Thursday, 26 July 2007


After our last night in Verona we caught the train into Padua, which is home to the second oldest university in Italy (the oldest being in Bolognia). The big highlights of Padua are the Cappella degli Scrovegni, the Università degli Studi di Padova, and the Basilica di Sant Antonio (or il Santo).

To get into the Cappella degli Scrovegni you must book a timeslot on the internet at least a day in advance. Then you turn up before your allotted time, and are shuffled into an airlock room for 15 minutes while you watch a documentary and the air filtration system dries your clothes and removes any contaminents you may have brought in from the outside air. Then you get 15 minutes inside the chappel itself to admire the frescoes by Giotti before you are shuffled out again, prompted along by an electronic buzzer. I've got to say the frescoes were interesting, being something of a transition between Gothic and Renaissance styles, but possibly not worth all the song and dance required to see them (plus you weren't allowed to take photos which is always a big negative in my book).

The Chappel itself was built in 1303 by the Scrovegni family to atone for the sins of the patriarch, who was such a nasty character he was denied a Christian burial. Basically the chappel is the family's way to buy his way into heaven.

We then wandered around the town a bit and found we were lucky enough to be in town for graduation of some of the students at the University. In Italy, at the end of your degree, you present your thesis to the academics before being awarded your laurel, to chants of dottore! dottore! (they love grand titles in Italy). In Padua this is followed by a roasting by friends and family in the square outside the university, where the graduant reads out a poster pointing out their various physical and psychological flaws. Some of this seemed somewhat in breach of good taste but still it was fun to watch.

Also at the University we saw the room where Galileo taught lessons, and the first anatomy lecture theatre in Italy (a tiny, tiered, room that could hold 300 students). Again, no photos.

After the University we visited the Basilica of Sant Antonio (no photos, but I snuck a few!), which was actually quite an amazing experience. The church itself is spectacular, but Saint Anthony is something of a star in the Roman Catholic Church, making Padua a big destination for religious pilgrims. We were able to view some of the saintly relics, including his tongue and vocal chords (evidence of the power of his preaching), and then at his tomb we could see various pictures and letters from people who had been saved by saint. This included pictures of car wrecks survived, and the healed ill. There was a huge contingent of people praying to the Saint. Afterwards Linda bought a Sant Antonio cake at the bakery across the road. 

After our long, hot, day in Padua we caught a train (which was late) ran for a second train at Bolognia (which was even later) and ended up back in Florence after midnight totally exhausted and wishing for a swim in some nice cool water. We are looking forward to Cinque Terre!

All of the photos are here.

1 comment:

Farfallina - Roam 2 Rome said...

Aaaah!! This brought back memories!!

After the University of Caliofrnia, I studied at the University of Padova 5 years ago :) Those embarrassing graduation ceremonies seem to happen every week! aren't they funny?

They always catch the graduate by surprise, family friends and he knows what's coming to him or her! Being stripped nearly naked with vulgar depictions of his life that he has to read outloud without mistakes or giggles or he must drink a disgusting mixture of junk in a bottle while they poke fun with that song and throw eggs and spray stuff to him and then he must start over! Wow... what a graduation ritual!