Criminally under visited by UK tourists – presumably due to its proximity to Venice – Padova is one of the most beautiful cities in Italy if not Europe.
Here are my top three reasons to visit as soon as humanly possible.
Prato della Valle – Supposedly second largest public square in the world- the largest being Red Square in Moscow – and what a square; the statues of notable Paduans are countless and the sheer majesty is awe inspiring, especially as you’ll have approached via the labyrinthine streets on foot. Walking the perimeter takes a long time and the view is perfect from virtually every angle but particularly from the northern side with Santa Giustina behind.
Basilica di Sant’Antonio – one of only eight Catholic international shrines in the whole world, the Basilica is undoubtedly Padova’s most famous attraction. Millions of pilgrims visit the 13th Century Basilica every year, which houses St Anthony’s tomb as well as other relics such as the saint’s teeth. Even if you have no interest in religion the Romanesque facade and Byzantine domes are a truly impressive sight, especially if viewed from the north western façade. Here you will find a statue of a horse and rider sculpted by Donatello, the interior also houses a number of his works.
Roman ruins – Padova has an arena that’s smaller and less impressive than those in Verona or Rome, but it’s free to enter and well located in a well-maintained park. About three quarters of the Arena walls remain; the rest were removed to make way for the Scrovegni Chapel whose frescoes are one of the world’s most important works of art. In summertime, open-air movies are shown in the Arena.
Perfect for a twin break – I already mentioned the proximity to Venice, which is a mere twenty minutes away by train. But Padova is also close enough to Verona and Lake Garda for an easy day trip, and even Florence is only 97 minutes away, with plenty of cheap fares if you book in advance. So it’s quite possible to use Padova as a base for exploring Italy’s most famous cities.