Taking the road less traveled is a mission statement by which I live. That’s why fellow travel blogger Lauren from oweittospaghetti.com is here today to share how to do just that in Italy. If you’re looking to escape the crowds and other tourists in Venice, a great day trip option is Padua, or Padova in Italian. It’s about 40 minutes by train from Venice and worth the trip to see a totally different side of Italy.
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Why Should You Take A Day Trip To Padua?
Home to the University of Padua, the city feels young and vibrant, even as it’s surrounded by centuries-old history. The university hosts over 40,000 students, which gives Padua itself a college town vibe. In fact, you can even take a guided tour of some of the buildings on the university campus. Palazzo Bo has the Aula Magna room, in which Galileo was given special permission to teach. You can even see the podium he used, as well as the first ever Anatomical Theatre and Kitchen, used for teaching anatomy starting in the late 16th century, and on which design all other anatomical theatres in Europe were based!
For a deeper look, you can visit the Museo di Storia della Medicina, or the Museum of the History of Medicine. This museum uses interactive exhibits, videos, and multimedia games to teach visitors of the journey of modern understanding of the body and the way medicine treats it today. You can also see a modern anatomical theater to compare to the original at the university. But don’t worry – this theater uses a human mannequin (un gigante vivo, or “living giant” as he’s been nicknamed by visiting children) and modern projections to explain anatomy and physiology, not a dead body like the original.
If the history of anatomy isn’t your thing, check out the Mercato il Sotto Salone between the two market squares of Piazza delle Erbe and Piazza dei Frutta, inside the Palazzo della Ragione. It’s a busy food hall with a wide variety of foods and treats, from salami and cured meats to cheeses, pasta, bread, fish, fruits and veggies, and desserts. It’s the oldest covered market in all of Europe, boasting 50 shops and stalls. If you come on market days, you’ll also see the weekly markets on the adjacent market squares. These markets sell everything from household necessities to fine cashmere and leather goods.
On the upper floor is Il Salòn, which used to house the city’s courts. Its huge hall is covered in frescoes dating back to the 15th century! Instead of trying criminals, these days the hall is used for concerts and other cultural events. The vaulted ceiling, called ‘keel-vaulting’, looks like an upturned boat. Also, you can’t miss the giant horse at the end of the hall. Literally. It’s so giant you can’t miss it.
An important part of Padova’s history is the Jewish quarter, or Ghetto di Padova, the oldest Jewish community in the entire province of Veneto. The university guaranteed from its founding that anyone, regardless of religion, had the right to study there, drawing students and families from all over Europe. During the 15th century, the Spanish Inquisition forced many Jews out of Spain and into Tuscany and The Republic of Venice, who were a bit more tolerant, relatively speaking. In addition to arriving from Spain, many also came from Rome, due to the laws enacted by the Papal States, and Germany.
From 1603 to 1797, the gates surrounding the ghetto were closed and locked every night, preventing Jews from leaving after 2am. About 800 Jewish families were forced to live in an area of roughly 8000 square meters. The gates were demolished in 1797. In the area now known as the Ghetto di Padova, a neighborhood quite a bit larger than the original ghetto, you can see the beautiful architecture characteristic of this area, including the raised tower-houses, built upwards by families contained in a small area. You can visit the Museo della Padova Ebraica (Museum of Jewish Padua), which is located in the ghetto area and houses a synagogue, a multimedia experience, and personal items from Padova’s Jewish community. It’s a wonderful opportunity to learn more about the history of Jews in Padova.
On the other hand, Padova is great for simply wandering the streets and seeing the sights. There’s the Piazza dei Signori, with its beautiful clock tower. There is also the multi-domed Basilica of St. Anthony, the Piazza Garibaldi with a monument to the Virgin Mary, and dozens, if not hundreds, of winding streets and alleys to discover. A day trip from Venice to discover Padua is a great way to escape the hustle and bustle and large crowds of Venice, and to see a lively, wonderful city.
I hope you enjoyed learning about Padua from Lauren. Lauren is a recent expat whose obsession with pasta led her to move from the USA to Italy. She’s using her experiences to educate others who want to immigrate. Follow her along on Instagram and on her upcoming YouTube Channel! Check out her blog and subscribe at www.oweittospaghetti.com. Also, remember to check out my books on Amazon.
Take care! ‘Til next time.