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.

Sunday, April 28, 2024

Andrea Moroni – architect

Talented designer contributed to the beauty of Padua

Padua's Basilica di Santa Giustina is one of Andrea Moroni's best known works
Padua's Basilica di Santa Giustina is one of
Andrea Moroni's best known works
Architect Andrea Moroni, who designed many stunning buildings in Padua and the Veneto region, died on 28 April 1560, 536 years ago today, in Padua.  

Moroni was the architect of some acclaimed Renaissance buildings but has tended to be overlooked by architectural historians because his career coincided with that of Andrea Palladio.

Moroni, who spent most of his working life in Padua, made a name for himself with the Benedictine Order and obtained commissions for two Benedictine churches in Padua, Santa Maria di Praglia and the more famous Santa Giustina.

His contract with Santa Giustina was renewed every ten years until his death and he settled down to live in Padua.

He was commissioned by the Venetian Government to build the Palazzo del Podestà, which is now known as Palazzo Moroni in Via VIII Febbraio, and is currently the seat of Padua city council. It is considered one of the most significant Renaissance buildings in the entire Veneto region.

Moroni was also involved in the construction of the Orto Botanico, Padua’s famous botanical gardens, where medicinal plants were grown, and he designed some of the university buildings.

The Orto Botanico, the world's first botanical gardens, was designed by Moroni
The Orto Botanico, the world's first botanical
gardens, was designed by Moroni
It is known that he supervised the construction of Palazzo del Bo, the main university building in the city, but there is some controversy over who designed the palace’s beautiful internal courtyard. Famous names such as Sansovino and Palladio have been suggested, rather than Moroni, contributing to his talent tending to be overlooked over the centuries.

The Loggia of Palazzo Capitaniato and the 16th century Palazzetto are also attributed to him.

Born into a family of stonecutters, Moroni was the cousin and contemporary of Giovan Battista Moroni, the brilliant painter. They were both born in Albino, a comune to the north east of Bergamo in Lombardy. The architect has works attributed to him in Brescia, another city in Lombardy about 50 kilometres to the south east of Bergamo. He is known to have been in the city between 1527 and 1532, where he built a choir for the monastery of Santa Giulia.

He probably also designed the building in which the nuns could attend mass in the monastery of Santa Giulia and worked on the church of San Faustino before moving to live and work in Padua.







Monday, April 8, 2024

Giuseppe Tartini – composer and violinist

Talented musician was maestro di cappella at Basilica of Sant’Antonio

Giuseppe Tartini spent much of his career living in Padua
Giuseppe Tartini spent much of
his career living in Padua
The Baroque violinist and composer Giuseppe Tartini, who spent most of his career living in Padua, composed more than 100 violin concertos and many beautiful sonatas, including the Trillo del Diavolo (Devil’s Trill), which he once said had been inspired by a dream.

Tartini became principal violinist and maestro di cappella at Padua’s Basilica of Sant’Antonio in 1721 and later founded a school of violin playing and composition in the city. His greatest pupil was Gaetano Pugnani who went on to teach the violinist, Giovanni Battista Viotti.

Tartini was born in Pirano, which was in the Republic of Venice, on 8 April 1692. His birthplace was in Venetian territory in the 17th century, but it is now named Piran and is part of Slovenia.

He went to Padua to study divinity and law but also took violin lessons and became an expert at fencing. Before he reached the age of 20, he had secretly married a protégée of the archbishop of Padua, but this led to him being arrested on charges of abduction, so he disguised himself as a monk and fled the city, taking refuge in a monastery in Assisi, where he continued to study the violin and played in the orchestra there.

Later, he was allowed to return to his wife by the archbishop of Padua, who had heard that Tartini’s violin playing was attracting favourable attention. The musician then spent most of his life in Padua, apart from a brief period when he was invited to Prague to play at the coronation of the Emperor and direct the city’s orchestra.

The Basilica of Sant'Antonio, where Tartini was principal violinist and music director
The Basilica of Sant'Antonio, where Tartini
was principal violinist and music director
Also a music theorist, Tartini formulated the principles of musical ornamentation and harmony. He wrote a treatise on music, Trattato di musica, in 1754, as well as a dissertation on the principles of music harmony, and a treatise on ornamentation in music. He also composed music for trios and quartets and a few religious works.

His violin playing was said to be remarkable because of its combination of technical and poetic qualities, and his bowing technique became a model for later violinists. His skill was widely recognised and he was invited to go on a concert tour of Italy in 1740.

Tartini also studied acoustics and contributed to the science with his discovery of the Tartini tone, which was a third note, heard when two notes are played steadily and with intensity.

After almost 50 years in Padua, Tartini died in the city in 1770, at the age of 77.




Tuesday, January 16, 2024

Erasmo of Narni

Statue of condottiero still watches over Padua

The statue captures Erasmo's fighting spirit
The statue captures
Erasmo's fighting spirit
One of the most famous condottieri of the Renaissance, Erasmo da Narni, who had a distinguished career as a military leader, died on this day in 1443 in Padua. Known as Gattamelata, which meant the honey-eyed cat, Erasmo has been immortalised by Donatello’s bronze equestrian statue of him in Piazza del Santo. 

Erasmo had ruled over Padua from 1437, having risen to the rank of General Commander of the Armies of the Republic of Venice. He continued to serve the Venetians in a military capacity until being taken ill in 1440. 

Donatello’s bronze equestrian statue of Gattamelata is to the left of the Basilica di Sant’Antonio in Padua as you approach the church from the direction of Via del Santo. The statue was completed in 1453 and is believed to be the earliest Renaissance equestrian statue that still survives. It became a precedent for many later sculptures honouring military heroes. 

The soldier and his horse are both portrayed in life size by Donatello, instead of being larger than life as with previous, classical equestrian statues. Donatello had been commissioned by the family to create a monument in memory of the great Commander of the Armies of the Venetian Republic and the statue is mounted on a pedestal that resembles a sepulchre. Gattamelata appears in the style of a Roman emperor astride his horse. His head is uncovered and the expression on his face shows his wonderful fighting spirit. 

Born in Narni in Umbria, Erasmo went from a humble household into a military life, serving in turn the rulers of the Papal States, Rome, Florence, and Venice. With his friend, Brandolino Brandolini, he worked for the Assisi lord, Cecchino Broglia, and later, serving under another condottiero, Braccio da Montone, lord of Perugia, he played his part in the conquests of Todi, Terni, Narni, Rieti, and Spoleto and helped win the battle of Viterbo against Muzio Attendolo Sforza in 1419. 

Donatello's statue standing guard over the magnificent Basilica di Sant'Antonio
Donatello's statue standing guard over the
magnificent Basilica di Sant'Antonio 
During the War of L’Aquila, Braccio’s army was defeated and the condottiero himself was killed, so Erasmo led the remaining troops into the service of Florence. Later, Pope Martin V hired Erasmo to recapture the lands he had lost in the battles against Braccio da Montone. Erasmo was also hired by the Republic of Venice to fight against Filippo Mario Visconti of Milan. 

In the conflict, he came up against another condottiero, Niccolò Piccinino, who defeated him in a battle in 1434 in which Erasmo was wounded. After defending Brescia and Verona against the Visconti army successfully, Erasmo was granted the title of General Commander of the Armies of the Republic of Venice. He was made ruler of Padua in 1437. 

The following year, the Venetians lost Legnago, Soave and Verona, which led to criticism of Erasmo, but with the help of Francesco Sforza, he was able to re-enter Verona in 1439. In 1440, while mustering a flotilla on Lake Garda, Erasmo suffered a cerebral haemorrhage. He never fully recovered from this illness and was unable to lead any further military campaigns. 

Erasmo died in 1443 and was buried in the Basilica of Sant’Antonio in Padua. Donatello’s statue of Gattamelata was later placed outside the front entrance of the church as a tribute to him. Erasmo’s daughter, Polissena Romagnola, married Tiberto Brandolini, the son of his old friend and military comrade, Brandolino, and they had two sons, Sigismondo and Leonello. Sigismondo, Erasmo’s grandson, was later considered good enough to marry into an important family in Piacenza. 

Narni, where Erasmo was born, is a hill town in the region of Umbria that is close to the exact geographical centre of Italy and there is a stone in the town marking the precise spot. Erasmo’s birthplace is in Via Gattamelata, which has since been named after him, and there is now a plaque on the outside of the house. You can reach the birthplace from Via Garibaldi, or from the end of Vicolo degli Orti.