If you are planning to tour Europe, consider the Veneto region of northern Italy on the Gulf of Venice. Venice is its best-known city and an extremely popular tourist destination. But the Veneto region is a lot more than Venice. It hosts many other excellent tourist attractions, and you won’t fight huge crowds. You may avoid tourist traps, and return home feeling that you have truly visited Italy. This article examines the central Veneto university city of Padua. Be sure to read our companion articles on northern Veneto, on southern Veneto, and on that Shakespearean city of Verona.
Padua, population over two hundred thousand, is only about twenty-five miles (forty kilometers) west of Venice. This was the setting for Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew. Padua claims to be northern Italy’s oldest city, founded in the Twelfth Century B.C. It was burnt to the ground by the Lombards in the Seventh Century.
The historic city center is surrounded by seven miles (eleven kilometers) of Sixteenth Century walls is home to the Nineteenth Century Neoclassical Caffé Pedrocchi, one of the largest in the world. The Twelfth Century Palazzo della Ragione (Palace of Reason) is not a philosopher’s hangout, but a huge marketplace. The hall itself is about two hundred seventy feet (eighty meters) long; as the old phrase goes, you can’t miss it. Check out its frescoes that include a complete set of the zodiac signs.
Padua University in the city’s historic center at the Palazzo del Bo’ (Ox Palace, named for a inn that it replaced) was founded in 1222 when numerous professors and students left the University of Bologna over the issue of academic freedom. On June 25, 1678, Elena Lucrezia Cornaro Piscopia became the world’s first woman graduate; she was awarded a doctorate in Philosophy in the Padua Cathedral. In addition to mathematics, philosophy, and theology Piscopia mastered seven languages. Other famous Padua professors and graduates include Nicolaus Copernicus, Galileo Galilei, and Giacomo Casanova. Many university faculties have recently moved to other cities in the Veneto region because of overcrowding.
The Fourteenth Century Cappella degli Scrovegni (Scrovegni Chapel) is Italy’s second best-known chapel after the Sistine Chapel. Its fresco collection devoted to the life of the Virgin Mary is virtually unmatched. Padua’s best-known church is the Basilica di Sant’Antonio da Padova (Basilica of Saint Anthony of Padua) started around 1238 and completed after the turn of the century. Padua also boasts the world’s first Botanical Garden, the Orto Botanico, founded in 1545. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is a center for scientific research.
What about food? Padua is a unique city and has quite a selection of food specialties, some of which you may not care to sample. Specialties include torresano allo spiedo (pigeon raised in tower lofts), sfilacci (salted, dried, and smoked horsemeat), mushrooms and truffles (that sounds better already), and peaches. Like I said, Padua is a unique city.
Levi Reiss has authored or co-authored ten books on computers and the Internet, but to be honest, he would rather just drink fine Italian or other wine, accompanied by the right foods. He teaches classes in computers at an Ontario French-language community college. Visit his website www.travelitalytravel.com devoted to Italian travel with an accent on fine Italian wine and food. Visit his central wine website www.theworldwidewine.com with weekly reviews of $10 wine and columns devoted to various aspects of wine including wine and food, humor, trivia, organic and kosher wine and lots more.Click to access the original, longer article on this Italian tourist location.
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