Giotto, Scrovegni Chapel, Padua; once is never enough


I had to go back to Padua to see the masterpiece of Medieval fresco painting and I’m so happy I did.  One, two, even three times in a lifetime is not enough.  I’m now at 4 times and counting.



Tuscan sculptor, Giovanni Pisano, is also well-represented in the chapel.






The brochure for the Chapel tells us this about the Scrovegni Chapel: “In 1300, the rich nobleman Enrico Scrovegni acquired the area of the Roman Arena [in Padova], on which he intended to build a fine town house.  Next to it, he had a chapel built and dedicated to the Holy Virgin, for the soul of his father Reginaldo, the usurer mentioned in the 17th canto of Dante’s ‘Inferno.’  Scrovegni commissioned Giotto to decorate the chapel with frescoes which, according to most reliable information, was done between 1303-05. The frescoes cover the interior walls and ceiling of the building completely.  The lower part of the blue star-spangled vaulted ceiling depicts the prophets and the important episodes in the lives of the Holy Virgin and Jesus Christ.  Above the main door is ‘The Last Judgment:’ Christ, as judge, is surrounded by the angels and the apostles; below him, to the right, are the Blessed; to the left, the Damned are depicted as suffering eternal punishment, according to medieval tradition.”






























































































































































Some snapshots of Padua in September 2019 and playing around with my new camera

Last weekend I returned to Padua for another opportunity to see the Giotto frescoes at the Scrovegni Chapel.  Since the visits are only 20 minutes long, it takes me more than one trip to Padua to really see the frescoes as I want to see them.

But, I also wanted to return to Padua to enjoy more of the city, now that I have discovered it fully.  I went armed with my new fancy smartphone and its powerful camera.  Some of the pictures below are of pretty Padova and some are just experiments with my camera.

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I love any city with a street named for one of my favorite sculptors, Donatello.


The Botanic Garden of Padua dates back to 1545 and is regarded as the most ancient university garden in the world. Founded to foster the growth of medicinal plants, in Italian called semplice, since the remedies were obtained directly from nature without any manipulation. The garden was named Hortus Simplicium. The first keeper of the garden was Luigi Squalermo called Anguillara.



















Below, fall blooming crocus:






More water lilies:




Random plant life:










Nature with a background of Italian church bells:



Gigantic lily pads:



The horticultural complex in Padua is very impressive and state of the art.









Porta Portello:














Reminders of the influence of Venice on Padua are everywhere in this city:



Padova is surrounded by water.  The canals make lovely views. I love to think back to the times when people and goods moved here by gondole, burci and mascarete, all typical boats, along internal canals, following the waterways and floating under bridges.




Padua has a lot of beautiful architecture.  I want to make another trip there to enjoy and photograph all the great sculptural embellishments on the palazzi.







A bronze fountain composed of stacked toddlers


Poor Giorgio Vasari! I just don’t know what to make of the tiny little “piazza” that was named in Florence in his honor.  For the father of the history of art, I think he deserves something a little grander, don’t you?

Honestly, the piazza is such a throw away space that I can’t even make a screenshot of a Google Maps image to add to this post.  The location isn’t even marked, other than being a pinpoint on a short street called “Piazza Giorgio Vasari.”

So, because I am an intrepid searcher when it comes to arcane facts, here are the 3 things you should know about this unloved piazza on the north east side of Florence.

  1. It is named after Giorgio Vasari, who was a talented painter in his own right, but also the Father of Art History
  2. It is graced with a marker dedicated to all the citizens who were victims of war (sometimes this marker has a laurel wreath placed over it)


3. It has, at it’s center, a strange bronze sculpture of stacked toddlers





The next time I walk through the piazza, I will take a note on the foundry and artist markings on the fountain.  It was too dark this time.

Strange, but true, the fountain of stacked bambini marking the Piazza Giorgio Vasari!

Andrea Mantegna, his masterpieces, life, and legacy

Andrea Mantegna (1431–1506) is one of my favorite Renaissance painters. I recently posted on his early frescoes in the church of Sant’Agostino degli Eremitani in Padua.

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Among the other early Mantegna frescoes are the two saints over the entrance porch of the church of Sant’Antonio in Padua, 1452 (Photos coming: )

As the young artist progressed in his work, he came under the influence of Jacopo Bellini, father of the celebrated painters Giovanni Bellini and Gentile Bellini, and met his daughter, Nicolosia, whom he married in 1453.

Successful and admired though he was in Padova, Mantegna left his native city at an early age, and never returned there; the hostility of Squarcione has been cited as the cause. He spent the rest of his life in Verona, Mantua and Rome; it has not been confirmed that he also stayed in Venice and Florence.

By the late 1450s, the Marquis Ludovico III Gonzaga of Mantua pressured Mantegna to come paint for him; in 1460, Mantegna finally agreed and was appointed court artist. He resided at first from time to time at Goito, but, from December 1466 onwards, he moved with his family to Mantua. His engagement was for a salary of 75 lire a month, a sum so large for that period as to mark conspicuously the high regard in which his art was held. He was the first painter of any eminence to be based in Mantua.

His Mantuan masterpiece was painted for the royal court of Mantua, in the apartment of the castle of the city.

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The fresco cycle that he painted in a room in that castle, today known as Camera degli Sposi (Wedding Chamber) of Palazzo Ducale is a masterpiece by any reckoning. I wrote about it here. It includes portraits of key figures of the Gonzaga family and some genii and others. We believe that the Chamber’s decoration was finished in 1474.

Here’s a great video on the paintings:


The ten years that followed were not happy ones for Mantegna and Mantua:  his son Bernardino died, as did his patron, the Marchese Ludovico. The art commissions stopped flowing. Only with the election of Francesco II of the House of Gonzaga did artistic commissions in Mantua recommence.

Mantegna, was dubbed a knight and built a stately home for his family in the area of the church of San Sebastiano. He adorned it with many paintings. The house can still be seen today, although the pictures no longer survive.

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In this period, he began to collect some ancient Roman busts (which were given to Lorenzo de Medici when the Florentine leader visited Mantua in 1483), painted some architectonic and decorative fragments, and finished the intense St. Sebastian now in the Louvre.

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In 1488, Mantegna was called by Pope Innocent VIII to paint frescoes in a chapel Belvedere in the Vatican. Unfortunately, this series of frescoes, including a noted Baptism of Christ, was later destroyed by Pius VI in 1780. Pope Innocent treated Mantegna with less liberality than he had been used to at the Mantuan court; but all things considered their connection, which ceased in 1500, was not unsatisfactory to either party.

In Rome, Mantegna also met the famous Turkish hostage Jem and carefully studied Rome’s ancient monuments, but his impression of the city was a disappointing one overall. He returned to Mantua in 1490, he embraced again his more literary vision of antiquity, and entered in strong connection with the new Marchesa, the cultured and intelligent Isabella d’Este.

In what was now his adopted city, he went on with the nine tempera pictures of the Triumphs of Caesar, which he had probably begun before his leaving for Rome, and  finished around 1492. These superbly invented and designed compositions are gorgeous with the splendor of their subject matter, and with the classical learning and enthusiasm of one of the masters of the age.  They depict a triumphal military parade celebrating the victory of Julius Caesar in the Gallic Wars.

They remain the most complete pictorial representation of a Roman triumph ever attempted and together they form the world’s largest metric area of Italian Renaissance paintings outside Italy. Considered Mantegna’s finest work, they were sold in 1628 along with the bulk of the Mantuan art treasures to King Charles I of England. They now form part of the Royal Collection at Hampton Court Palace near London, where they occupy a special gallery, with a new continuous frame intended to capture their original setting, mounted into panelling.  Here is just one of the paintings:

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Despite his declining health, Mantegna continued to paint. Other works of this period include the Madonna of the Caves and the famous Lamentation over the Dead Christ, probably painted for his personal funerary chapel. It now hangs in the
 Pinacoteca di Brera, Milan.

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Another work of Mantegna’s later years was what is known as the Madonna della Vittoria, now in the Louvre.

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Painted in tempera about 1495, in commemoration of the Battle of Fornovo, whose questionable outcome Francesco Gonzaga was eager to show as an Italian League victory; the Mantuan church which originally housed the picture was built from Mantegna’s own design.

The Madonna is here depicted with various saints, the archangel Michael and St. Maurice holding her mantle, which is extended over the kneeling Francesco Gonzaga, amid a profusion of rich festooning and other accessories. This painting counts among the most obviously beautiful of Mantegna’s works in which the qualities of beauty is less marked than those other excellences more germane to his severe genius, tense energy passing into haggard passion.

After 1497 Mantegna was commissioned by Isabella d’Este to translate the mythological themes written by the court poet Paride Ceresara into paintings for her private apartment (studiolo) in the Palazzo Ducale.

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Le Parnasse by Mantegna

These paintings were dispersed in the following years: one of them, the Legend of the God Comus, was left unfinished by Mantegna and completed by his successor as court painter in Mantua, Lorenzo Costa. The other painters commissioned by Isabella for her studiolo were Perugino and Correggio.

After the death of his wife, Mantegna fathered an illegitimate son, Giovanni Andrea; and, finally, although he continued embarking on various expenses and schemes, he had serious tribulations, such as the banishment from Mantua of his son Francesco, who had incurred the displeasure of the Marchese. The difficult situation of the aged master and connoisseur required the hard necessity of parting with a beloved antique bust of Faustina.

Very soon after this transaction he died in Mantua, on September 13, 1506. In 1516, a handsome monument was set up to him by his sons in the church of Sant’Andrea, where he had painted the altarpiece of the mortuary chapel. The dome is decorated by Correggio.

Giorgio Vasari eulogizes Mantegna, although pointing out his litigious character. He had been fond of his fellow pupils in Padua: and with two of them, Dario da Trevigi and Marco Zoppo, he retained steady friendships. Mantegna developed expensive habits, fell at times into financial difficulties, and had to press his valid claims for payment upon the attention of the Marchese.

In terms of Classical taste, Mantegna distanced all contemporary competition. Though substantially related to the 15th century, his influence on the style and trends of his age was very marked over Italian art generally. Giovanni Bellini, in his earlier works, obviously followed the lead of his brother-in-law, Mantegna. Albrecht Dürer was influenced by his style during his two trips in Italy, reproducing several of his engravings. Leonardo da Vinci took from Mantegna the use of decorations with festoons and fruit.

Mantegna’s main legacy in considered the introduction of spatial illusionism, both in frescoes and in sacra conversazione paintings: his tradition of ceiling decoration was followed for almost three centuries. Starting from the faint cupola of the Camera degli Sposi, Correggio built on the research of his master and collaborator into perspective constructions, producing eventually a masterwork like the dome of Cathedral of Parma.






Decoration of the chapel in Castello di San Giorgio, Mantua (1460-64)
by Andrea MANTEGNA
Mantegna’s first important commission from Ludovico Gonzaga was the decoration of the chapel in Castello di San Giorgio, executed in the first half of the 1460s.

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It is unfortunately impossible to reconstruct the whole of Mantegna’s original intentions there with any confidence, although some panels almost certainly traceable to the chapel still survive. They include three paintings in the Uffizi: The Ascension of Christ, The Circumcision and The Adoration of the Magi. Today they are mounted as a triptych in the Uffizi with The Adoration of the Magi in the centre. They were given this format in 1827, but the inconsistencies in both composition and iconography indicate that these are individual works rather than parts of a uniformly planned altarpiece. Nevertheless, they were created for the same chapel.




My post on the Mantegna camera di Sposi:

The French Triumphal arch in Piazza della Liberta


The triumphal arch of the Lorraine, a gateway to and from power in Piazza della Libertà



There is a grandiose and quite ornate — at least by Tuscan standards — neoclassical arch standing in my neighborhood.  It sits not quite in the middle of Piazza della Libertà.

Based on the model of Roman triumphal arches, the arch in Florence was built for the entry of Francesco Stefano, the First Grand Duke of the House of Lorraine, a dynasty imposed on Tuscany following the death in 1737 of the last of the Medici grand dukes, Gian Gastone.

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Ironically, in 1859, the same arch saw the exit of the last of Tuscany’s Lorraine rulers, Grand Duke Leopoldo II, after he was ousted in a bloodless revolution.

In a kind of territorial “musical chairs,” the French, Austrians and dukes of Lorraine agreed under the peace treaty that ended the war of Polish succession (1733–37) that the duchy of Lorraine be given to Stanisław I, the former king of Poland and father-in-law of France’s King Louis XV. As compensation, the dukes of Lorraine were designated the duchy of Tuscany.

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Thoroughly mystified by these geopolitical machinations, the Tuscans did not relish the idea of foreign occupation. Witness to this, French writer and future president of Burgundy Charles de Brosses commented that they would have willingly given “two-thirds of their property to have the Medicis back, and the other third to get rid of the Lorrainers….They hate them.”

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Nonetheless, to welcome the new sovereign, his young bride, Maria Theresa of Austria (the daughter and heir of the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles VI), on their first –and only–visit to Florence in January 1739, Senator Carlo Ginori, founder of a porcelain factory, proposed the construction of an arch near the ancient Porta di San Gallo gate, which was and is the main northern entrance to the city.

Here’s a double portrait of the newlyweds:

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The arch was designed by Jean-Nicolas Jador, an architect from Lorraine. Work began on December 16, 1738, but, despite more than 400 men working day and night, it was impossible to complete the complicated edifice on schedule for the couple’s arrival.

The three main arches, a large one in the centre with two smaller ones each side, were finished, but painted wood and canvas decorated with temporary statuary covered the section above them.

As the sound of cannons boomed out from Forte Belvedere and fireworks exploded into the sky, it is likely the grand duke could barely see these improvisations as night had almost fallen by the time he reached Florence on that cold winter’s day.

Work on the arch continued for another 20 years, with many artists and artisans involved before it was completed in 1759.

Supported by 10 Corinthian columns, the monument features 15 allegorical statues, heraldic decorations, four adornments of flags and arms, and six bas-reliefs of episodes from the life of Francesco Stefano, including his coronation.


On the southern façade, two double-headed eagles symbolize the Habsburg dynasty.


The monument is topped by an equestrian statue of Francesco Stefano by Florentine Baroque sculptor Vincenzo Foggini, known for his masterpiece Samson and the Philistines, now in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. The statue faces away from the city, intended to welcome the grand duke and his entourage on his approach to the city from via Bolognese.

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On that first visit, after celebrating mass at the Duomo, the royal couple took up residence in the Pitti Palace and spent their days sightseeing. During the carnival season, they held three lavish masked balls at the Palazzo Vecchio and even managed to attend a game of football in costume.

In describing Francesco Stefano in his Letters from Italy, John Boyle, the fifth earl of Cork and Orrery, wrote that he was “of a cheerful aspect, and of a most princely personage, yet something sinister and obscure may be perceived in his countenance … He is a Lorrainese, the shadow, not the substance of a sovereign.”

Here he is in a portrait:

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And it was the shadow of Francesco Stefano that would, in fact, reign over his subjects because his stay, albeit it a pleasant one, lasted only three months, and he would never set foot in the city again. After the death of Charles VI in 1740, Maria Theresa succeeded her father and named her husband co-regent of the Holy Roman Empire.

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For the next 27 years, Tuscany was governed in his name by a regency, first by Count Emmanuel de Richecourt and then by General Antonio Botta-Adorno.

In effect, Florence and the region simply became a convenient cash cow to be heavily taxed and plundered of its art or of whatever else could be of use to the court in Vienna for supporting its economy and the Austrian army.



Florence’s tiny little wine windows

One of the hundreds of interesting things you see when walking around the city of Florence are these small windows, measuring about 12 inches wide by 15 inches tall, cut into the masonry of some major palazzi.  There are hundreds of them in Florence.

The buchette del vino (“small holes [for] wine”) were added to the buildings by entrepreneurial families who produced wine on their country estates and thought to themselves, “why not sell some in Florence on a glass by glass, or a refilled bottle by bottle, basis?”

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Together, these windows form a collection of Renaissance-era vestiges of a once-popular and admirably no-fuss form of wine sales.

Without exception, I have never seen one of these windows open.  They are usually boarded up, sometimes in quite decorative ways.

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But now, an organization is working to preserve—and help reopen—the city’s “wine windows.”

“These small architectural features are a very special commercial and social phenomenon unique to Florence and Tuscany,” Matteo Faglia, a founding member of the Associazione Culturale Buchette del Vino, told Unfiltered via email. “Although they are a minor cultural patrimony, nevertheless, they are an integral part of the richest area of the world in terms of works of art and monuments—Tuscany.”

The buchette first came into vogue in the 16th century, when wealthy Florentines began to expand into landowning—notably, owning vineyards—in the Tuscan countryside. The aristocrats’ new zeal for selling wine was matched only by that for avoiding paying taxes on selling wine, so they devised the simplest model for wine retail they could: on-demand, to-go, literally hand-sold through a hole in the wall of their residences.

It was convenient for drinkers, too: Knock on the window with your empty bottle, and the server, a cantiniere, would answer; upon receiving the bottle and payment, he would return with a full bottle of wine. Buchette eventually became popular enough that nearly every Florentine family with vineyards and a palace in Florence had a wine window, and soon the trend spread to nearby Tuscan towns like Siena and Pisa.

The windows stayed open for the next three centuries, but by the beginning of the 20th century, more social wine tavernas had spread throughout the city, with better-quality wine, better company and equally easy access to a flask.

By 2015, most Florentines had lost track of their wine windows, if not vandalized them. That year, the Associazione was founded, with a mission to identify, map and preserve the buchette—nearly 300 catalogued so far.

And this summer provided a new boost to their work: One restaurant has cracked open its buchetta anew for business. Babae is the first restaurant to re-embrace the old tradition, filling glasses for passersby through their buchetta for a few hours each evening.

It’s a welcome development to the lovers of wine windows. “Although the ways of selling wine have obviously changed since the wine windows were fully active … this small gesture, which highlights a niche of Florentine history, is very welcome,” said Faglia, “to help to keep alive this antique and unique way of selling one of Tuscany’s most important agricultural and commercial products: its wine.”

This new association even has a Facebook page:

The wonders of Padua (Padua, part 3)

Padova or Padua is a big subject! I’ve recently posted 2 times about it, here, here, here and here.  And, still, I am far from done!

This post includes a list of the major features that grace this lovely, historic town. But first, a sweet little video about the town itself:


Undoubtedly the most notable things about Padova is the Giotto masterpiece of fresco painting in the The Scrovegni Chapel (Cappella degli Scrovegni).  This incredible cycle of frescoes was completed in 1305 by Giotto.

It was commissioned by Enrico degli Scrovegni, a wealthy banker, as a private chapel once attached to his family’s palazzo. It is also called the “Arena Chapel” because it stands on the site of a Roman-era arena.

The fresco cycle details the life of the Virgin Mary and has been acknowledged by many to be one of the most important fresco cycles in the world for its role in the development of European painting. It is a miracle that the chapel survived through the centuries and especially the bombardment of the city at the end of WWII.  But for a few hundred yards, the chapel could have been destroyed like its neighbor, the Church of the Eremitani.
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  267.39 ft, its breadth 88.58 ft, and its height 78.74 ft; the walls are covered with allegorical frescoes. The building stands upon arches, and the upper story 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. Beneath the great hall, there is a centuries-old market.
In the Piazza dei Signori is the loggia called the Gran Guardia, (1493–1526), and close by is the Palazzo del Capitaniato, the residence of the Venetian governors, with its great door, the work of Giovanni Maria Falconetto, the Veronese architect-sculptor who introduced Renaissance architecture to Padua and who completed the door in 1532.

Falconetto was also the architect of Alvise Cornaro’s garden loggia, (Loggia Cornaro), the first fully Renaissance building in Padua.

Nearby stands the il duomo, remodeled in 1552 after a design of Michelangelo. It contains works by Nicolò Semitecolo, Francesco Bassano and Giorgio Schiavone.

The nearby Baptistry, consecrated in 1281, houses the most important frescoes cycle by Giusto de’ Menabuoi.

The Basilica of St. Giustina, faces the great piazza of Prato della Valle.

The Teatro Verdi is host to performances of operas, musicals, plays, ballets, and concerts.

The most celebrated of the Paduan churches is the Basilica di Sant’Antonio da Padova. The bones of the saint rest in a chapel richly ornamented with carved marble, the work of various artists, among them Sansovino and Falconetto.

The basilica was begun around 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.

Donatello’s equestrian statue of the Venetian general Gattamelata (Erasmo da Narni) can be found on the piazza in front of the Basilica di Sant’Antonio da Padova. It was cast in 1453, and was the first full-size equestrian bronze cast since antiquity. It was inspired by the Marcus Aurelius equestrian sculpture at the Capitoline Hill in Rome.

Not far from the Gattamelata are the St. George Oratory (13th century), with frescoes by Altichiero, and the Scuola di S. Antonio (16th century), with frescoes by Tiziano (Titian).

One of the best known symbols of Padua is the Prato della Valle, a large elliptical square, one of the biggest in Europe. In the center is a wide garden surrounded by a moat, which is lined by 78 statues portraying illustrious citizens. It was created by Andrea Memmo in the late 18th century.

Memmo once resided in the monumental 15th-century Palazzo Angeli, which now houses the Museum of Precinema.

The Abbey of Santa Giustina and adjacent Basilica. In the 5th century, this became one of the most important monasteries in the area, until it was suppressed by Napoleon in 1810. In 1919 it was reopened.

The tombs of several saints are housed in the interior, including those of Justine, St. Prosdocimus, St. Maximus, St. Urius, St. Felicita, St. Julianus, as well as relics of the Apostle St. Matthias and the Evangelist St. Luke.

The abbey is also home to some important art, including the Martyrdom of St. Justine by Paolo Veronese. The complex was founded in the 5th century on the tomb of the namesake saint, Justine of Padua.

The Church of the Eremitani is an Augustinian church of the 13th century, containing the tombs of Jacopo (1324) and Ubertinello (1345) da Carrara, lords of Padua, and the chapel of SS James and Christopher, formerly illustrated by Mantegna’s frescoes. The frescoes were all but destroyed bombs dropped by the Allies in WWII, because it was next to the Nazi headquarters.

The old monastery of the church now houses the Musei Civici di Padova (town archeological and art museum).

Santa Sofia is probably Padova’s most ancient church. The crypt was begun in the late 10th century by Venetian craftsmen. It has a basilica plan with Romanesque-Gothic interior and Byzantine elements. The apse was built in the 12th century. The edifice appears to be tilting slightly due to the soft terrain.

Botanical Garden (Orto Botanico)

The church of San Gaetano (1574–1586) was designed by Vincenzo Scamozzi, on an unusual octagonal plan. The interior, decorated with polychrome marbles, houses a Madonna and Child by Andrea Briosco, in Nanto stone.

The 16th-century Baroque Padua Synagogue

At the center of the historical city, the buildings of Palazzo del Bò, the center of the University.

The City Hall, called Palazzo Moroni, the wall of which is covered by the names of the Paduan dead in the different wars of Italy and which is attached to the Palazzo della Ragione

The Caffé Pedrocchi, built in 1831 by architect Giuseppe Jappelli in neoclassical style with Egyptian influence. This café has been open for almost two centuries. It hosts the Risorgimento museum, and the near building of the Pedrocchino (“little Pedrocchi”) in neogothic style.

There is also the Castello. Its main tower was transformed between 1767 and 1777 into an astronomical observatory known as Specola. However the other buildings were used as prisons during the 19th and 20th centuries. They are now being restored.

The Ponte San Lorenzo, a Roman bridge largely underground, along with the ancient Ponte Molino, Ponte Altinate, Ponte Corvo and Ponte S. Matteo.

There are many noble ville near Padova. These include:

Villa Molin, in the Mandria fraction, designed by Vincenzo Scamozzi in 1597.

Villa Mandriola (17th century), at Albignasego

Villa Pacchierotti-Trieste (17th century), at Limena

Villa Cittadella-Vigodarzere (19th century), at Saonara

Villa Selvatico da Porto (15th–18th century), at Vigonza

Villa Loredan, at Sant’Urbano

Villa Contarini, at Piazzola sul Brenta, built in 1546 by Palladio and enlarged in the following centuries, is the most important

Padua has long been acclaimed for its university, founded in 1222. 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 notable professors and alumni is long, containing, among others, the names of Bembo, Sperone Speroni, the anatomist Vesalius, Copernicus, Fallopius, Fabrizio d’Acquapendente, Galileo Galilei, William Harvey, Pietro Pomponazzi, Reginald, later Cardinal Pole, Scaliger, Tasso and Jan Zamoyski.

It is also where, in 1678, Elena Lucrezia Cornaro Piscopia became the first woman in the world to graduate from university.

The university hosts the oldest anatomy theatre, built in 1594.

The university also hosts the oldest botanical garden (1545) in the world. The botanical garden Orto Botanico di Padova was founded as the garden of curative herbs attached to the University’s faculty of medicine. It still contains an important collection of rare plants.

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, such as Giotto, Fra Filippo Lippi and Donatello; and for native art there was the school of Francesco Squarcione, whence issued Mantegna.

Padua is also the birthplace of the celebrated architect Andrea Palladio, whose 16th-century villas (country-houses) in the area of Padua, Venice, Vicenza and Treviso are among the most notable of Italy and they were often copied during the 18th and 19th centuries; and of Giovanni Battista Belzoni, adventurer, engineer and egyptologist.

The sculptor Antonio Canova produced his first work in Padua, one of which is among the statues of Prato della Valle (presently a copy is displayed in the open air, while the original is in the Musei Civici).

The Antonianum is settled among Prato della Valle, the Basilica of Saint Anthony and the Botanic Garden. It was built in 1897 by the Jesuit fathers and kept alive until 2002. During WWII, under the leadership of P. Messori Roncaglia SJ, it became the center of the resistance movement against the Nazis. Indeed, it briefly survived P. Messori’s death and was sold by the Jesuits in 2004.

Paolo De Poli, painter and enamellist, author of decorative panels and design objects, 15 times invited to the Venice Biennale was born in Padua. The electronic musician Tying Tiffany was also born in Padua.