Written May 25, 2013.
If you are looking for a break from the tourists that flood Venice a trip to Padua, an easy 30-40 minute train ride from the Venice Santa Lucia train station, might be just the thing. Be sure to take the regular train rather than the express. The express is not that much faster, can even be slower, and costs 16 Euros instead of 6. Trains leave the station regularly so there is no need to book ahead.
What’s there to do in Padua? The main attraction is the Scrovegni Chapel painted by Giotto in 1302-1305. As exquisite gem of a chapel with every interior surface painted with scenes of the life of Mary and Jesus. Giotto is considered to be the father of Renaissance art, giving volume and emotion to his paintings about 100 years before the Italian Renaissance really got rocking. Even if you are not that into the Italian Renaissance, Giotto’s hell depicted in the Last Judgment on the wall above the chapel entrance is a test of the imagination. Just how many ways can you torture a poor soul that didn’t quite make it to heaven? The chapel is small and visits are limited to 25 people every 15 minutes, so reservations are essential. The end of May I easily booked on-line a Saturday afternoon reservation the Thursday before.
Padua also has a lively morning market in the Piazza delle Erbe and Piazza della Frutta. With rows and rows of fruits and vegetables in the outdoor spaces and the arcade of the Palazzo della Ragione filled with butcher shops and cheese vendors it’s a great place to pick up a picnic lunch or just roam and watch the locals.
The large brick Basilica of St Anthony, built in 1231 and technically part of the Vatican, is a worth a stop, not only for the impressive collection of art work but also for the spiritual impact St. Anthony still has today. The basilica is an important pilgrimage site for many worshipers who come to pray at his tomb located on the left side of the nave.
Hungry? Try the Rick Steves’ recommended Pizzeria Pago Pago, a short walk from the Basilica of St. Anthony with a large selection of made to order fresh from the wood oven pies.