Why have I not heard of this city before visiting it? Padua, also called Padova in Italian, whichever you call it – it is an amazing visit and one of the oldest cities in Italy. Every twist and turn in this city leads to surprises and beautiful sights to see. Despite all its old buildings, there are many stores and young adults in this city giving it a modern, edgy vibe. While Padua is a bit crowded in some areas, it definitely feels way less touristy than its notable neighbor Venice. It would make a great day trip excursion from the Grand Canal city itself and can easily be reached easily by car, or by train.
There are many parking garages in the city, some costing only 1 euro an hour to park. I parked here and paid 5 euro for the entire day. If you are arriving to Padua by train from Venice, it will cost about 5 euro both ways and will take only 30 minutes. The train station is within walking distance to the city center. Overall, Padua was a very easy city to navigate through. There were many signs directing you to its main attractions.
The Botanical Gardens
The main reason I was drawn to this city was to explore the Botanical Gardens, which, by the way, are the oldest Academic Gardens in the world. These gardens are a UNESCO World Heritage site and are still utilized today by researchers from the nearby University. There is both an indoor and outdoor exhibit to the gardens. The indoor exhibit consists of a rain forest habitat display as well as plants from the desert. On the other hand, the outdoor exhibit has many beautiful walkways with loads of flowers, unique trees and plants to admire.
You will need at least an hour to tour the entire gardens. If you have a camera, you might spend a lot more time there taking photos. It cost 10 euro to enter the gardens. I have only ever been to one other Botanical Gardens (the one in New York) so compared to those gardens, these ones are a bit small. However, they are very impressive and the old Italian architecture makes it even more interesting and picturesque.
Bascilla di’ Sant’ Antonio
From the Botanical Gardens, you have a clear view of the Bascilla di’ Sant’ Antonio which is one of the most notable churches in the city. The tomb of Saint Anthony of Padua is actually located within the walls of this church. Despite a service occurring when I arrived, there were many tourists visiting this church and the doors were open. I went inside to take a peak at what was going on and it was truly beautiful.
If you plan to visit the inside, you must be dressed in modest clothing, and cannot take pictures. There is also a Saint Anthony museum here that you can visit if you are interested (fun fact – apparently his actual tongue is on display in said museum). I would have liked to spend a bit more time here, but I left quickly because I did not want to disturb the mass. Surrounding the church, there are quite a few gelato and coffee shops to grab a refreshment at when you are finished. If you have read my posts about visiting Verona or Florence, then you know how much I love gelato. 😉
Prato della Valle
Fun fact, Padua is home to the largest square in Italy! It is hard to miss the greenery and hustle and bustle of Prato della Valle when wandering about the city. There is a pretty moat that outlines the square, making it a very picturesque and unique location. Additionally, there are many bridges that connect you to it’s large patches of grass and a gorgeous fountain in the middle of it.
This is one of the most amazing squares I have seen in Italy so far. If you are in Padua, you cannot leave without visiting here. I would love to have a picnic in the grass here, or to lay down a towel and sunbathe like several people were doing. Even sitting by the water and watching everyone go by and ducks swimming in the water was a fun way to spend a few minutes while eating gelato. By the way, that is the Bascilla di’ Sant’ Antonio in the distance. It’s truly an amazing work of architecture, isn’t it?
Padua has some pretty large and amazing markets. There is a large market near Prato della Valle and another one at Piazza del Erbe. The market at Prato della Valle is only open on Saturdays whereas the market at Piazza del Erbe is open everyday except Sunday. Both markets have many vendors selling produce and other foods. At Piazza del Erbe, there is a larger variety of goods including clothing and basically everything else you might need. You can even buy underwear here, if you’re curious what “everything else” entails. If you go underneath the Ragione Palace (the building in the picture), you will find additional vendors selling meat, fish and many other types of food. Stumbling upon these markets was quite an amazing experience.
P.S. the strawberries at this market had the strongest and most delicious strawberry smell that my nose has ever encountered. I visited in May, which must be strawberry season. Additionally, I couldn’t believe that they were being sold for only 2 euro a case. Maybe it is just the bargain hunter in me speaking, but that’s a great deal!
Palazzo della Ragione
When visiting Piazza del Erbe, you will not miss seeing this incredible palace. With it’s centralized location, this building served as the town hall building of the city in medieval times. After walking through the markets, it is worth it to walk up the stairs to visit the inside of the palace. It only cost 2 euro to enter the upper hall when I was there because they were preparing for an event of some sort. On a normal day, the entrance fee costs 6 euro.
The hall on the inside is filled with many paintings and decorations. My favorite part of this building, however, was photographing the beautifully painted arches before entering the hall – an absolute dream. You will probably spend 30-40 minutes or so exploring this historic 12th century town hall building.
I did not get to visit La Specola because it is closed on the weekends during the off season. However, I did walk there, not realizing it was closed, so I feel that it is worth mentioning in my post. La Specola is an old Astronomical observatory tower, not too far from Prato della Valle. The rumor is that Galileo himself used this building for research back in the day.
Today, La Specola is used by University students for the same reason. There is also an astronomy history museum inside that you can visit. At the top of the building, you can also see the entire city. The walk to this building from the city’s main square is beautiful and interesting despite it being closed when I got there. The building is located on a river so it is very scenic to look at. Additionally, there are not as many tourists in this area, if you need a break from the crowd.
Alas, you have a complete itinerary about spending a day in Padua. I did not realize that this city had so much to offer when I visited. I always love being delightfully surprised with more than I expected. Padua provided all of that and more.