In the central area of the Veneto plains, among lagoon, hills and Alpine foothills, lies the Province of Padua, a fascinating mixture of art, cultures, flavors and traditions. A visit to the Province is a discovery of a territory remarkably rich in history, culture, vitality and ingenuity, characterized by a great variety of places to see, products to taste, and people to meet. An inventive and hard-working people have known how to renew their traditions time and again.
In the Province's heart we find Padua, dynamic and vivacious city with a vast historical and monumental heritage; it is surrounded by significant natural and cultural attractions: the Euganean Springs, the Euganean Hills, the Medieval defensive walls, castles, villas, a patchwork countryside and water flows that run east towards the Veneto Lagoon.
The southeast is occupied by the Euganei Hills, a treasure chest of wonders. Green valleys and pretty hills covered in vineyards are made even more beautiful by the colors of spring, and the warm atmosphere of autumn.
The hills enclose the largest thermal area in Europe, the Terme Euganei, internationally-renowned for their therapeutic waters, that after their long subterranean journey rise to the surface here. The principal spa centers are Abano, Montegrotto and Galzigano Terme, and they offer mudbath therapies and many of the most modern beauty and wellness treatments.
The Province is also made up of a vast network of navigable waterways. Between Padua and Venice, the Brenta River makes a river cruise (burchielli) an absolutely unforgettable experience. Cruisers will feel - even briefly - akin to the lords and aristocrats of Venice that used these boats to reach their summer residences - simple buildings that they had transformed into magnificent works of architecture, with the help of brilliant artists such as Palladio, Preti and Scamozzi.
Summertime tours on the canals circling Padua offer unique occasions to see the city from a different perspective. Otherwise, experiencing this terrain on a bicycle, exploring the network of paths, particularly along rivers and streams, is also an excellent choice: try the bike track in Padua or on the Euganean Riviera, or a romantic itinerary on the banks of the Battaglia Canal, with its lovely villas and scenic shortcuts through the Hills.
A tour of the fortified cities is an intriguing way to get to know Padua’s long Medieval history. Cittadella, Este, Monselice and Montagnana are ideal for living the past, via commemorative re-enactments in period costumes, and the palios and jousts that animate these ancient villages every year. The area's millenary history also shows up in the local arts of good cuisine and fine wine.
Here, the origins of viticulture are ancient; at the same time, cultivation techniques have been perfected over time. The high-quality whites and reds of today are the fruits of such meticulous and time-tested labor.
Padua is one of the oldest and most dynamic Italian cities. Founded more than 3,000 years ago along a curve of the River Brenta, today it is modern and cosmopolitan, and rather well-known for its historic and glorious University and for innumerable art masterpieces diffused throughout the city.
The best way to see Padua’s historic center is on foot, strolling its porticoed roads, splendid piazzas and ancient bridges.
Its piazzas are the perfect departure point, particularly Piazza delle Erbe and Piazza dei Frutti, for centuries a daily produce market that is a cross section of citizen life and commerce, as well as the idea venue for seeing and socializing.
Overlooking the two piazzas is one of Padua’s several symbolic monuments, Palazzo della Ragione, also referred to as the “Salone,” a unique work within its genre. It features a series of typical shops on the ground floor, while on its upper level is a hall decorated with an astrological cycle. Close by is Piazza dei Signori, an elegant piazza with Renaissance touches, circumscribed by famous monuments including the Church of San Clemente, Palazzo del Capitanio, and the imposing Tower adorned with its famous Astrological Clock. Designed in the 1300s, the Clock marks the hours and minutes, in addition to month, day, moon phases and the astrological place. Also quite nearby is Piazza del Duomo, dominated by the majestic Cathedral and and by the ancient St. John’s Baptistry. The Baptistry is decorated by a fantastic fresco cycle by Giusto de’ Menabuoi. Next to the Duomo rises Palazzo Vescovile, made seat of the Diocesan Museum in 2000: inside are magnificent artworks and the impressive Bishops’ Hall.
Another of Padua’s symbols is Caffè Pedrocchi built in the early 1800s. Commissioned by Antonio Pedrocchi and designed by the architect Giuseppe Jappelli, it is still today a beloved Paduan locale, and plays host to important cultural exhibits and events. The Caffe faces Palazzo Bo, main office of the prestigious Università di Padova. The University is the second oldest in Italy, and as a place of excellence in the sciences and culture, it boasts Galileo Galilei among its esteemed past professors. Not only, but the oldest intact anatomic theatre in the world – that can still be visited – resides here. Yet, certaily no visit to Padua is complete without taking the time to admire the renowned Scrovegni Chapel, one of Giotto's absolute masterpieces (if not the masterpiece; Giotto reached his peak with this fresco cycle.
The lovely Piazza del Santo, with Donatello’s equestrian statue at the center dedicated to Gattamelata, hosts a grand monumental work dedicated to one of the most venerated saints in the world: St. Anthony, via the Basilica di Sant’Antonio. It is a harmonic equilibrium of Romanesque, Gothic, Byzantine, and Moorish styles; the interiors are embellished with prestigious paintings and sculptures. On one side of the Basilica is the ancient Oratorium of St. George, attached to the Scoletta del Santo with its famous Sala Priorale, superbly frescoed by the big names of its era. In the vicinity is the oldest Botanical Garden in the world, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Founded during the epoch of the Venetian Republic, it was conceived as a place dedicated to the study and cultivation of medicinal plants. The Chiesa degli Eremitani (Church of the Hermits) houses the famous Ovetari Chapel.
Sprinkled over Padua are a number of marvelous exemplars of grand cultural and artistic development that have long characterized this territory. Mighty Medieval castles and ancient abbeys, monasteries, noble residences, historic gardens and Benedictine cloisters are some of the Province’s principal attractions.
The Euganian Hills are an authentic natural oasis endowed with rich botanical life: over 1,400 plant species (one-sixth of all Italian flora). Walking along paths inside the Euganian Hills Regional Park, visitors can observe this marvelous green legacy, interspersed as it is with vineyards, olive groves, and unique borgoes like Arquà Petrarca, Valsanzibio, Luvigliano, and Teolo.
Of the numerous Veneto villas within Padua Province, be sure to see the beautiful Villa Contarini, the biggest and most scenographic of the Veneto villas, surrounded by a wonderful park bearing a pond; Villa Emo Capodilista, innovative construction by the painter and architect Dario Varotari, a follower of Paolo Veronese - he also realized the frescoes in the interior of the villa; Villa Barbarigo Ardemani immersed in a spectacular period garden with a more than 4,900-ft-long labyrinth; Ca’ Marcello, one of the most beautiful examples of Palladian architecttonic style, also surrounded by an immense park; and Villa Cornaro; another of Andrea Palladio's gems.
The Province of Padua has always been a crossroads of peoples and culture, a land rich in treasures to discover, such as the fortified towns where impressive buildings have survived the passing of time.
Cittadella, to the north of the capital, is surrounded by strong walls with 32 watchtowers. And not far is Monselice, a small town with a majestic Fortress built during Emperor Frederick’s dominion towers over the area from a hill. Este's Carraresi Castle holds 12 towers that trace the route of the exterior walls, while Montagnana is famous for the excellent preservation of its wal,l complete with impressive towers, its St. Zeno Castle and Rocca degli Alberi.
The Euganian Hills, famous for their bountiful botanical specimens and their hot springs, are an authentic natural oasis where, beyond the requisite relaxation in one of the numerous thermal structures, one can take on a variety of activities amidst the fresh air and inviting natural setting.
Golf lovers will find several well-equipped courses (some featuring imaginative details the likes of water ballet and ponds interspersed within the greens) nestled in this fantastic landscape. Not only golf, but trekking is a sport that finds many an occasion, with all the trails and routes that penetrate the heart of the Regional Park.
Otherwise, cycling, mountain biking and Nordic walking are excellent options. Neither is there any lack of bridleways.
Whichever excursion or sport you choose, treat yourself to a bit of pampering at one of the thermal spas, reviving muscle tone and circulation, and offering renewed psychophysical state.
Those seeking out a good glass of wine, rather, can travel the Strada del vino dei Colli Euganei (Wine Route of the Euganian Hills) to taste the best reds and whites of the zones, as well as the local olive oil and other typical specialties.
The network of cycling paths that unravel over the terrain make for exciting excursions around the City of Padua; they follow the canal forming a circle around the city and run past great points of interest throughout Padua Province.
In search of a slower itinerary? Take one of the boats that trace the splendid Brenta Riviera (from March to April) and offer a perfect fusion of the slow rhythms of a mini-cruise and a unique panorama of some of the most beautiful villas of Veneto.
During the summer months, visitors can even enjoy an evening river cruise with Notturni d’acqua, excursions along the canals encircling Padua.
If you like haunted houses and other chilling experiences, take a tour of some of the castles in the Province, said to host mysterious presences!
Discover all of Padua and its environs easily and conveniently with PadovaCard, the pass that lets you see 12 monuments, take buses and trams, and park in the city free.
Padua also boasts its fair share of historic re-enactments: the Palio dei 10 Comuni del Montagnese, a spectacular horse run set against the gorgeous Rocca degli Alberi fortress takes place every year August-September.
Another breathtaking display is that of the Giostra (Joust) della Rocca di Monselice.
Revel in the numerous sagre and festivals celebrating the area’s enogastronomic products and delicacies – among them are the Festa dei Bisi (peas) of Baone, the Festa della Fragola (Strawberry) in Camposampiero, the Festa del Prosciutto of Montagnana, the Festa dell’Olio (olive oil) dei Colli, the Feste dei Bigoli in Colli Euganei, the Festa della Giuggiola of Arquà Petrarca, and the epic wine festivals dedicated to the most prestigious D.O.C. wines, including Vini Euganei and the Mostra dei Vini Doc.