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Galileo’s favorite city

  Newsletter Article

Situated between the two tourist magnets of Venice and Verona is a medium-sized city with a population of around 200,000, although it rather unfairly lives in their shadow: Padua. Galileo Galilei spent 18 years of his life here and some sources claim that they were the happiest of his life. And let’s not forget that two polar opposites joined forces in Padua in the Middle Ages: religion and science.

Legend has it that Padua was founded in the 11th century BC by the Trojan prince Antenor - making the city more than 400 years older than Rome. The Tomb of Antenor in the city center commemorates the supposed founder to this day. For centuries, people believed that the large sarcophagus contained the remains of the prince. Only in 1985 did an examination of the site using state-of-the-art technology disprove these beliefs.

Historically documented is the foundation of a fishing village on the banks of the River Bacchiglione in the fourth century BC, which grew to become an important center for the ancient Veniti people. Following the defeat of the Gauls by the Romans, the region was absorbed into the Roman Empire and Patavium became one of the richest trading cities in the Imperium Romanum. The city was also the birthplace of one of the most important historians of the period: Livius. After the Fall of the Western Roman Empire, Padua fell to the Lombards and was burned to the ground in 613 following an uprising against their King Agilulf at the end of a twelve-year siege. Numerous citizens reacted by fleeing to the Venetian islands, thereby helping to establish the city of Venice.

In the Middle Ages, the city evolved into a center of art, science - and remarkably also religion. Italy's third university was established in Padua in 1222 and some of the most important Italian artists also settled here, including Donatello. As a result, the city has countless frescos, buildings, and other cultural monuments from this period. Padua continues to attract artists - the city is home to some of Italy's finest graffiti artists.

The Basilica of Saint Anthony of Padua was built between 1232 and 1310. It is one of the eight international shrines recognized by the Holy See and is dedicated to Saint Antony of Padua, who was a member of the Franciscan Order and worked in the city in the final years of his life. He was considered the most important preacher of his day. Padua is known as the "City of the Saint" - there is no need to add the name, because every citizen immediately knows who is meant.

As already mentioned, religion and science largely coexisted peacefully in Padua. At the time of the Renaissance, Galileo Galilei worked there for 18 years and was one of the co-founders of the Accademia dei Ricovrati in 1599, now known as the Galilean Academy of Sciences, Letters and Arts. One of the world's first permanent anatomical theaters (an auditorium in which bodies were dissected) is located in Padua. It is said that the wooden benches were intentionally designed to be uncomfortable in order to prevent the students from falling asleep during an autopsy.

The theater was used until 1872 and is now part of a guided tour around the historical university site, the Palazzo del Bo. "Bo" is short for "Ox" in Latin and the name of the hostelry that had to make way for the construction of the university at the end of the 15th century.

Apart from art, culture, religion, and science, Padua is also famous for something else: its desserts, including Paduan layer cake. The origins of this dessert - which is made of almonds, zabaglione, and cookies covered in dark chocolate - can be traced back to the 16th century.

Also worth mentioning and typically Paduan are zaeti (traditional orange-flavored cornmeal and raisin cookies), crostoli (crumbly confectionery typically eaten during the carnival season), fregolotta cakes (similar to Scottish shortbread), huge meringues in pastel colors, and the mysterious pevarini cookies (made from cocoa, almonds, and black pepper, which gives them a slightly spicy flavor).

As ever, we have carefully put together a list of what else the "City of the Saint" has to offer:

Restaurant: Ristorante da Giovanni (
Traditional regional cuisine paired with a rustic yet sophisticated ambience - that is the Ristorante da Giovanni, established in 1949. The various boiled meat dishes are a specialty of the house and especially recommended. In classic Italian style, there is also a wide selection of pasta to choose from.

Restaurant: Isola di Caprera (
On its website, the Isola di Caprera refers to itself as "the focal point of traditional, local cuisine since 1800." The menu features fish dishes such as tuna tartare and cod, traditional Venetian recipes, pasta creations, and meat dishes such as veal schnitzel with mushrooms and Parma ham.

Restaurant: Da Dante alle Piazze (
The third restaurant in the group - Da Dante alle Piazze - also serves traditional Venetian cuisine from cod to bigoli pasta and Venetian-style liver. What distinguishes this restaurant from the others is its extensive selection of Italian wine specialties. Connoisseurs will definitely get their money's worth here.

Bar: Caffe Pedrocci (
As the name suggests, the focus is on coffee here. Caffe Pedrocci opened in 1831 and has been serving numerous coffee specialties and of course Venetian desserts ever since. What's more, exclusive events such as concerts are regularly held in the imposing atmosphere of this traditional establishment.

Bar: Pasticceria Racca (
Calling everyone with a sweet tooth! You will be in your element at Pasticceria Racca, because the café is dedicated to all things sweet - from handmade chocolate and macaroons to opulent tarts, there is everything the heart desires. And if that's not enough, there is also ice cream!

Hotel: Majestic Toscanelli (
The Majestic Toscanelli is situated in the heart of the city with good public transport links. The four-star hotel has conference rooms, free Wi-Fi, and an underground parking garage. For families with children or pets, there is a babysitting service for an extra fee, plus animals weighing up to 15 kilograms are welcome (except in the hotel restaurant).

Hot spot: Piazza delle Erbe
For centuries, the Piazza delle Erbe - together with the Piazza della Frutta - was the city's main trading place and home to one of the biggest markets in Italy. Fairs were also regularly held here. In the middle of the square stands the imposing Palazzo della Ragione, which has Europe's biggest roof unsupported by pillars. Worth seeing.

Hot spot: Prato della Valle
At 90,000 square meters, the Prato della Valle is Italy's biggest square and one of the biggest in Europe. During the Roman Age and in the early Middle Ages, the site was used as a parade ground; markets and fairs were also held here later on. The square acquired its current elliptical shape with an island in the middle in the 18th and 19th centuries.