02 Oct 5 Nights in Padova
Tuesday 17 September
The train from Milan to Padova (Padua) was a bullet train and reached 296 kph.
Our apartment was very nice and we basically took off to a supermarket to stock up for the 5 days, before heading back to make dinner and watch a Goldie Hawn cowboy movie dubbed in Italian before hitting the sack.
Wednesday 18 September
Today we visited museums in the grounds of La Capella degli Scrovegni which has been under restoration for over 50 years.
The chapel frescoes were painted by the artist Giotto and are said to rival those of the Sistine Chapel. Giotto even painted Haleys comet into the nativity scene as the comet was something he had personally observed.
After lunch we visited Palazzo della Ragione, which is a massive old civic building dating from 1218, and the upper ceiling of which is covered with replications of art meant to reflect Giotti’s work, which was destroyed by fire in 1420. The repainted frescoes were completed in the 1450s, so still old. More restoration was necessary in the 1770s because of a hurricane, but the beautiful representation of the moon and stars that covered the entire ceiling was not recreated. This ground floor of this building is now full of food shops that are very much like Victoria Markets in Melbourne, meats, cheeses preserves, wine etc etc.
You have to go up another level to see the frescoes and a massive wooden horse. Worth the entry fee.
We also visited Padova University which is one of the oldest universities in Europe and has been world-famous for hundreds of years, drawing students from an amazing array of countries right from the beginning of its existence.
Professors at Padova University are regarded as the fathers of anatomy, physiology and medical science generally. Galileo was a highly respected lecturer at the University. We got to see the wooden lecturn which Galileo‘s students designed and paid for specifically so they could see and hear him better amongst the mass of students seeking to study with him.
The worlds first artificial heart transplant was carried out by doctors of the Padova University.
A really interesting thing about this university is that the students basically ran it. They made all the decisions regarding who could be accepted to teach, the courses, and what lecturers were paid. The students actually had their own plaques made to honour their administrative work, and these became so numerous and so outrageously ostentatious that eventually this practice was stopped.
The university structure included the world’s first anatomical theatre, an amazing tiered structure which could take around 250 students standing around the balconies, watching an autopsy far below. It was very hot and stuffy so it was easy to imagine the students throwing up and/or fainting during the process.
The Baptistry is a building currently under renovation but a Romanesque gem with quite stunning murals.
We visited the old Roman-style theatre (Loggia and Odeo Cornaro) which is still in use, directly behind Galileo’s home. The anterooms of the theatre are elaborately decorated with murals and stucco work, and are where hundreds of years ago the town’s VIPs used to meet to make important decisions around law and administration.
Thursday 19 September
We spent more time in the really old part of Padova, and first visited the Basilica of St Anthony, which is a massive and very beautifully decorated church.
We also saw the Duomo, which is completely different from most churches, with an industrial look to the outside, and a very austere, whitewashed interior.
Friday 20 September
John visited Vicenza alone as that morning we learned that Christine’s dear brother Paul had passed away.
John said that without doubt the most astounding thing about Vicenza was without doubt the Teatro Olimpico, an indoor theatre dating back to 1585.
It is the oldest roofed theatre in the world, the last work and masterpiece of Andrea Palladio, designed drawing inspiration from Roman and Greek theatres.
Saturday 21 September
We travelled by train to Venice, taking a ferry into the heart of the Grand Canal and St Mark’s Square. The mass of tourists, even out of absolute peak time, was unsurprising because we’d been warned, but not pleasant.
It was more peaceful in the Museo Correr, the Basilica de San Marco and the Palazzo Ducal, which were well worth seeing but not so insanely popular with tourists. The main crush was outside rather than inside.
We navigated our way through the maze of canals and bridges, taking a very convoluted path back to the train station.
We would really like to go back, but in the dead of winter in order to experience a more peaceful Venice, staying overnight so that the day tourists leave and we might get to enjoy a more local feel.