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, November 30, 2020

Ippolito Nievo - writer and patriot from Padua

Risorgimento novel now seen as an overlooked classic

The writer Ippolito Nievo, a passionate supporter of the move to unify Italy in the 19th century, was born on this day in 1831 in Padua.

Nievo, whose posthumously published Confessions of an Italian is now considered the most important novel about the Risorgimento in Italian literature, drew inspiration from his participation in Giuseppe Garibaldi’s Spedizione dei Mille - the Expedition of the Thousand.

Ippolito Nievo fought for a united Italy
Nievo was born into comfortable circumstances.  His father was a prominent lawyer and magistrate in Padua and his mother the daughter of a Friulian countess.  Their home in Padua was the Palazzo Mocenigo Querini, a 16th century house overlooking Via Sant’Eufemia, close to the city centre.

They also had use of his mother’s ancestral home, a castle in Colloredo di Montalbano, a hamlet just outside the city of Udine in Friuli-Venezia Giulia, and of the Palazzo Nievo in Mantua.

From 1832 to 1837, when Nievo was a small child, they lived in a house adjoining the Palazzo della Giustizia in Soave, about 60km (37 miles) from Padua, where his father was posted as a judge. 

By the late 1840s, Nievo was becoming increasingly fascinated by the writings of Carlo Cattaneo and Giuseppe Mazzini, two of the central philosophical drivers of the Risorgimento.

He is thought to have taken part in a failed uprising in Mantua in 1848, a year marked by a series of insurrections inspired by Italian nationalists seeking to overthrow the Austian grip on the north of the country. 

He had been inspired by conversations with his maternal grandfather, Carlo Marin, who had been a prominent official of the Venetian Republic when it fell to the Austrians in 1797.

Nievo refused to follow his father into the law as he felt it would imply submission to the Austrian government and instead pursued a career in journalism.

In the 1850s he retreated to Colloredo di Montalbano, where he wrote a number of novels set in the Friulian countryside, as well as volumes of short stories and poetry.

Most important novel
about the Risorgimento
He began writing his major work, Confessions of an Italian, at some point in the mid-1850s. The central character is an 83-year-old man, Carlo Altoviti - thought to be based at least loosely on Carlo Marin - who has decided to write down the history of his long life, from an unhappy childhood to romantic entanglements during the siege of Genoa, and fighting in the cause of revolution in Naples.

Carlo’s twin passions are the dream of a unified, free Italy and his undying love for Pisana, the woman with whom he is obsessed. With characters ranging from drunken smugglers to saintly nuns and scheming priests, as well as real figures such as Napoleon and Lord Byron, it is an epic novel that tells the remarkable and inseparable stories of one man's life and the history of Italy's unification.

Nievo’s political activity intensified in the late 1850s, when he joined Garibaldi’s Cacciatori delle Alpi, a brigade of volunteers fighting to liberate Lombardy, and then participated in the Expedition of the Thousand, given the number 690 in the list of 1,000 patriots.

Nievo embarked from Genoa on 5 May, 1860 setting sail for Sicily. After distinguishing himself in the battle of Calatafimi and in Palermo, he was promoted to colonel and took on administrative assignments, at the same time keeping diaries that served as a chronicle of events.

It was in this role that he was tasked with bringing back from Sicily all the administrative documents and receipts from the expedition’s expenses. He boarded the steamship Ercole along with other members of the military administration to travel from Palermo to Naples, but during the night between March 4 and 5, 1861, the steamship ran into difficulties off the coast of Sorrento, almost within view of the Bay of Naples, and sank.  There were no survivors.

Nievo’s life is commemorated in a number of locations, including Colloredo di Montalbano and Fossalta di Portogruaro, in the Veneto, where the Castello di Fratta, the scene of Carlo Altoviti’s unhappy childhood, was thought to be located.

Colloredo di Monte Albano - known locally as Colloredo di Montalbano - is a small village in Friuli-Venezia Giulia situated about 14km (9 miles) northwest of Udine.  In the 11th century, it was a fief of the Viscounts of Mels, who had received it from the Counts of Tyrol. In 1420, together with all of Friuli, the hamlet was acquired by the Republic of Venice.  The hamlet was severely damaged by the Friuli earthquake in 1976, yet the family castle remains intact.

Nievo’s legacy is preserved in his novel, in which the central character and narrator shares Nievo’s passions. Nievo completed the work in 1858 but it was not until 1867, six years after his death, that it was published.

When Nievo’s supporters first found a publisher the book was titled Confessioni di un ottuagenario (Confessions of an octogenarian), because Nievo’s intended title was still deemed politically sensitive. It was changed later to reflect the author’s wishes.

Nievo died for the cause he believed in passionately, at the age of just 29.


Sunday, November 29, 2020

Andrea Palladio

The most admired architect of all time was born in Padua

Palladio became one of the most influential architects in history
Palladio became one of the most
influential architects in history
The world’s most famous and influential architect, Andrea Palladio, was baptised on 30 November in 1508 at the Oratorio di San Michele in Padua.

It is not known whether he was born on the 30th, or on the previous day.

Palladio’s style was to become so popular that architects all over the world designed villas and public buildings copying his interpretation of classical Roman architecture.

For example, the White House in Washington, the home of the President of the United States, built between 1792 and 1800, has many echoes of Palladian style.

Palladio was born Andrea di Pietro della Gondola, either just before, or on the day, of his baptism. He was the son of a miller in Padua.

He found work as a stone cutter in the workshop of a sculptor initially. but moved to Vicenza when he was 16, where he joined a guild of stonemasons and bricklayers. 

It was while working as a stonemason for the poet and scholar Gian Giorgio Trissino that his career began to gather pace. Trissino not only gave him the name Palladio, after the Greek goddess of wisdom, Pallas Athene, but encouraged and helped him to study classical architecture in Rome.

Palladio became fascinated with the work of Marcus Vitruvius Pollio, architect and engineer of the 1st century BC. It was while in Rome that he came across the Pantheon, with its huge hemispheric dome inspired by Vitruvius, which was to influence many of his designs.

The Villa Cornaro in Piombino Dese
The Villa Cornaro in Piombino Dese 
Trissino also introduced Palladio to a number of wealthy and influential families, including the Barbaro brothers, through whom he ultimately became chief architect of the Republic of Venice, having already occupied the equivalent position in Vicenza.

Palladio received his first commissions in the 1530s and thereafter was in constant demand, his style inspiring other architects outside Italy, at first in Europe and later around the world.  One factor in the spread of his fame was his publication in 1570 of his treatise, I Quattro Libri dell'Archittetura (The Four Books of Architecture), which set out rules others could follow.

Examples of Palladio's work can be found all over the region where he lived and in Venice, where he was commissioned to build, among other architectural masterpieces, the Church of San Giorgio Maggiore, the focal point of the view across the lagoon from St Mark's Square through the Piazzetta.

He built a substantial number of villas for wealthy clients across the Veneto region, some of them lining the Brenta Canal that links the lagoon of Venice with Padua. Others such as the Villa Capra, otherwise known as La Rotonda, famous for its symmetrically square design with four six-columned porticoes, can be found in open countryside near Vicenza.

La Rotonda, near Vicenza, is one of  Palladio's most famous buildings
La Rotonda, near Vicenza, is one of 
Palladio's most famous buildings
Vicenza itself features many of Palladio's designs, including the fabulous Teatro Olimpico, in which perspective was used to create the optical illusion of city streets receding from the stage.  He was working on the theatre at the time of his death, after which the project was finished by his son, Silla, one of his five children, and Palladio's assistant, Vincenzo Scamozzi.

Palladio designed two beautiful villas in the province of Padua, Villa Cornaro in Piombino Dese and Villa Pisani in Montagnana.

One of his finest works is considered to be Villa Foscari, otherwise known as La Malcontenta, located next to the Brenta canal at Mira, which is between Padua and Venice.

Palladio died in 1580, aged 71. The cause of his death is not clear but some accounts say he collapsed while inspecting the construction of the Tempietto Barbaro, a church in Maser, near Treviso.

He was initially buried in a family vault in the church of Santa Corona in Vicenza, the city in which he spent most of his life, but was later re-interred at the civic cemetery, where a chapel was built in his honour.


Monday, November 16, 2020

Chiesa di San Nicolò

Romanesque church still has many original features

One of the oldest churches in Padua, the pretty Chiesa di San Nicolò, is tucked away in a square at the end of Via San Nicolò, a turning off Via Dante Alighieri.

An outstanding example of Romanesque architecture, Chiesa di San Nicolò was first mentioned in a document in 1088 when Bishop Milone donated it to the Convent of Saint Peter for the use of the monks.

Chiesa di San Nicolò is about 1000 years old
The church was dedicated to Saint Nicolas of Myra and later acquired some of the saint’s relics.

By the 12th century, San Nicolò was a parish church attended by many of the noble families in the city.

In the 14th century, the church was extended to the side to add the chapel of the aristocratic Forzate family. By 1546 Chiesa di San Nicolò  had 11 altars, many owned by the powerful families who worshipped there, and between 1660 and 1680 some baroque features were added.

The bell tower was rebuilt in the 19th century in Gothic style, but restoration work carried out in the 20th century meticulously preserved many of the church’s original features.

Among the art treasures inside Chiesa di San Nicolò  is an altarpiece by Giovanni Domenico Tiepolo depicting the Sacred Family with Saints Francesca Romana and Eurosia. There are still traces of 14th and 15th century frescoes and there is a 15th century depiction of San Liberale by Jacopo da Montagnana, also known as Jacopo Parisato, an artist from Montagnana who was active in Padua during the 15th century.