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Places of Interest in Padua, Italy

Updated on April 7, 2014
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Padua is a city and province in the region of Venetia in northeastern Italy. The city of Padua (Italian, Padova) is situated on the Bacchiglione River, 22 miles (35 km) west of Venice. Rich in history and art, Padua preserves much from its glorious past, including great works of art, medieval palaces, and the gilded domes of its churches. Giotto and Donatello worked in Padua, Saint Anthony preached and died there, and Galileo taught at the university—the second oldest in Italy after Bologna.

Padua vies with Verona as the most important commercial center of Venetia, as Venice now is economically a shadow of its former self. Manufactures include foods and beverages, agricultural machinery, bicycles and motorcycles, electrical goods, textiles, chemicals, and plastics. The city also is the most important communications node of the northeastern Po Plain. Major rail and motor arteries radiate to Milan, Trieste, and Bologna. Secondary rail lines link Padua with Trento, Belluno, and other towns of the Venetian Alpine fringe to the north. The Naviglio di Brenta is a canal connecting Padua with the Venice Lagoon.

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The core of the city is organized around a number of piazzas surrounded by medieval houses and palaces. The Piazza delle Frutta and the Piazza delle Erbe (respectively the fruit and vegetable markets) are separated by the gracious Palazzo della Ragione (1218–1219; modified 1306–1309), once the seat of the government of the commune. Adjacent on the west, the Piazza dei Signori is enclosed by several fine buildings, including the Loggia della Gran Guardia and the Palazzo del Capitanio, both predominantly 16th century structures. The last named is built on the remains of Carrara Palace and preserves the original tower with a clock of 1344, said to be Italy's oldest. Just to the south is the cathedral (originally 9th century; rebuilt 1552); its adjacent baptistery is Romanesque (1260). East of the fruit and vegetable piazzas are the 16th-century Municipio (town hall) and the 16th–17th-century Palazzo Il Bo, which houses the central nucleus of the university.

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Other major monuments lie on the fringe of the old city. To the north are the Church of the Eremitani and the Scrovegni Chapel (Chapel of the Madonna dell'Arena). The former, constructed in the Romanesque-Gothic style, has beautiful frescoes painted by Andrea Mantegna in the mid-15th century; they were painstakingly restored after being blown into innumerable fragments by Allied air raids in 1944. In the Scrovegni Chapel (early 14th century) is one of Giotto's greatest works, the Story of the Redemption, painted in 38 panels.

In the southern part of the city rise the seven golden domes of the Basilica of Sant'Antonio, named for the saint who is interred there. Also called Il Santo, the basilica contains altar statues by Donatello. In the square outside is Donatello's famous bronze equestrian statue of Erasmo da Narni (nicknamed Gattamelata, "the spotted cat"), captain of Venice. Facing this square also are the Scuola di Sant'Antonio (or del Santo), with frescoes by Titian, and the municipal museum containing a rich collection of paintings by the Venetian School. Nearby are the Botanical Gardens (1545), the oldest in Europe, and beyond them the Prato della Valle, a huge square that was the center of the Roman town. In its southeastern corner is the eight-domed church of Santa Giustina, parts of which are 6th century, predating the Lombard destruction of the city.

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