The city of Padua is picturesque, with a dense network of arcaded streets opening into large communal piazze, and many bridges crossing the various branches of the Bacchiglione, which once surrounded the ancient walls like a moat. It is also the setting for most of the action in Shakespeare’s The Taming of Shrew.
Padua is known as the town of the “without”, since people commonly talk about:
- “The Saint without a name”, because St. Anthony of Padua, widely worshipped by local inhabitants, is generally known as “The Saint” (Il Santo), also referring to the homonymous Basilica of St. Anthony of Padua.
- “The Café without doors”, since the historical Caffè Pedrocchi was open 24 hours on 24 in times past. The Café was considered a meeting point for intellectuals, students, academicians and politicians for more than a century.
- “The Meadow without grass” because Prato della Valle, a spectacular piazza that is believed to be the biggest in Europe, after Place des Quinconces in Bordeaux, was actually a marshy surface until the end of the 19th century. Here the famous “Fiera del Santo” (Saint’s Fair) was held until 1919, when it was transformed into a Trade Fair.
Padua has many artistic attractions such as the Scrovegni Chapel, housing a remarkable cycle of frescos completed in 1305 by Giotto, the Palazzo della Ragione, with its great hall on the upper floor, that is reputed to have the largest roof unsupported by columns in Europe, the Basilica of St. Anthony of Padua, where the bones of the saint rest in a chapel richly ornamented with carved marbles, the work of various artists, among them Sansovino and Falconetto. At the centre of the city there are the buildings of Palazzo del Bò, the historical seat of the University of Padua, one of the most ancient in the World.