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The beauty of Padova

Goethe described this city as being 'almost German', others allowed themselves to be captured by the fascination which surrounds it during the long winter days. Stendhal loved the city with a passion. Garibaldi and Galileo Galilei, Gaspare Gozzi and Ugo Foscolo passed through and were inspired by what they saw.

Padova is a chameleon-like, contradictory city, and is able to meet the needs of both residents and visitors alike. Although the people of Padova may not be the most sociable, underneath this surly exterior beats a great heart and treat guests with kid gloves.
The province is connected to the borders of the agricultural land in the Pianura Padana nestled amongst the lake of the Veneto, the hills and the Pre-Alps. It is the nerve center of communication for the whole of the North-East of Italy. Today, Padova represents the European city par excellence, where old-fashioned values are integrated with new technology. The industrial area is a reflection of this, it is flourishing and has a wealth of enterprises of a high international caliber, whilst at the same time, the historical center and the citys artistic, architectural treasures speak of traditions and history that are still very much alive today.

The 'city of S.Antonio' is the destination of the many pilgrims from all over the world, the ancient Patavium is one of the major Italian cities as far as art is concerned. One needs only take a stroll around Padova to understand this: it looks after the remains of the Anfiteatro Romano, the Cappella degli Scrovegni with its marvelous frescoes of Giotto, the Botanical Gardens, the University, among some of the most glorious antiques in Europe, which coexist in perfect harmony with the Caffè Pedrocchi, the suggestive colours of the market in the Piazze and the luxury shopping in the Borromeo Gallery, in places such as Versace or Armani, or in the ultra-chic Via S. Fermo, in the glorious Hermés store.

It is best to leave your car in the one of the numerous parking spots on the outskirts of the city. Padova is a city that needs to be visited by foot, taking advantage of the free detailed guides that are given away by Apt or by making use of the network of buses run by Acap which stop at places that are sure to be of interest for tourists. There is only one rule if you visit the city: Get involved! - with the frenetic happiness that exists around the university, culminating in the student celebrations of the newly graduated (the password: don't be shocked!); with lazy walks along the 'Liston', window shopping; involve yourself in the discussions on the prices of everything in the market; take part in the ritual of an aperitif in the Piazzas; delight in the monuments that unlock 3000 years of history; or with the parties and that liven up the neighbouring Veneto villages and the nightspots.

The province also has a great deal of heritage in terms of art, culture and nature; this often remains undetected by visitors - the Euganei hills for example, are one of the most breathtaking, flourishing attractions surrounding the city. They are immortalized in verses praising their beauty and fertility, verses by the Roman poets Properzio, Lucano and Martial, they were also particularly favoured by Petrarch who spent his last years here, and Ugo Foscolo, which can be read in his last letters to Jacopo Ortis. They contain splendid countryside and unforgettable especially in spring, glowing with almond blossom, and at the start of the autumn, when the hills are reddish in colour and the harvest time begins.

At the foot of the hills are the spa towns of Abano and Montegrotto that have been famous for a long time due to the therapeutic properties of the mud and the volcanic waters, which gush out at 87. These areas are now known throughout the world for the high standards of their hotels and their health spas.

A journey outside the city will lead you towards innumerable castles and villas (especially Villa Contarini di Piazzola sul Brenta) spread throughout the territory, they are treasure chests filled with magnificent works of art. There are many monasteries such as the Abbazia di Praglia, and churches built for monastic orders. The whole province is there to be discovered perhaps riding a bike up the slopes of the hills, or towards the walled Medieval cities (Monselice Este, Montagnana, Citadella) or maybe crossing the countryside and heading towards the Valle Millecampi. The itinerario per le vie d'acqua is fascinating, it takes you along the rivers of Brenta and Bacchiglione and other small canals, which actually lead straight on to Venice.

History of Padua

The city of Padova

Legend has it that Antenore, friend of Enea, was the founder of Patavium in the 10th century BC, it was a marshy village full of humble farmers. Soon the patavini became sailors and merchants with the Laguna Veneta (Venice lagoon), with the Greeks and the Etruscans the patavini began to prosper. They made use of the Medoacus river (today known as Brenta) and the enormous oaks nearby were made into boats, some can be seen in the archaelogical section of the Museo Civico Eremitani.

In 302 BC, Padova officially entered into history: Titus Livius gave notice of the victory over the armies of the Spartan king Cleonymus, who were advancing across the fertile province making raids on the harvests and on the flocks. A century later after the 'Great Gallic War', there were direct, friendly links with the Romans, culminating in 43 BC with the recognition of the Veneti as 'civies' ie Roman citizens and the transformation of Patavium into a municipium (Roman town). This was the beginning of a period of marvellous prosperity for the city, destined to continue late into the period of the Roman Empire, thanks to its good geographical positioning and excellent roads.

Just like the nearby towns of Aquileia and Verona, Patavium was the home of the bishopric of Venezia euganea, it was the place of trials and martyrdoms of the early Christians, and amongst these was Saint Giustina in 304 AD. In 569, the Longobards and king Agilulfusin invaded the Roman city (up until then Patavium was protected by the Byzantines) and the patavins surrendered in 602 after a long siege. Historians recount that the 'humble' fled to the countryside and returned to live amongst the 'mura' (walls), while the 'betters' (wealthy) in the population moved to Laguna.

The crisis lasted until the middle of the 10th century, Charlemagne demolished the Longobards, and the Hungarians invaded the city. The 'civitas regia', Patavium became an urban 'commune' under the protection of the Vescovi, and run by representatives from the Holy Roman Empire, until the liberation of Italy under the 'Lega di Pontida'. It was destroyed by fire in 1174, and was entirely reconstructed: not only the walls and the Justice administration, with the Palazzo della Ragione, but also culture, with the birth of one of the oldest universities in the world, which began in 1221.

During this time, the Commune were ruled by the tyrannical Ezzelino da Romano from 1237 to 1256, whose rule came to an end without blood shed (thanks to Pope Alexander IV in June 1256), during the festivities for Saint Antonio, who died in Padova in 1231 and who became known as the 'patron and defender of the city', the Basilica stands as a testimony to this fact, created as a remembrance offering by the people of Padova. There followed 60 years of prosperity, the area spread further outwards, culture became more important, due to the poets, scientists, philosophers and artists.

Between the Middle Ages and the Renaissance the city witness to the 'dance' between the noble families and the emperors: the Scaligeri and the Carraresi family in particular sought to take hold of the city. There was a long political decline during this time, and the city was subject to Venice, whose rule began in 1405 and lasted for 300 years. In the 16th century the city was surrounded by a new bastioned city wall, which defined the citys shape. All that remained of the 'Padovani' was there culture and art, documented by grand works from illustrious names such as Mantegna, Titian, Falconetto and Donatello. Galileo taught at Bo', and the first Anatomical theatre and Botanical Gardens in Europe were inaugurated here first.

The city was liberated by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1797, and in 1813 was under the rule of Austria, something that was greatly contested by the student world, culminating in a student revolt on February 8, 1848 which transformed the University and the Caffè Pedrocchi into real battlefields, in which students and the common man fought side by side. Padova was set free on July 11, 1866.

The last major historical events of the città del Santo saw Padova as a protagonist in the epilogue of the First World War. In the zone of Abano Terme, the Supreme Commander prepared for revenge after Caporetto and the Armistice was signed in Villa Giusti della Mandria at the gates of the city.


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