The following fact we learned from a book and a sign which was located at the site: “The Roman amphitheatre of Padua had an elliptical shape of 134,26 meters on its major axis and 97,31 meters on its minor axis. The building leaned on massive foundations and, on its façade, it had an external porch with 80 arches on two different levels. On the basis of the most accepted reconstruction hypothesis, the decoration was of Tuscan order and it was made of trachyte. The pavements were in red marble from Verona, and particularly the stairs, the podium and the radial rooms.”
Of the amphitheatre of Padua we can see parts of the elliptical middle wall, with the 2 meters large openings and several disconnected fragments. This means that it is even larger as what we could see and it extends into the current Giardini dell’Arena park fences. Therefore it is quite difficult to imagine that there used to be an entrance / gate that gave access to those taking part in the show. On the side of the Scrovegni chapel there used be another gate through which the dead gladiators were transported out of the arena. So the current site leaves much to imagine, but still gives a nice idea of the history of the Roman city of Padua. I say … it still is a must see!
The city of Padua was a Roman municipium since 45 BC and used to have the name Patavium at that time. Unlucky enough the city was stormed and burned by enemies in the year 601 AD and very seriously damaged by that war. Therefore the some bridge foundations and the remains of the amphitheatre (the Arena) are all that remains of Roman Padua today, such a shame.
Lucky enough some of the remains of the Roman amphitheater are still visible. To be honest, at first it is very difficult to discover an amphitheater in the walls. That’s the main reason why we thought that it had to be old defensive walls. The stand or stages are all gone and the outside walls is all that is left. Once inside these walls we were able to discover an elliptical shape, which gave vision to the fact that is once was an arena. The amphitheater was identified in the 17th century and the excavated between the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century. With reference to the old Roman city it was situated in its northern outskirts. We walked our way along the walls and saw a drawing on a sign how the amphitheater must have looked like.
To me this is one of the most funniest tip to write I guess. Let me tell you why. By the time we arrived in Padua we walked our way up from our parking spot towards the old ancient city center of Padua. We kind of passed the park of Giardini dell’Arena by and saw some beautiful Roman remains of which we were convinced that these were the old city walls of Padua. We first decided to go to the centre and have a closer look at the roman remains later that day by the time we would go back to the car. By the end of the day I was very excited to have a look at these city walls and arrived at the Giardini dell’Arena. Having a look around and reading some signs made me realize that the old walls were not the defensive walls, but the remains of a Roman amphitheatre. How about that?
As you can read above we were a bit disappointed not to have found the old defensive walls, but on the other hand we were about to visit another highlight of Padua. This is what we read on a sign and therefore found out. The Roman amphitheatre of Padua, which located inside the park “Giardini dell’Arena”, dates back to Augustan times (30 BC – 14 AD) and it is only partially conserved. Particularly, it is possible to see the remains of the elliptical middle wall, still visible for some parts. Time for us to explore it indeed!
After our visit to the Duomo di Padova we once stepped outside and had another good look at the Piazza del Duomo. Besides the cathedral another beautiful building does catch the eye. At the north side of the square you will see the L’Arc Vallaresso, a beautiful white building with amazing and rather huge arcades. This palace was built in 1632 in honor of Alvise Vallaresso, a captain in Padua. In the back court we were able to visit some surviving walls of the ancient Palace Carrara.
After all this historical notice it is good to know that the Piazza del Duomo also contains a number of lovely little bars and restaurants. We enjoyed good weather during our stay at the Piazza del Duomo and it truly is the perfect place to relax and enjoy a glass of wine in the sun. In summer many tables are facing the Duomo di Padova and you can enjoy its view at it and do some relaxing. We also notice that compared to other bars in Padua there were more young people here. Maybe a coincidence, but we did notice.
We travel far and wide to see good art and we're happy to pay for the privilege. The Baptistery of the Duomo di Padova charged us 2,80 Euros per person which felt a bit rich for what we saw. Granted, every inch of the circular room, including the ceiling, was covered with frescos but if you've been in Italy for any length of time, you've seen kilometers of frescos. Our tip: spend more time at Saint Anthony's or any of the other churches in Padua and drop your 2,80 Euro in their collection boxes.
The design of the existing cathedral is sometimes attributed to Michelangelo, but in fact it was the work of Andrea della Valle and Agostino Righetto, but for sure it was one of the most simple cathedrals that we have visited in Italy so far. There are a number of statutes around the church, the décor is simple but the atmosphere quite serene and peaceful. There is a marble altar where the pulpits are held by marbled sculptures - one had a golden face encased in the marble figure and is spectacular! Although not as elaborate as the other Churches in Padua, it is still a beautiful place of worship.
Most of all Italians towns have a piazza (square) in the center of the old town and also at each important or historical point in the city. A piazza is a central place for the public live of the local people. I can tell you that Padua is not different, because also in Padua there are many large and small squares everywhere. All of those squares are a must visit as each piazza has historical buildings surrounding it and a nice and unique atmosphere to enjoy.
We arrived at the Piazza del Duomo after we visited the hive of activity of the daily market at the Piazza dell’Erbe. We walked the streets in the Jewish Ghetto and ended up at the square via the street Via Monte di Pieta. The Piazza Duomo fulfilled our expectations completely, because we did not expect too much. The first thing we noticed was that there were no stalls, therefore less crowded and a great place to relax. After we walked our way up the center of the square we immediately had a great view at the Cathedral Duomo di Padova.
Located right off Via Roma, the Chiesa Maria dei Servi does not look like a church from the outside because of its location sandwiched between other structures in the very heart of downtown Padova.
The Gothic church was built in the late 13th century, It is oriented parallel to Via Roma. Opposite of the main entrance door there is a very striking Addolorata Baroque altar (see picture below.) The inside is impressive with three richly adorned chapels. Some of the red marble columns were actually brought over from the Basilica of St. Anthony in the 15th century. There is an impressive crucifix that was designed in keeping with the principles of the Donatello school.
There was no charge to walk into the church briefly and take a few pictures.
If you are lucky, there will be markets in the appropriately-named Piazza Erbe and Piazza dei Frutti, probably spreading into Piazza dei Signori as well.
We visited on a Tuesday and there were markets in all three squares...the Pizza Erbe for fruit and vegetables, the other two squares filled with stalls of all kinds, with some excellent clothing deals to be found!
Cheeses and meats are indoors, in the arched corridor of the Palazzo della Ragione which divides Piazza dei Frutti and Piazza Erbe.
We spent a long time exploring these markets and were hugely impressed not only by the variety of goods on offer but also by their quality and their prices. There's a big difference between markets in a hugely tourist-popular location and those in an ordinary working town, especially one which has a university (and thus thousands of hard-up students!).
These markets are open every day except Sunday. On Saturdays the vast Prato della Valle also becomes a market.
We didn't actually manage to get inside this magnificent building, although it is supposed to be open from 9am until 6 or 7pm from Tuesday until Sunday. Dating from 1210, it is a vast structure which at the time of its construction included the largest room ever built on top of another storey.
The palazza was originally decorated with frescoes by Giotto, but these were destroyed by a fire in 1420. Others from the same era, by Miretto, still survive.
I'd have liked to go inside, not just to see the frescoes but also to see the 'Stone of Insults (a bankrupt could discharge some of his debts by sitting on it with naked buttocks 3 times during a public assembly) and the huge wooden horse made for a joust in 1466.
But I didn't, and had to content myself with just a glimpse of the frescoes in the loggias which look out onto Piazza Erbe and Piazza dei Frutti, and a glimpse of the exterior emerging from behind the market stalls.
The building is now used as an exhibition space and the assembly hall for the city council.
Next time I'll visit properly. I suggest you make a point of doing so! :-)
The Chapel of the Black Madonna, or sometimes called the Chapel of the Black Virign, is the only part of the first church on the site, St. Maria Mater Domini, that remains today. It is a small chapel that contains a striking figure of the Madonna. It has been called the Black Madonna by local residents for centuries because of the general dark complexion of the statue. The statue was created by Rainaldino di Puy-l'Evéque, a local artist in 1396. There is also a large empty sarcophagus that is to the side of the chapel.
While not impressive on the exterior, the Basilica de San Antonio is absolutely stunning inside. Beginning with the central nave you see a gorgeous gothic design. To the left and right are separate chapels with great funerary remains. The transept is completely covered by restored frescoes. There is a balcony above the transept. However the balcony is closed off from the public.
One of the more stunning frescoes is of St. Anthony delivering his words from the walnut tree. The painting was completed in 1985 by Pietro Annigoni,
There was no charge to enter the main basilica area or any of the chapels inside. Hours that the church is open were not clearly visible.
Located out front of the Basilica de San Antonio is a somewhat non-descript statue of a man on a horse. Not being able to determine the significance of it, I inquired within the church to find more information.
The statue I found was of a man named Erasmo da Narmi, a famous condotierri or mercenary from the Italian Renaissance. He is sometimes referred to as Gattamelata or the Honeyeyed Cat. The statue was sculpted by Donatello. The statue is regarded to be the first time bronze casting was used by a sculptor since the Roman Empire.
Gattamelata is buried within the Basilica de San Antonio in the Chapel of the Holy Sacrament.
One of the prettiest chapels anywhere in Italy I was dumbstruck by the array of colors coming from this chapel in the Basilica de San Antonio (Il Santo). According to the church's website the chapel has undergone significant changes over the centuries with the latest being in the early 20th century when the apse under the altar was modified.
The chapel was completed in 1458 and is located to the right of the main nave. It used to be called the Gattamelata Chapel in honor of, Erasno di Narmi, the man on the horse statue in front of the church. Narmi's body as well as that of his son is buried in the chapel.
This chapel is definitely worth a view.
For additional information be sure and visit the excellent web site basicilladelsanto.org which is put together by the Basilica staff.
As I took the tram from the railroad station I kept hearing some ladies talk about, "Il Santo.." It wasn't until I got off the tram that I realized they were talking about the Basilica di San Antonio. Approaching the Basilica I was also struck by the sheer number of stalls selling religious artifacts on both sides of the street leading up to the church.
The main view of the basilica was unfortunately covered by scaffolding as work to keep it free from dirt, grime and aging continues. Even without the scaffolding the exterior is certainly not that impressive compared to other churches in the area. While guides debate what the predominant style of the basilica is there are elements of at least three architectural styles present. According to the church's own web site construction took place in three distinct phases over seventy years beginning in 1238. During St. Anthony's life there was a small church called Santa Maria Mater Domini. This small church was later integrated into the main basilica and today is called the Chapel of the Black Madonna. The first major church addition constructed was a Franciscan church with only one nave and a small transept. Then two lateral naves were added and the church grew and grew. However as the church grew over time Romanesque and Byzantine themes were added to the exterior resulting in the smorgasboard of styles you see today. The difference in domes and other architectural features is striking as you walk around the church.
Santa Maria dei Servi (its full name is Chiesa della Nativita della Santa Vergine Maria ai Servi) is an 13th century building overlooking via Roma. The church was built between 1372 and 1390,at the behest of Fina Buzzaccari, wife of the Prince of Padova Francesco il Vecchio da Carrara. It was constructed on the ruins of the palace of Niccolo da Carrara, razed on the ground after owner in 1372 betrayed the Signoria Carraresi, by siding with the Scaligeri from Verona.
In 1393 Francesco Novello, son of Fina and Lord of Padova, entrusted the church to order of Servi di Maria (Servants of Mary). In the 16th century the church was subject of great embellishment works, especially by Bartolomeo da Campolongo who in 1511 built the portico. Many Padovan celebrities are buried in this church.
This Gothic building features the facade constructed by pilasters and arches, with an short porch in the middle where an elegant Lobbard-Ghotic styled portal can be seen, made of stone from Vicenza. The 14th century bell tower rises above the chapel, on the right side, which is constructed by pilasters and arches, same as the portico. The interior of the church is vast and rich in works of art by Giovanni Bonazza, Rinaldo di Francia and Damini. The most valuable is, however, the miraculous crucifix by Donatello.
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