Padua is a city in northern Italy with more than 212,000 inhabitants. The city is located 40 kilometers west of Venice. The city is notable for the University of Padua which has been at the forefront of education for almost eight centuries. Galileo Galilei, the famous Italian physicist, mathematician and astronomer, was a lecturer at the university from 1592 until 1610, which was the year when he discovered the satellites of Jupiter. Just a few blocks away from the University, the basilica of Saint Anthony of Padua attracts a lot of Catholic pilgrims to the city.
Padua is a large city, but many of its famous landmarks are close to each other. The Caffè Pedrocchi with its ornate Gothic style façade is across from the Palazzo Bo which houses the antique anatomical theatre of the University of Padua. Because of the proximity, the Caffè Pedrocchi has been the meeting place for many university scholars, and it even provided the background for a large student demonstration in 1848. A couple of blocks away stands the Palazzo Zabarella which is one of the oldest palaces in Padua and was built at the end of the 12th century and the beginning of the 13th century. The palace is now used for cultural events and exhibitions.
The courtyard of the Palazzo Bo has a relief carving depicting soldiers during wartime and a Latin inscription "Hic vivunt hic vigent hic renovantur in aevum tot bellorum animae." which translates to Here live, here rule, and here are renewed forever the souls of so many wars. Tickets for a guided tour of the oldest anatomical theater in Europe can be obtained at the Palazzo Bo. The historical theater could accommodate about 250 observers in the spiral gallery that surrounds the operating platform. The tour allows visitors to view the gallery only from the lower level to avoid wear and tear on the old wooden structure.
The Botanical Garden of Padua, which is maintained by the University of Padua, was established in 1545 and is considered to be the oldest one in Europe. The spires of Saint Anthony's Basilica can be seen from the grounds of the Botanical Garden.
The original portion of the garden consists of a wall fitted with a railing that encloses a circular garden divided into quadrants by two paths that run North-South and East-West. The garden has many types of fruit trees, cacti, and other plants in well-organized arrangements. The original purpose of the garden was to cultivate medicinal herbs, but today, the statues, fountains and benches provide a pleasant atmosphere to relax in beautiful surroundings.
Basilica of Saint Anthony
The mention of Padua immediately brings to mind the Franciscan friar Saint Anthony of Padua who lived from 1195 to 1231. Many people assume that Saint Anthony was Italian, but he was actually Portuguese and his name was not Anthony. His name was Fernando Martins de Bulhões and he was born in Lisbon. Fernando took the name Anthony after joining the Franciscan Order. Anthony was a very effective preacher and his sermons received great acclaim. He was canonized by Pope Gregory IX on May 30, 1232, less than one year after his death. The Basilica of Saint Anthony is one of Christianity's most popular shrines.
The construction of the Basilica of Saint Anthony of Padua was started in 1232 and completed toward the end of the century. The exterior of the basilica is Romanesque, but the interior is purely Gothic in style. The chapel of Saint Anthony is a Renaissance work that was started in 1500 within the Basilica. The chapel is embellished with works from some of the greatest Venetian sculptors of the time.
The tomb of Saint Anthony is behind the altar of his chapel. Pilgrims walk by and place their hands on the tomb as they ask the Saint in their prayers to intercede on their behalf. The relics of Saint Anthony held in special containers sealed by the Vatican include his larynx and his tongue.
Padua has a great variety of Italian restaurants, but the city is big enough to sustain some restaurants offering international cuisine. In the University of Padua area I found a cozy Chinese restaurant called "Shanghai" on the Via Marsala No. 6 (www.shanghaipd.it).