Falling in love with Pavia: the rice capital of Italy and home to Einstein
A rich historical and artistic heritage, an enviable food and wine tradition, and countless fascinating sites make Pavia surprisingly unique and perfect for a tailor-made holiday.
The Charterhouse, a jewel of the Renaissance
The best place to start is the Charterhouse of Pavia, a monumental complex eight kilometres away from the city centre.
Commissioned as a family chapel and mausoleum by Gian Galeazzo Visconti in the 15th century, it was entrusted to the Carthusian monks, before passing to the Cistercians and the Benedictines of Pavia. But, though his ashes were taken there, its patron never saw the end of its construction, which was continued by Francesco Sforza and Ludovico il Moro.
Housing works by Perugino, Pinturicchio and Guercino, the interior flaunts a Gothic style, modelled on the Milan Cathedral, while the façade is overtly Renaissance.
The Visconti Castle, a symbol of power
More than a castle, this building is a symbol of wealth and power dating back to 1360. It is surrounded by a beautiful park, which you can only see part of today, connecting it to the Charterhouse of Pavia.
Significant historical events it bore witness to include the marriage of Ludovico il Moro to Beatrice d'Este. Although today part of the castle has been destroyed, the interior still hosts the Civic Museums and the Malaspina civic art gallery, with masterpieces such as Antonello da Messina's Portrait of a Man.
The Church of San Pietro in Ciel d'Oro and the Ponte Coperto
The Church of San Pietro in Ciel d'Oro is definitely worth a visit. It is the resting place of two Church Fathers: St Augustine, who lies in a magnificent tomb, and Severinus Boethius, philosopher and martyr. The Longobard-style church was rebuilt in the Romanesque style and is considered one of the most important religious building in the city together with the Basilica of San Michele Maggiore.
Also well worth a visit is the Ponte Coperto, the iconic covered bridge of Pavia that crosses the Ticino river. This bridge connects the historic centre with Borgo Ticino, originally located outside the city walls, and the Palazzo Broletto, a 12th-century building with a striking porticoed inner courtyard, the heart of institutional life in times gone by. Keen eyes can also spot a plaque dedicated to the 50th anniversary of the death of Albert Einstein, who lived here for some time.
It’s true! Einstein's parents moved to Pavia in 1894, to Palazzo Cornazzani to be precise, the former home of Ugo Foscolo, and Albert himself also lived here for a while.
The theatre that hosted Gassman and Fo
The 18th-century Teatro Fraschini theatre is a true masterpiece that has seen renowned actors such as Vittorio Gassman and Dario Fo grace its stage. It has a typical horseshoe shape, with a series of box seats and an entirely painted wooden ceiling.
Pavia and its passion for heels
In nearby Vigevano is the International Footwear Museum, which exhibits all kinds of shoes from the historical to the super fashionable and even recent models. You can even find the historic slipper “la pianella di Beatrice d'Este” strutting side by side with the best of Manolo Blahnik!
Rice: an icon
Pavia has around 80 thousand hectares of paddy fields. We are talking about the largest area of rice cultivation in Italy, and you can enjoy a walk or cycle on paths alongside the paddies.