Center of the Old Town around Piazza Cavour, Padua
In the center of the old town of Padua is the Piazza Cavour, from which the busy Via III Febbraio runs south. On the right is the Neo-Classical Caffè Pedrocchi (rebuilt after the Second World War), which when it was first opened in 1831 was the largest cafe in Europe. It played an important part in the history of the Risorgimento, and is still the resort of professors and students of the university.
The Palazzo Municipale (Town Hall) has a facade of 1930 and an older building to the rear (16th century).
Opposite the Town Hall in Padova, on the east side of Via III Febbraio, is the University, built in the 16th century. In the colonnaded courtyard (1552) and inside the building are numerous names and coats of arms of distinguished graduates. Beside the Great Hall are the chairs of Galileo and other famous professors, and the Anatomy Theater (1594), the oldest of its kind.
From the university two streets run west, leading respectively to the Piazza delle Frutta and the Piazza delle Erbe. Between the two squares we find the Salone or Palazzo della Ragione, built 1218-19 as a law court, now an exhibition and conference hall (entrance from the Piazza delle Erbe, on the right). The huge hall, rebuilt in 1430, contains a large wooden horse (c. 1466), a copy of Gattamelata's horse in Donatello's famous statue, and astrological frescoes (15th century restored) on the walls.
Piazza dei Signori & Loggia del Consigli
The Piazza dei Signori contains the Loggia del Consigli or Loggia della Gran Guardia, an elegant Early Renaissance building with an open loggia below and a closed upper story (1496-1523).
The Basilica of Sant'Antonio is an immense building that towers over neighboring streets. The interior is richly adorned and contains notable works of art.
Equestrian Statue of Gattamelata
To the side of the church stands the equestrian statue of Gattamelata. Donatello, the talented sculptor of the Early Renaissance, who worked in Padua from 1441 to 1453, created the bronze statue between 1447 and 1453 in honor of Erasmo da Narni. The latter was commander-in-chief of the Venetian army (against Milan) and his diplomatic skill earned him the name of "Gattamelata" (spotted cat).
Scuola di Sant'Antonio
On the south side of the Piazza del Santo is the Scuola di Sant'Antonio, on the first floor of which are seventeen frescoes (mostly repainted) depicting the saint's miracles. In the adjoining Oratorio San Giorgio are frescoes by Altichieri and Avanzi.
South of the Scuola di Sant'Antonio in Padua lies the Botanic Garden, one of the oldest in Europe.The Botanic Garden dates back to 1545 and was founded based on the growth of medicinal plants. There are plants from all over the world with a palm tree still in existence from 1585. Highlights of the Botanic Garden include the Alpine Rock Garden, Freshwater Habitat, the Orchid Glasshouse and Succulent Plants.
Basilica di Santa Giustina
A short distance from the Botanic Garden in the center of a spacious square, the Prato della Valle, is an oval planted with trees which contains 82 statues of distinguished citizens of Padua and students of the university. In the southeast corner stands the imposing church of Santa Giustina (1518-87), in High Renaissance style. Behind the high altar is a fine painting by Paolo Veronese ("Martyrdom of St Justina", c. 1575); there are fine carved stalls (c. 1560) in the choir.
To the west of the Piazza dei Signori in Padova stands the cathedral, a High Renaissance building (1552-77) with an unfinished facade. To the right of the cathedral the elegant brick-built Baptistery (13th century) has interesting frescoes by Giusto de' Menabuoi (c. 1375).
Palazzo del Capitanio
On the west side of the Piazza dei Signori is the Palazzo del Capitanio, formerly the seat of the Venetian governor, with a fine clock-tower and remains of a Late Gothic loggia which belonged to the earlier Carrara palace.
Map of Padua Attractions