Padova is full of places to visit and discover. In this article we will give you some suggestions on how to spend a day in the city of the "Saint without name", the "lawn without grass" and the "café without doors". You will visit an ancient city rich in cultural attractions and art, that is not as well-known as the near city of Venice but with its strong identity to be savoured on a walk through
Tranio, since for the great desire I had To see fair Padua, nursery of arts, I am arrived for fruitful Lombardy, (...)And am to Padua come, as he that leaves A shallow plash to plunge him in the deep And with satiety seeks to quench his thirst.
Padova is located in the Venetian plain, about an hour's drive from the wonderful Venice. It certainly has many places to visit for those who love observing the beauty that different historical eras and famous artists gave to a city to be discovered slowly, large enough to have something to offer even to the most demanding tourists, but small enough to be explored on foot.
There would be so many noteworthy attractions, but even with just one day you can discover a city that will make you want to come back. It may be for the romantic atmosphere of the façades of the buildings in the center or for the vitality of its squares. It may be because we can discover almost all of it, step by step, on a sunny or a rainy day, while walking under its arcades.
Padova is named for its "Saint without name", for its "lawn without grass" and for its "café without doors": they are, respectively, Sant’Antonio, Prato della Valle and Caffè Pedrocchi, three places you cannot miss during a visit to the city.
The domes of the Saint - as the Paduans call their patron saint Sant’Antonio - rise above the surrounding buildings and, if you have the chance to admire Padova from above, it will be easy to recognize them. The basilica was built between 1232 and the mid of the fourteenth century and is a pilgrimage destination for worshippers from all over the world.
Prato della Valle is the second largest square in Europe and not far away from this building. It is certainly one of the most fascinating places in the city and it is always beautiful, from when the early morning mist creeps between the monuments to when the night is illuminated with artificial lights. It has an elliptical shape with a central island surrounded by a canal and 78 statues representing the most famous sons of the city, who were Paduan by birth or adoption: the statue number 44 depicts Andrea Memmo, its creator.
Another symbol of Padova is certainly the Caffè Pedrocchi, an imposing neoclassical building, called "without doors" because since its inauguration in 1831 to 1916 it remained open day and night as a "place where ideas were born" and a meeting point for intellectuals, students and political figures.
The squares have always been full of life, with the comings and goings of people among the market stalls and those who meet with friends to have a drink enjoying the must-have spritz, a staple that the Paduans cannot give up. Between Piazza della Frutta and Piazza delle Erbe is the Palazzo della Ragione, known as "Il Salone", an architectural endeavour that had no equal at the time. It is 82 meters long and 27 meters wide and its roof has a particular shape of an overturned ship hull. Its first construction dates to 1219 and in ancient times it was the seat of the city courts; the room features a cycle of medieval frescoes and the almost six meters high wooden horse, given to the city by one of the nobles of the time, certainly catches the eye.
Today the Salone is used for exhibitions and events, but "man does not live by culture alone": the old food shops on the ground floor delight customers with local products and gastronomic innovations to carry on the traditions of good local food.
Nearby you will find Piazza dei Signori, also known as Piazza della Signoria, the ancient center of power in Padova. On summer evenings it turns into an elegant outdoor lounge, where Paduans and tourists meet to chat sitting at the tables of the bars, ignoring the passing of time. The tower of Palazzo del Capitanio, on the other hand, has been counting time for centuries with its astronomical clock marking not only hours and minutes, but also months, days, moon phases and even astrological placements.
This chapel, located along the road that leads from the center of Padova to the station, is a masterpiece by Giotto, who frescoed it between 1303 and 1305 on behalf of Enrico degli Scrovegni, a member of one of the most powerful families in the city. His father was a well-known usurer of the time and the construction of the chapel was intended to atone for the pains of a life lived in sin, from which Enrico also wanted to "make himself safe" by being represented among the ranks of the saved. The frescoes entirely cover the walls with the events of the Virgin and Christ, up to the grandiose Last Judgment with which the story of the salvation of man ends.
The arcades, in the shadow of which we have come a long way, are the first attraction of Padova. They extend for no less than 25 kilometers throughout the historic center and have particularities that distinguish them from any city in Europe, such as paintings, stone memories, votive frescoes and inscriptions.
We can say that Padova is a colorful, lively city, which cannot help but talk about itself to those who visit it and know how to interpret it, where a lot of beauty can be discovered, one step after another.
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