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Noted for academic and artistic achievement

Noted for academic and artistic achievement

Perhaps you’ve been in Venice for a few days, seen the sights, cruised down canals. Hoards of tourists have descended on the weekend and you want a respite. Someplace with a youthful and intellectual exuberance. Where to go?

Approximately 30 minutes away by train you’ll find picturesque Padua (or "Padova" as it’s known locally). It sits on the Bacchiglione river near the Euganaean Hills. A small yet lively spot, it’s famous for its university and for being home to art masters such as Giotto, Donatello and Canova. You can either take the high-speed Italo or Trenitalia to Padua on your way to Rome, or make Padua your destination. You can choose train tickets for either Italo or Trenitalia. Or of course, for extensive travel, a Eurail Italy Pass will be the bigger budget-stretcher.

The university, founded in 1222, became a European academic superpower. Copernicus and Dante hit the books here and Galileo was a teacher in the 1500s. That’s a lot for current students to live up to. No wonder they hit up the piazzas for a "spritz" – or apertif come early evening. Join them at the Prato della Valle, the biggest square in Europe and probably one of the most beautiful in the world. Historically a Roman theater and later a fairground, it was redone in 1775 to the present layout: a large central grassy area surrounded by a statue-lined canal. Sit up against one and watch the world go by.

Before you settle in for an evening spritz, take the day to see the sights of Padua. Saint Anthony’s Basilica is the best-known tourist site. Built immediately after the saint’s death in the 1231, it houses his tomb and notable relics. The statues and crucifix on the main altar are by Donatello, as is the horse statue Gattamelata (or "the honeyed cat").

To see artistic techniques which were way ahead of its time, head to Scrovegni’s Chapel. With walls and ceilings covered in frescos by Giotto in the early 14th century, the chapel has been extremely well preserved. This is a must-see for art and art history fans.

The first Botanic Garden in the world is also in Padua, and operated by the school. A UNESCO World Heritage site, you won’t find a bounty of blooms, but rather a beautifully laid out design that gives the impression of solitude even when crowded.

If only Venice were that way. Get your Eurail Italy Pass today and explore!

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Padua station(s)

Trains are convenient way to reach any town and city in Europe. All main towns have a railway station, while major cities have more than two railway stations. Nearly all railway stations are located in the city centre. Check our map to locate railway station(s) in Padua.

Padua city guide

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Linda Davis | 2015/08/19 complete | 5 Comments
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