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Tronco Maestro Riviera: a pedestrian walk along a section of the "inland waterway" or naviglio interno of Padua

The city of Padua (Lat. Patavium, It. Padova) is the economic and communications hub of the Veneto region in northern Italy. The capital of Padova province, it stands on the Bacchiglione River, 40km west of Venice and 29km southeast of Vicenza, with a population of 211,985 (2004). Its agricultural setting is the Pianura Padovana, the "Paduan plain," edged by the Euganaean Hills praised by Lucan and Martial, Petrarch and Ugo Foscolo. The city 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.

Padua was where most of the action in Shakespeare's play, The Taming of the Shrew, took place.


Monuments of the historic center

The Palazzo della Ragione, with its great hall on the upper floor, is reputed to have the largest roof unsupported by columns in Europe; the hall is nearly rectangular, its length 815m, its breadth 27m, and its height 24m; the walls are covered with allegorical frescoes; the building stands upon arches, and the upper storey is surrounded by an open loggia, not unlike that which surrounds the basilica of Vicenza. The Palazzo was begun in 1172 and finished in 1219; in 1306 Fra Giovanni, an Augustinian friar, covered the whole with one roof; originally there were three roofs, spanning the three chambers into which the hall was at first divided; the internal partition walls remained till the fire of 1420, when the Venetian architects who undertook the restoration removed them, throwing all three spaces into one and forming the present great hall, the Salone. The new space was refrescoed by Nicolo' Miretto and Stefano da Ferrara, working from 1425 to 1440.

In the Piazza dei Signori is the beautiful loggia called the Gran Guardia, (1493 - 1526), and close by is the Palazzo del Capitanio, the residence of the Venetian governors, with its great door, the work of Falconetto of Verona, 1532.

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This tempera, Two Christians before the Judges, hangs in the city's cathedral.

The most famous of the Paduan churches is the basilica dedicated to Saint Anthony of Padua, locally simply called "Il Santo." The bones of the saint rest in a chapel richly ornamented with carved marbles, the work of various artists, among them of Sansovino and Falconetto; the basilica was begun about the year 1230 and completed in the following century; tradition says that the building was designed by Nicola Pisano; it is covered by seven cupolas, two of them pyramidal. On the piazza in front of the church is Donatello's magnificent equestrian statue of "Gattamelata" ( Erasmo da Narni), the Venetian general (1438-1441), which was cast in 1453, the first full-size equestrian bronze cast since antiquity.

The Eremitani is an Augustinian church of the 13th century, distinguished as containing the tombs of Jacopo (1324) and Ubertino (1345) da Carrara, lords of Padua, and for the chapel of SS James and Christopher, formerly illustrated by Mantegna's frescoes, largely destroyed in World War II. Now the disused church houses the municipal art gallery. Close by the Eremitani is the small church of the Annunziata, known as the Madonna dell'Arena, containing the Scrovegni chapel, whose inner walls are entirely covered with paintings by Giotto.

Padua has long been famous for its university, founded by Frederick II, Holy Roman Emperor, in 1238. Under the rule of Venice the university was governed by a board of three patricians, called the Riformatori dello Studio di Padova. The list of professors and alumni is long and illustrious, containing, among others, the names of Bembo, Sperone Speroni, the anatomist Vesalius, Fallopius, Fabrizio d'Acquapendente, Galileo Galilei, Pietro Pomponazzi, Reginald, later Cardinal Pole, Scaliger, Tasso and Sobieski.

The place of Padua in the history of art is nearly as important as its place in the history of learning. The presence of the university attracted many distinguished artists, as Giotto, Fra Filippo Lippi and Donatello; and for native art there was the school of Francesco Squarcione (1394-1474), whence issued the great Mantegna (1431-1506).

The industry of Padua has greatly developed in modern times. Corn and saw mills, distilleries, chemical factories, breweries, candle-works, ink-works, foundries, agricultural machine and automobile works, have been established and are flourishing. The trade of the district has grown to such an extent that Padua has become the central market for the whole of Veneto.

History of Padua

Padua claims to be the oldest city in north Italy; the early medieval commune justified itself by a fabled founder in the Trojan Antenor, whose relics the commune recognized in a large stone sarcophagus exhumed in the year 1274. The historical Padua inhabited by Veneti thrived thanks to its excellent breed of horses and the wool of its sheep. Its men fought for the Romans at Cannae, and the city (a Roman municipium since 45 BCE (query 43?)) became so powerful that it was reported able to raise two hundred thousand fighting men. Abano nearby is the birthplace of the historian Livy, and Padua was the native place of Valerius Flaccus, Asconius Pedianus and Thrasea Paetus. Padua, in common with north-eastern Italy, suffered severely from the invasion of the Huns under Attila (452). It then passed under the Gothic kings Odoacer and Theodoric the Great, but during the Gothic War it made submission to the Greeks in 540. The city was seized again by the Goths under Totila, but was restored to the Eastern Empire by Narses in 568.

The history of Padua after Late Antiquity follows the course of events common to most cities of north-eastern Italy.

Lombard Padua

Under the Lombards the city of Padua rose in revolt (601) against Agilulf, the Lombard king, and after suffering a long and bloody siege was stormed and burned by him. The Padua of Antiquity was annihilated: the remains of an amphitheater (the Arena) and some bridge foundations are all that remain of Roman Padua today. The simple people fled to the hills and returned to eke out a living among the ruins; the ruling class abandoned the city for Laguna, according to a chronicle. The city did not easily recover from this blow, and Padua was still weak when the Franks succeeded the Lombards as masters of north Italy.

Frankish Padua

At the Diet of Aix-la-Chapelle (828), the duchy and march of Friuli, in which Padua lay, was divided into four counties, one of which took its title from that city.

Rule of the bishops

During the period of episcopal supremacy over the cities of northern Italy Padua does not appear to have been either very important or very active. The general tendency of its policy throughout the war of investitures was Imperial and not Roman; and its bishops were, for the most part, Germans.

Emergence of the commune

Under the surface two important movements were taking place. At the beginning of the 11th century the citizens established a constitution, composed of a general council or legislative assembly and a credenza or executive body, and during the next century they were engaged in wars with Venice and Vicenza for the right of water-way on the Bacchiglione and the Brenta— so that, on the one hand, the city grew in power and self-reliance, while, on the other, the great families of Camposampiero, Este and Da Romano began to emerge and to divide the Paduan district among them. The citizens, in order to protect their liberties, were obliged to elect a podest�, and after a devastating fire in 1174 that required the virtual rebuilding of the city, their choice fell first on one of the Este family.

The temporary success of the Lombard League helped to strengthen the towns; but their ineradicable civic jealousy soon reduced them to weakness again, so that in 1236 Frederick II found little difficulty in establishing his tyrannical vicar Ezzelino da Romano in Padua and the neighbouring cities, where he practised frightful cruelties on the inhabitants. When Ezzelino was unseated in June 1256 without civilian bloodshed, thanks to Pope Alexander IV, Padua enjoyed a period of rest and prosperity: the university flourished; the basilica of the saint was begun; the Paduans became masters of Vicenza. But this advance brought them into dangerous proximity to Can Grande della Scala, lord of Verona, to whom they had to yield in 1311.

As a reward for freeing the city from the Scalas, Jacopo da Carrara was elected lord of Padua in 1318 (query 1338?). From that date till 1405, with the exception of two years (1388-1390) when Giangaleazzo Visconti held the town, nine members of the enlightened Carrara family succeeded one another as lords of the city. It was a long period of restlessness, for the Carraresi were constantly at war; they were finally extinguished between the growing power of the Visconti and of Venice. Padua prospered economically, and the university (the second in Italy after Bologna) was founded in 1222, making it one of the oldest universities in continuous operation. The center of the university is founded around a rebuilt mediaeval inn of the "Bo" (the Ox), the mid-16th century Old Courtyard by Andrea Moroni. In the "Room of the Forty" remains the chair of Galileo, who taught in Padua from 1592 to 1610; the Aula Magna, rich with coats of arms and decorations; The famous Anatomy Theatre, where Vesalius taught through dissections, is the oldest in the world (1594).

The botanical garden was founded in 1545 as the garden of curative herbs attached to the University's faculty of medicine. It is the oldest botanical garden in the world and still contains an important collection of rare plants.

Under Venetian rule

Padua passed under Venetian rule in 1405, and so remained, with a brief interval during the wars of the League of Cambray, till the fall of the republic in 1797. The city was governed by two Venetian nobles, a podest� for civil and a captain for military affairs; each of these was elected for sixteen months. Under these governors the great and small councils continued to discharge municipal business and to administer the Paduan law, contained in the statutes of 1276 and 1362. The treasury was managed by two chamberlains; and every five years the Paduans sent one of their nobles to reside as nuncio in Venice, and to watch the interests of his native town.

Venice fortified Padua with new walls, built between 1513 and 1544, with a series of monumental gates.

Under Austrian rule

After the fall of the Venetian republic the history of Padua follows the history of Venice during the periods of French and Austrian supremacy. The Austrians were unpopular with progressive circles in northern Italy. In Padua, the year of revolutions of 1848 was a student revolt on February 8 that transformed the University and the Caff� Pedrocchi into real battlefields, in which students and ordinary Padovani fought side by side. In 1866 the battle of Koniggratz gave Italy the opportunity to shake off the last of the Austrian yoke, when Padua and the rest of the Veneto became part of the united Kingdom of Italy. It was during this same period of time that Viggo Domeni formed the now World Famous "Clowns of Padua", or Paduan Clowns. This troop of entertainers originally incorporated fire and small animals into their act, although humanitarian concerns have, in recent decades, led them to rely on human involvement. Annually more than a dozen spectators are killed or injured while watching a Paduan Clowns performance.


It is the home of Petrarca Padova rugby union team.


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