Often overlooked in favor of her popular neighbor, Padova is a pleasant 30 minute train ride from Venice and a perfect way to spend a day.
Once you arrive, you can easily walk from the train station to many of Padova’s main sites and walk or catch a tram back in time to head back to Venice in time for an aperitivo.
Padova has a lot to be proud of and, in spite of her deep ancestral roots and heritage, there’s an unmistakably youthful vibe. This can probably be attributed to being home to the distinguished Universita degli Studi di Padova, Italy’s second oldest university. Established in 1222, the University of Padova’s faculty and alumni have included such notables as Copernicus, Galileo, and even Casanova. (Now, wouldn’t you have loved to have attended one of his lectures?) Today, with over 60,000 students and its international programs and outreach, the Universita infuses Padova’s population of 215,000+ with a palpable vitality and energy.
Many of the streets around the university and main piazze are pedestrian only and with sidewalks sheltered under loggias lined with inviting caffé and shops, there are ample opportunities to window shop, enjoy an espresso break and just people watch. (Tip and warning: Watch out for bicyclists!)
If you love local markets, make a point of visiting the ones in Padova. The twin piazza of Piazza delle Erbe and Piazza della Frutta are where the freshest and finest seasonal produce of the region is offered daily. As you stroll down aisle after aisle with row upon row of carefully arranged fruits, vegetables and local foodstuffs, you will be tempted to feel and squeeze but, “look but don’t touch” -“non toccare”- is the rule in markets here.
More tantalizing regional delicacies are on display in bakeries, cheese shops, and meat shops lining the loggias of the twin piazze. It’s hard to resist picking up a few local specialties for a midday picnic and, if you do and if you’re looking for the ideal place to enjoy your treats, find your way to the magnificent Prato della Valle.
Prato della Valle or Il Prato, as it’s referred to by Padovans, is a 90,000 square meter elliptical-shaped square. If you can’t quite visualize the size and scope, it’s huge! Huge enough to be, not only the largest piazza in Italy, but one of the largest in Europe. 78 statues line its circumference in two rings – 40 in the exterior and 38 in the interior – and when you cross over the small canal which separates them, you are greeted by the gorgeous park and fountain of L’Isola Memmia. Why not join the locals and linger a while? Take a break, rest, enjoy your picnic…
However you decide to enjoy Il Prato, you must visit nearby St. Anthony’s Basilica of Padova next. Basilica Pontificia di Sant’Antonio, long a destination for pilgrims and devotees from all over the world, is impressive and splendid. Its construction is believed to have begun around 1232, only one year after St. Anthony died and the body of the beloved saint has been guarded here for almost 8 centuries.
At the entrance, we are asked to observe the requests for silence and no photos. Inside, it is serenely quiet, calm and peaceful; a magnificent church, a welcome sanctuary and a perfect way to end your day.
There is a tram conveniently located nearby which runs frequently and will whisk you back to the train station and back on your way to Venice in time for that aperitivo unless, of course, you decide to linger and enjoy Padova just a little bit longer?
– Victoria DeMaio
La dolce vita sums up Victoria’s passion and love for all things Italian. An American living in California, her heart is always in Italy. As a travel consultant, blogger, and writer, Victoria loves sharing practical no-nonsense travel tips and insights on her travel blog, PostcardsfromTravelPiZazz.com and now offers two boutique tours to Italy. Connect with Victoria on her blog, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.
Concierge tip: Since Padova is only 30 minutes from Venice by train, why not combine a day-trip there with a luxurious weekend stay at Luna Hotel Baglioni? With the Baglioni Breakfast Inclusive offer you’ll get your day off to a flying start.