crossing town along Corso Garibaldi and Via Cavour to the city center which looks pretty like every Italian city center with the usual collection of Spanish and Swedish chains of clothing – but after five days of Venetian masks and poorly manufactured bags and tacky glass figurines I actually sort of enjoyed the fact that planet earth had me back.
|Real life, real people – and real Italian motor bikes. In the backdrop the clock tower stemming from the era of the Carrara family in the 14th century.|
But some of the stuff from Venice, like the low quality leather goods, were also to find at the huge markets around the Palazzo della Ragione, but here at accordingly low prices. I even shopped a leather wallet and a pair of shoes.
Still in my old shoes, on my way to the famous Prado della Valle, I stopped at the Piazza del Duomo to visit the cathedral
The Padua cathedral was build during different art epochs, actually it is the third building on this site. The building began in 1551 and was completed only in 1754.
|Interesting: The statues are a bit in the art nouveau style and even Jesus looks a bit windblown.|
The Palazzo Vescovile, the Bishop’s palast, houses the diocesan museum and can thusly be visited, although the Bishop lives on the second floor. On the first floor precious handwritten books from the different centuries can be admired and on the upper floor some fine art and especially the beautifully painted lounge are worth a visit.
|The thoroughly decorated bishop’s lounge.|
|The – literally – iconic gothic image of the holy trinity.|
|Resurrection of Christ – book from 1290|
Prado della Valle
I’m sure it must be very impressive seeing this 90.000 square meter/ almost one million square feet elliptical square in Padova. It is the largest square in Italy and one of the largest in Europe, decorated with 78 statues (38 in the inner ring and 40 in the outer ring) and surrounded by a canal so you reach the center over bridges. Unfortunately there was a huge market taking place so I saw the statues lurking between market stands and could not admire the certainly beautiful layout of the un-square square.
|A small part of the place that should give you an idea of its greatness.|
Abbazia di Santa Giustina
I find that all the church buildings in Padova look pretty monumental – already due to the fact that they have these brick facades and not one high tower but a couple of bulky ones; they remind me a bit of the Hagia Sofia in Istanbul – very predominant architecture. The Abbey of Santa Giustina, dating back to the 10th century is no exception – and said to be regarding its architecture the most important building of Padova.
|Abbey of Santa Giustina with a good part of the sculptures on Prado della Valle
(Photo: Padova Turismo)
|Great view at the abbey’s roofs and the city.
(Photo: Padova Turismo)
Walking from the Abbey up North towards the center, there is a botanic garden (‘Orto Botanico’) East of the Prado della Valle, but I didn’t go there.
My next stop was another church building, namely the
Basilica di Sant’Antonio
After all the churches I’ve seen today, I’m considering myself an expert and can tell you that this is the most beautiful one. The building ended in 1310, and it shows a Byzantine style with Gothic elements.
|View of the chapel from the courtyard.|
There’s not only Antonio’s tomb at one of the chapels, there is also his tongue on display between the relicts as well as his vocal chords – and I saw some denture; at least for non-catholics this is creepy. However, this was the most impressive of today’s churches.
|The faithful praying at St. Antonio’s coffin.|
|Wardrobe: preaching gowns at the vestry.|
Back to the main square – which in this case is actually square – the Piazza delle Erbe, it’s a must to see the
Palazzo della Ragione
that used to be the city’s townhall. It’s more than 80 meters / over 260 feet long and 27 meters / almost 90 feet wide. It was built between 1172 and 1219 and is covered in beautiful allegoric frescos. At one end of the hall is a black wooden horse, that Giorgio Vasari attributed to Donatello because of its resemblance to the horse of the statue del Gattamelata at the Piazza del Santo, and at the other end a big Faucault pendulum.
|The Palazzo: Impressive from the inside….|
|….as well as on the outside….|
|….granting a nice view of the Piazza delle Erbe.|
Chiesa degli Eremitani
|Fresco by Andrea Mantegna
(Photo: Padova Turismo)
I didn’t miss a church, did I?! This church is one of the oldest churches in Padua, built in 1276, and famous for its chapel, one of Andrea Mantegna’s masterpieces.
Actually I went in there since it is right next to the Scrovegni chapel site, which was my last – and best! – stop.
|Part of the heavenly ceiling.|
6.15 p. m. – here I finally was at the breathtaking masterpiece by Giotto, a chapel entirely decorated by frescos of the most famous Gothic master. After an informative movie on the chapel they let the small group of less than 20 people in – which is a very wise thing since the chapel is really small and just mesmerizing so lots of people at the same time would not only harm this masterpiece but also spoil the special atmosphere for the visitors.
Giotto depicted scenes from the life of Mary, life of Jesus, and history of mankind.
After all I was very happy to had had such a late time slot since the visit was so impressive, I wouldn’t have liked to visit other sights after this, which I’ve found much more touching than for instance the Cenacolo by da Vinci in Milan.
If you need more information, Turismo Padova has a really good website and three conveniently located offices:
Piazzale Stazione Ferroviaria
Phone: +39 – 49 – 201 00 80
Open from Monday to Saturday 9 a. m. to 1 p. m. and 2 p. m. to 6 p. m.
Phone: + 39 – 49 – 201 00 80
Open from Monday to Saturday 9 a. m. to 7 p. m. -19.
Piazza del Santo
Phone: + 39 – 49 – 201 00 80
Open from Monday to Sunday 9 a. m. to 1 p. m. and 2 p. m. to 6 p. m.,
but only from April to October.
Just so you know, there is the Padova Card, a tourist card that grants you free entry to various sites, but check whether it’s worth it for you since it costs 16 €uro for 48 hours and 21 €uro for 72 hours. You can get it at one of the tourist information places or online at www.cappelladegliscrovegni.it resp. at a call centre where you can at the same time make reservation for your Scrovegni chapel visit.
Phone: +39 – 49 – 201 00 20
It would make pretty happy when less people
would believe that Giotto is not – only – a globular cookie, Carpaccio not – only – wafer-thin sliced meat, and Bellini not – only – a far too sweet drink.
Viva Arte Viva!
Special Treat: To Padua along the summer villas on the river Brenta
By the way, you can also get to Padua from Venice in stages: Along the river Brenta are some of the fines summer villas of the Venetian nobles (yes, these good people needed a break from all the wealth and beauty in Venice from time to time, so they escaped – to the wealth and beauty along the Brenta). To meander on the river, you can book a tour that runs between March and October, and all year round you can go by bus; this you should plan a little bit, since the busses don’t go that often. When I did it, I made a list of the villas I wanted to see and then bought all my bus tickets accordingly. My last stop was Padua.