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.

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Porta Altinate Padua


13th century gate is a popular way to enter the city 


One of Padua’s only two remaining medieval gates, Porta Altinate, provides a way into the centre of the city for thousands of people each day.
The 13th century Porta Altinate

Padua’s tram stops on Riviera dei Ponti Romani and when passengers get off they can quickly walk through Porta Altinate to reach the two main squares, Piazza delle Erbe and Piazza della Frutta.

Porta Altinate was one of the gates in the walls built around Padua in the 13th century to protect the city from hostile attacks.

The walls were constructed on the orders of the comune of Padua and there are still a few remnants of them left in parts of the city.

In 1256, Porta Altinate was stormed and destroyed by troops fighting to overthrow the notorious tyrant Ezzelino III da Romano. It was the day the hated ruler finally lost his power over the city. 

The gate was rebuilt in 1286 and the event is recorded in an inscription by the historian, Conte Carlo Leoni, on a memorial stone under the archway.

Porta Altinate’s lookout tower has since been reduced in height and the gate now stands between modern buildings.

Looking at it from Piazza Garibaldi, the gate would once have been reflected in the waters of a canal behind it, but this was filled in to create the section of road called Riviera dei Ponti Romani, which was named in honour of the Roman bridges which now lie below the surface of the road.
Monument to Alvise Pisani

Inside the archway is a monument in baroque style to Alvise Pisani, who was captain of Padua from 1686 to 1687 and then became Doge of the Republic of Venice. The monument was the work of artists studying in Padua at the time.

But the intricately carved stonework is probably missed by many of the pedestrians and cyclists who are in a hurry to pass through the gate each day on their way into Padua.



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 Libertà, 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).

Friday, December 29, 2017

Anniversary of the death of Tullio Levi-Civita

Professor from Padova was admired by Einstein


Tullio Levi-Civita
Tullio Levi-Civita
Tullio Levi-Civita, the mathematician renowned for his work in differential calculus and relativity theory, died on this day in 1941.

With the collaboration of Gregorio Ricci Curbastro, his professor at the University of Padova, Levi-Civita wrote a pioneering work on the calculus of tensors. Albert Einstein is said to have used this work as a resource in the development of the theory of general relativity.

Levi-Civita corresponded with Einstein about his theory of relativity between 1915 and 1917 and the letters received from Einstein, carefully kept by Levi-Civita, show how much the two men respected each other.

Years later, when asked what he liked best about Italy, Einstein is reputed to have said ‘spaghetti and Levi-Civita.’

The mathematician, who was born into an Italian Jewish family in Padova in 1873, became an instructor at the University of Padova in 1898 after completing his own studies.

He became a professor of rational mechanics there in 1902 and married one of his own students, Libera Trevisani, in 1914.

In 1917, having been inspired by Einstein’s theory of general relativity, Levi-Civita made his most important contribution to this branch of mathematics, the introduction of the concept of parallel displacement in general curved spaces.

Einstein's theory of general relativity drew on some of Tullio Levi-Civita's work
Einstein's theory of general relativity drew
on some of Tullio Levi-Civita's work
This concept immediately found many applications and in relativity is the basis of the unified representation of electromagnetic and gravitational fields. In pure mathematics his concept was instrumental in the development of modern differential geometry.

Levi-Civita also worked in the fields of hydrodynamics and engineering. He made great advances in the study of collisions in the three-body problem, which involves the motion of three bodies as they revolve around each other.

His books on these subjects became standard works for mathematicians and his collected works were published in four volumes in 1954.

Levi-Civita was invited by Einstein to visit him in Princeton in America and he lived there for a while in 1936, returning to Italy with war looming.

He was removed from his post at the University of Rome in 1938 by the Fascist regime because of his Jewish origins, having taught there since 1918.

Deprived of his professorship and his membership of all academic societies by the Fascists, Levi-Civita became isolated from the scientific world and in 1941 he died at his apartment in Rome, aged 68.

The main building of the University of Padua can be found in Via VIII Febbraio
The main building of the University of Padova can
be found in Via VIII Febbraio
The University of Padova, where Levi-Civita studied and later taught, 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 in Via VIII Febbraio in the centre of Padova, used to house the medical faculty.

You can take a guided tour to see the pulpit used by Galileo when he taught at the university between 1592 and 1610.

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