Elegant Padova -- known in English as Padua -- is home to an ancient university, a Basilica that is an important centre for pilgrims and a chapel containing one of the world’s greatest art treasures. Use this website to help you plan a visit to this fascinating northern Italian city and find your way to the other beautiful towns and villages in the Veneto that are perhaps less well known to tourists.

Monday, September 9, 2019

The Baptistery in Padua


Dazzling fresco cycle has survived nearly 700 years


Standing next to the Duomo in Piazza Duomo, Padua’s Baptistery (Battistero) is a superb example of Romanesque architecture.

The original building was constructed in the 12th century but it was modified in about 1370 to become a memorial chapel for Francesco il Vecchio di Carrara and his wife, Fina Buzzacarini.
The 14th century Baptistery is to the right of the Duomo

The couple invited the artist Giusto de’ Menabuoi to fresco the interior with pictures representing stories from the Bible.

De’ Menabuoi, who was originally from Florence, worked on the interior of the Baptistery between 1376 and 1378. His frescos are remarkable for the brilliance of the colours he used and the details from the Bible he brings to life.

To understand the cycle of pictures you should ideally stand near the old entrance to the Baptistery, which was sealed up when the building was modified. Traces of it can be seen in the structure of arches.

The cycle begins in the cupola with Paradise and finishes in the apse with the Apocalypse. There are 37 episodes from Genesis that lead on in sequence to the 43 scenes from the last book of the New Testament.

In the centre of the apse, on a small marble altar, is a Polyptych, also by De’ Menabuoi, featuring the Madonna and Child, with a picture of the Baptism of Christ above it, while on either side are panels depicting the stories of the Saints.

In the panel showing Christ healing the sick, look out for a figure in a red headdress, which is believed to be a portrait of the poet Petrarch, who died shortly before the frescos were painted.

Venetian soldiers damaged the Cararra family’s grand burial monuments in 1405 and daubed green paint on the emblems of Francesco il Vecchio, but restoration work was carried out on the Baptistery in the 20th century.

Visitors to the Baptistery can see how the Duomo would have looked in the 14th century, before its 16th century makeover, as it appears in De’ Menabuoi’s frescos.

The Baptistery is open from 10 am to 6 pm every day.




Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Gaspara Stampa


Great Italian female poet was born in Padua


Gaspara Stampa, the greatest female poet of the Italian Renaissance, died on this day in 1554 in Venice at the age of 31.

She is regarded by many as the greatest Italian female poet of any age, despite having had such a brief life.

Gaspara was born in Padua and lived in the city until she was eight years old. Her father, Bartolomeo, had been a jewellery and gold merchant, but after he died, Gaspara’s mother, Cecilia, took her three children to live in Venice.
The Caffe Pedrocchi in the centre of Padua
  is now a meeting place for writers


Along with her sister, Cassandra, and brother, Baldassare, Gaspara was educated in literature, music, history and painting. She excelled at singing and playing the lute and her home became a cultural hub as it was visited by many Venetian writers, painters and musicians.

Gaspara dedicated most of her poems to Count Collatino di Collalto of Treviso , with whom she had an affair. When he broke off the relationship she was devastated and suffered from depression, but she wrote some of her most beautiful poems at this time, creating for herself a lasting literary reputation.

Only three of her poems were published during her lifetime, although many were circulated among her literary friends in Venice.

Gaspara went to live in Florence for some time because of poor health, hoping that the milder climate might help her. But on her return to Venice in 1554 she became ill with a fever and died after 15 days on 23 April. The parish register recorded the cause of her death as ‘fever and colic’, although the theory has also been put forward that it could have been a suicide.

The first edition of Gaspara Stampa’s poetry, Rime di Madonna Gaspara Stampa, was published in Venice six months after her death.

Gaspara’s 311 poems are considered to be the most important collection of female poetry of the 16th century. They were edited by Gaspara’s sister, Cassandra, and the edition was dedicated to the Florentine poet and writer, Giovanni della Casa.

The German poet, Rainer Maria Rilke, refers to Gaspara Stampa in the first of his Duino Elegies, which were written while he was staying at Duino Castle on the Adriatic coast near Trieste . The Duino Elegies are now considered to be his greatest work.

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Bassano del Grappa

Take a day trip to this gem of the northern Veneto


The Ponte Vecchio - or Ponte degli Alpini - was originally  built by Andrea Palladio in 1568
The Ponte Vecchio - or Ponte degli Alpini - was originally
built by Andrea Palladio in 1568
To travel to Bassano del Grappa, which is to the north of Padua, takes about an hour by car or by train, but this elegant town in the province of Vicenza is well worth seeing.

Bassano is in the foothills of the Alps and there are stunning mountain views from many of its street corners.

The town’s most famous landmark is the covered wooden bridge designed by Andrea Palladio in 1568 that still spans the Brenta River. It was badly damaged at the end of World War II by the retreating German army and lovingly rebuilt and restored by the town’s Alpini, a contingent of Italy’s prestigious alpine troops.

Bassano has become famous for producing the eponymous alcoholic drink, Grappa, which is enjoyed by Italians as a digestivo or liqueur. The drink derives its name from the graspa, or remnants, of the grapes that are left over after wine making, while the town is named after Monte Grappa, a mountain of the Venetian Prealps.

The huge Torre Civica towers over Piazza Garibaldi, one of Bassano's central squares
The huge Torre Civica towers over Piazza
Garibaldi, one of Bassano's central squares
There are bars and shops where you can taste the different varieties of Grappa, or buy some as a souvenir to take home, including several on either side of the Ponte Vecchio, or Ponte degli Alpini, as the wooden bridge has also become known.

The Museo degli Alpini, at the end of the bridge nearest the historic centre of the town, was founded with just a few items in 1948 after the first post-war national assembly of the Alpini, but it has grown over the years, as objects from both world wars have been donated.

Once you have crossed the bridge you will soon see the Torre Civica, 43m (141ft) tall, which was once a lookout tower inside the 12th century walls, but now serves as a clock tower.

In Piazza Garibaldi, one of the biggest squares, is the 14th century Church of San Francesco, which has a tranquil cloister housing the Museo Civica, the town’s museum. The museum has the biggest collection of works by local artist Jacopo dal Ponte, who was also known as Jacopo Bassano.

In the adjoining square, Piazza LibertĂ , there is a 17th century sculpture of San Bassiano, the town’s patron saint, and a market is held there every Thursday.

The Viale dei Martiri serves as a poignant
memorial to 31 partisans executed there in 1944
In the highest part of the city you can visit the remains of the 12th century Castello Ezzelino. Within its walls is the town’s Duomo - the Cathedral of Santa Maria in Colle - which dates back to the 11th century.

Nearby, the beautiful, peaceful Viale dei Martiri has lovely mountain views and provides a poignant memorial to 31 young partisans who were executed there by the Germans in September 1944.

Many were hung from the trees that line the road and today each tree bears the name of the soldier who was murdered there and many display a photograph of the young victim. The road, formerly, Viale XX Settembre, was renamed in their honour.

Should you wish to stay longer in Bassano del Grappa, the pleasant Hotel Victoria is recommended. Situated in Viale Armando Diaz, just a short walk from the historic centre, the Victoria has friendly, welcoming staff and all the facilities you would expect from a traditional Italian hotel.

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Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Giacomo Zabarella


 Padua academic devoted his life to Aristotle

 

The leading Italian representative of Renaissance Aristotelianism, Giacomo Zabarella, was born on this day in Padua in 1533.

His ability to translate ancient Greek enabled him to understand the original texts written by Aristotle and he spent most of his life presenting what he considered to be the true meaning of the philosopher’s ideas.
Philosopher Giacomo Zabarella

He had been born into a noble Paduan family who arranged for him to receive a humanist education.

After entering the University of Padua he was taught by Francesco Robortello in the humanities, Bernardino Tomitano in Logic, Marcantonio Genua in physics and metaphysics and Pietro Catena in Mathematics. They were all followers of Aristotle.

Zabarella obtained a Doctorate in Philosophy from the university in 1553 and was offered the Chair of Logic in 1564. He was promoted to the first extraordinary chair of natural philosophy in 1577.

Zabarella became well known for his writings on logic and methodology and spent his entire teaching career at the University of Padua.

As an orthodox Aristotelian, he sought to defend the scientific status of theoretical natural philosophy against the pressures emanating from the practical disciplines such as the art of medicine and anatomy.

His knowledge of Greek enabled him to consult Greek commentators on Aristotle’s work as well as medieval writers.

Zabarella’s first published work was Opera Logica in 1577 and his commentary on Aristotle’s Posterior Analytics appeared in 1582.

Zabarella died in Padua at the age of 56 in 1589. His great work in natural philosophy, De rebus naturalibus, was published posthumously in 1590. It contained 30 treatises of Aristotelian natural philosophy and an introduction that he had written only weeks before his death. His two sons edited his incomplete commentaries on Aristotle’s texts and published them a few years later.

Zabarella’s works were reprinted in Germany early in the 17th century, where his brand of philosophy had a big following, especially among Protestant Aristolelians.


The University of Padua was established in 1222 and is one of the oldest in the world, second in Italy only to the University of Bologna . The main university building, Palazzo del Bò is in Via VIII Febbraio in the centre of Padua . It used to house the medical faculty and you can take a guided tour to see the pulpit used by Galileo when he taught at the university between 1592 and 1610.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Treviso day trip

  
The pretty town of Treviso is only about 40 minutes away from Padua by rail and provides a relaxing alternative to Venice for a day out.

You can still stroll along by the canals, but unlike in Venice they are fringed by willow trees and adorned with the occasional water wheel and you won’t encounter large tour groups coming in the opposite direction.
A peaceful Treviso canal

There are plenty of restaurants serving authentic cucina trevigiana and cucina veneta, but at more modest prices than you will find in Venice, and lots of places to sample locally-produced Prosecco. Treviso is close to the so-called strada del prosecco, the road between Valdobbiadene and Conegliano, which is lined with wineries producing Prosecco DOC (Denominazione di Origine Controllata), the stamp of quality given to the best Italian wines. 

When you arrive in Treviso it takes only about ten minutes to walk from the railway station through the 16th century Venetian walls and along Via Roma, Corso del Popolo and Via XX Settembre, which form one continuous street leading to Piazza dei Signori, at the centre of Treviso and close to the main shops, bars and restaurants.


The piazza’s red-brick Palazzo dei Trecento, was originally built in the 13th century as its name suggests, but had to be rebuilt after suffering bomb damage in 1944.

Leading off the piazza is Via Calmaggiore, Treviso’s main street, which has smart shops behind its ancient porticos, such as Benetton, Gucci and Sisley, as well as shops selling cosmetics and leather goods.

At the end of Via Calmaggiore you will come to Treviso’s Duomo, originally built in the 12th century but remodelled in the 15th, 16th, and 18th centuries. Look out for Titian’s Annunciation, painted in 1570 and the frescos painted by his arch rival, Pordenone.
Porticos at the side of Canale Buranelli


Off Piazza dei Signori in the other direction you will come to Piazza San Vito which leads to perhaps the most picturesque part of Treviso, Canale Buranelli. You can walk alongside the canal under the porticos of the houses and see the flower decorated balconies of the ornate buildings on the other side. From Canale Buranelli, turn down Via Palestro to reach Via Pescheria. From there you can access the Pescheria (fish market), which is held daily on a very small island in the middle of Treviso’s River Sile, so that the unsold fish can be thrown straight back into the river after trading has finished. 


Restaurant recommendation:

For traditional Treviso cooking, try Trattoria Toni del Spin in Via Inferiore behind Piazza dei Signori. The restaurant is in an historic building and has the atmosphere of a traditional Treviso tavern. Toni del Spin is open every day except for Monday lunch times. 


Local specialities:


Try tagliatelle al sugo d’anatra (tagliatelle with duck sauce), risotto con funghi (mushroom risotto) and bigoli in salsa di acciughe (pasta with anchovy sauce). Also sample the locally-grown Treviso radicchio (a type of chicory).

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Feast of Saint Giustina

Today Padova celebrates the feast day of Santa Giustina, evoking the memory of a young woman executed on this day in 304 during the Roman Empire's last major purge of Christians.

Giustina, in a painting here by Bartolomeo  Montagna, hailed from a noble family
Giustina, in a painting here by Bartolomeo
Montagna, hailed from a noble family
Giustina was born into a noble family in Padova but little is known about her apart from her faith. A pretty girl who would have had many suitors, she took a vow of chastity and devoted her life instead to God, and to teaching the values of Christianity.

She was a victim of the purge of Christians undertaken by the Emperor Diocletian, the last major attempt to stamp out what was regarded by the Romans as a subversive cult.

He was carrying out an edict that rescinded all legal rights for Christians and compelled Christians to sacrifice to Roman gods or face imprisonment or execution.

What became known as the Diocletian Persecution concentrated first on purging the Roman military of Christians and then broadened to the population in general.

When Diocletian's officers confronted Giustina in Padova, they ordered her to go to the Roman temple to Minerva to worship the Roman goddess, offer her virginity as sacrifice and renounce Christianity.

Because she refused to do so and denounced the Roman gods, Giustina was condemned to death.  The execution is said to have taken place at Pontecorvo, where she was stabbed through the heart with a sword.

The vast Basilica di Santa Giustina overlooks Prato della Valle, one of Padova's main squares
The vast Basilica di Santa Giustina overlooks Prato della
Valle, one of Padova's main squares
Within a few years, following the Edict of Milan in 313, Christianity had been made legal within the Roman Empire for the first time.

It came too late for Giustina, whose body was buried in a cemetery near what was then the Zairo Roman theatre and now lies beneath the altar table in the magnificent Basilica di Santa Giustina, with its eight domes, which was built the 16th century on the site of the cemetery.

The ninth largest Christian church in the world, the basilica houses the remains of many revered saints, including those of St Luke the Evangelist, who is credited with writing the Gospel According to St Luke.

Giustina is a patron saint of many other Italian municipalities in addition to Padova and a co-patron saint of Venice, where she became extremely popular for a number of years following the Battle of Lepanto in 1571.

This was a naval battle between a coalition of Catholic maritime states brought together by Pope Pius V and the Turkish fleet which took place on her feast day - October 7 - and which was decisive in halting the expansion of the Ottoman Empire on the European side of the Mediterranean.

The Basilica di Santa Giustina is situated at the south-east corner of the elliptical piazza known as Prato della Valle.  Among many things worth seeing is a magnificent altarpiece painted by Paolo Veronese in 1575, depicting the moment of her death.

Next door to the basilica there is a Benedictine monastery with frescoed cloisters and a famous library that can be visited by arrangement. Admission to the basilica is free. It is open from 7.30am until noon and from 3pm until 6.30pm (7.30pm on Sundays).

Prato della Valle, built on the site of a former Roman  theatre,  is notable for its 78 statues of eminent citizens of Padova
Prato della Valle, built on the site of a former Roman  theatre,
 is notable for its 78 statues of eminent citizens of Padova
The Prato della Valle is built on the site of the Zairo theatre on land which fell into disuse and became flooded following the fall of the Roman Empire.  The land was drained in the 18th century and a canal crossed by four bridges was created around an island planted with trees and lawns, which was later lined by statues of 78 eminent citizens of Padova.

The nearby Ristorante Zairo contains statues and wall decorations that recall the chariot races and other activities that would have taken place in the theatre. Diners can also see a 17th century fresco that came to light when renovations uncovered part of the structure of a former church.

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Monday, September 18, 2017

Forgotten composer Giacomo Facco was born near Padova

Giacomo Facco, a baroque composer, was born near Padova
The composer Giacomo Facco
was born near Padova
Baroque composer Giacomo Facco, whose work has been forgotten about for centuries, was born on February 4, 1676 in Marsango, just north of Padova.

He was highly regarded during his own lifetime, but his compositions were forgotten until 1962, when they were rediscovered by a musicologist, Uberto Zanolli.

Facco is believed to have worked as a violinist and a conductor early in his career and is known to have been given a job in 1705 by the Viceroy of Sicily as a choirmaster, teacher and violinist in Palermo .

In 1708 he moved with the Viceroy to Messina where he composed The Fight between Mercy and Incredulity. In 1710 he presented a work dedicated to King Philip V of Spain , The Augury of Victories, in Messina Cathedral.

By 1720 it is known Facco was working in the Spanish court because his pay is mentioned in a report dating from that year. He is later named as clavichord master to the Spanish princes.
At the height of his success he was commissioned to compose an opera to celebrate the marriage of one of the princes in 1721.

But he then seems to have fallen out of favour and was just employed as a violinist in the orchestra of the Royal Chapel until his death in Madrid in 1753.

The composer had earlier written 12 violin concertos under the title Pensieri Adriarmonici. Bright and buoyant, they are reminiscent of the music composed by his contemporary, Vivaldi.

These concertos were discovered in a library in Mexico City by Uberto Zanolli in 1962 along with Facco’s birth certificate, showing he was born near Padova.  Since his remarkable discovery, Zanolli has put together a biography of Facco and a list of his known works.
The walled city of Castelfranco Veneto, close to where Giacomo Facco was born
The walled city of Castelfranco Veneto

Some of Facco’s solo cantatas, written using his own poetry, were presented at a concert in Mexico City in 1962, conducted by Zanolli.

But it is thought other music Facco wrote in Spain may have been destroyed in a fire in Madrid in 1734.

Facco was born and spent his early years in the hamlet of Marsango in the commune of Campo San Martino about 15 kilometres north of Padua in the beautiful countryside of the Veneto . Marsango lies between the cities of Treviso and Vicenza , with the walled city of Castelfranco Veneto just to the north.

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