For those of you unfamiliar with the charming city of Padova (or Padua in English), you’re in for a delight. The lively and vibrant university town is only 45 kilometres from Vicenza and makes for the perfect day trip. This overview will highlight everything you need to know about Padova and a little more.
I’ve lived in Padova for nearly four years now, and still to this day I can turn a corner and be taken away by it’s beauty. I guess that’s one of the many perks of living in this bel paese. Something in which, I’m sure Vicenza does to many of you on a daily basis as well. So what can I share with you about Padova to convince you to come and visit?
Well for starters, Padova is home to one of the oldest universities in Italy, the largest piazza in the country and the oldest botanical gardens in the world. How about that for a wrap? Did I also mention that Galileo was also a professor at the University?
Aside from that though, Padova is a bustling mix of university students, businessmen and surprisingly, quite a lot of expats as well. Summers can be quiet as everyone has flocked to the mountains or the sea. Spring is perfect and my favourite time of the year in Padova. Autumn is stunning, especially along the river and while winters can be cold, it’s one of the most lively times of the year.
Much like Vicenza, Padova is, for the most part, off the beaten tourist track and because of this exploring the city can be a much more enjoyable experience than the likes of Venice or Verona. And just like the more famous cities, we have our fair share of famous churches, beautiful paintings and amazing food.
How to get there?
Whether you have a car or use public transport, Padova can easily be reached from Vicenza in under an hour. Trenitalia has several trains per hour departing from Vicenza Station with a typical journey time of under 30 minutes. Busitalia also has services every half an hour departing from various locations across the city. Alternatively, if you’re driving take the A4/E70 Autostrada towards Venice and you’ll be in Padova in 40 minutes. All options are relatively cost effective with the train, bus and toll all costing under €5.
Seven things to do and see
- Prato della Valle(view the pic on the top of the post), is definitely a must when visiting Padova for the first time. It’s one of several piazza’s in the city and is also the biggest of it’s kind in Italy. Take a wander through it’s markets held every Saturday, enjoy a gelato or spritz under a tree or dine at one of the many restaurants and cafes that line the outside.
- Put the maps away and just explore the streets. This is one of my favourite things to do in any city, but especially Padova. Start in Prato della Valle and work your way up to the Jewish Ghetto, Piazza’s dei Signori, della Frutta and Erbe, the Duomo and the Scrovegni Chapel to highlight a few points.
- Take a tour of Palazzo Bo and the University of Padova. You can enter the courtyard of Palazzo Bo (across from Pedrochi Cafe and in-between the bookshop and jewellery shop) but must book a guided tour to see the rest of the university.
- Admire Giotto’s famous frescoes in the Scrovegni Chapel and the surrounding museums and churches.
- Visit Saint Anthony’s Basilica, one of Padova’s most famed attractions. Saint Anthony is the patron saint of Padova and is actually buried here. People make pilgrimages here from all over the world each year.
- Have an afternoon or early evening aperitivo in Piazza dei Signori. Once the markets are packed up for the day, the square transforms into an outdoor meeting place for locals.
- Check out the Botanical Gardens of Padova which is home to over 7000 botanical species and is especially pretty in spring when the flowers are blooming or autumn as the leaves are falling.
Where to eat?
For a quick and cheap bite to eat try Bar Nazionale under Palazzo della Regione for the best tramezzini I have ever tasted, Da Prette (two locations) for a wide variety of calzone’s and Bigoi on Via Roma for fresh and quick take away pasta.
Try Gran Caffe Diemme in Piazza dei Signori, Zairo in Prato della Valle or La Gineria in the Jewish Ghetto for a more traditional Italian meal. And for those looking for the best burgers in town, head to Hamerica (previously 212 Burger) for an old school, American diner feel.
For more things to do in Padova, weekend city guides and more on life in Italy as an expat, visit my blog Wanderlust and Pasta.