Padua is just a 45 minute train ride from Venice, so with Venice as your base, it makes a wonderful day trip. You may be tempted to stop in Padua on your way to somewhere and quickly see the frescoes Giotto painted from 1301-1305 in the Scrovegni Chapel.
But don’t. Padua offers you much more so spend at least a day there.
First, I walked from the train station for about 10 minutes to Padua’s historic centre. You could happily amble for awhile in Piazza Dei Signori, Piazza Delle Erbe and Piazza Dei Frutti, almost next door to each other, all bursting with life, colour, market vendors, shops, cafes, restaurants, distinguished palazzi, all kinds of people coming and going.
The cathedral in Piazza Del Duomo was closed when I got there midday. From there I strolled through the quiet old streets of the former ghetto. I wish I’d had a local guide to explain its history.
I proceeded to the Scrovegni Chapel, even though I’m not a huge Giotto fan. I find his figures a bit stiff looking. I wanted to be able to tell our tour clients about it. What a wonderful surprise—breathtaking! They allow a limited number of people in the chapel for a limited time. I spoke to the elderly male security guard who was watching us very carefully. “The frescoes are in very good condition, very fresh looking. When were they restored?”
His enthusiastic reply: “Ten years ago, but every year the same restoration team from Rome comes here to dust them off and fix any small cracks. They do the same with Giotto’s frescoes in Assisi.” Good to know Italy is managing to preserve some of its cultural heritage!
The Scrovegni Chapel ticket included the Zuckermann museum of applied arts in a handsome palazzo across the street—furniture, ceramics, costumes—my kind of stuff. In this huge museum — 2000 objects from ancient times to the 1900s, I loved the naïf looking birds on some 15th century bowls and took a photo on the sly.Upstairs I marveled at Pietro Magni’s (1817-1877) exquisite sculpture of a woman wearing a long dress with elaborate draping and stitching, all carved in amazing detail. I remarked on this to the fashionably dressed woman security guard. She loved it too and pointed out how he’d even carved the imperfections in the dress’ seams. When I asked her about taking a photo, she gave me a stern NO and hovered around until I left.
By that time, my head was full of all I’d seen so I ended my explorations in Padua, knowing I’d missed a lot. Next time I’ll take the Padua “hop on hop off” bus tour to get a good overview of the city or a guided walking tour.