Padua, Italy is a great place to visit in Northern Italy, especially if you’re traveling as a backpacker. Also known as Padova, this city is distinct from the nearby Venice and Treviso cities within Italy. As one of the oldest cities in Northern Italy, it has a vast history. It is an important industrial and historical center.
You’ll find plenty of things to do in Padua, Italy, from visiting gardens and statuaries to touring an impressive selection of historical buildings and museums. With its history involving invasions from the Huns and Goths to its prestigious position during the Renaissance, there’s something for everyone to enjoy in Padua, Italy.
Prato della Valle
The Prato della Valle is not just the largest square in Italy, it is also the largest square in Europe. It provides free entertainment for backpackers coming to Padua. This 90,000 square meter location is largely open and has an ovoid structure rather than the more square structure that most piazzas have. The pride of the location is a circular water feature that has 90 statues surrounding it, all depicting important figures in Padua’s history and development.
The Prato della Valle features four bridges that lead to the center of the piazza, which contains a water fountain. If you like Paduan sports, you might be able to catch a game of football on the greenery. Maybe you can see college students throwing a ball or Frisbee back and forth while enjoying the weather. Take a break from walking around to enjoy the manicured lawns and stretch out under the shade of the trees.
Basilica di Sant’Antonio
One of the major sites you should experience when visiting Padua, Italy is the Basilica di Sant’Antonio. This basilica is immense, with numerous domes. It stands out in the middle of the historic old town, so it’ll be hard for you to miss it. This structure was built in the 1200s, and it is considered one of the international shrines of the Holy See. Because of its age, it features a variety of architectural styles, making it impressive and unique.
Within the Basilica, there are several domes — eight, to be exact — that rise above the walls with a series of towers. If you think the outside of the Basilica is impressive, wait until you enter inside. This structure is covered with frescoes and colored artwork, as well as marble sculptures and gold trim. Also within the basilica is one of the highlights of the city of Padua, which are chapels featuring Renaissance artwork.
The Brenta Canal is a long stretch of waterway, from Chioggia to Padua. This canal was originally created during the 15th century as a means for expanding trade routes by connecting major cities within Northern Italy. You can take a lovely boat ride between Padua to Venice or from Venice to Padua. While this trip won’t be free, it’s worthwhile even on a budget.
As part of your trip on the Brenta Canal, you will be able to see villas and stately homes that have been built on the water, some centuries old. These include structures such as the Villa Foscari. In addition to the homes built along the Brenta Canal, there are small villages along its banks. There’s also a natural beauty with forested wilderness for you to enjoy on your boat ride.
While the Basilica di Sant’Antonio may be flashier and more overstated, history buffs will get just as much enjoyment from the Padua Duomo. Padua Duomo is the main chiesa of the city of Padua, Italy. This duomo is located in the Piazza Duomo, and there has been a cathedral at this location since 1117. The original one was destroyed by a terrible earthquake, though.
The Padua Duomo features white-washed walls that are noticeably in contrast to the marble floor, which has a blue and red pattern. The interior of the duomo features numerous arches and columns, making it a beautiful place to walk through on your trip to Padua. Also within the duomo is a detailed fresco that covers an entire wall and ceiling.
Cappella degli Scrovegni
Within the city of Padua, there are numerous churches and cathedrals that you might elect to visit. These tend to be inexpensive to visit and are a great way to connect to history and religion. Another church within Padua is the Capella degli Scrovengi, which is famous for its frescoes within the church. While the outside is unassuming, the inside is simply marvelous.
The interior of the church was created in 1305, so it’s centuries old. The highlight of the church is its myriad of religious depictions that cover just about every available surface in the church. These depictions are a burst of life and color within this iconic architectural location. Even though the colors have faded in some of the frescoes, it is an exemplary piece of Paduan art.
The Orto Botanico is an excellent place to visit while you are backpacking in Padua, Italy as it lets you commune with nature. This location is a small botanical garden, which contains a mix of vegetation, trees, herbs, and flowers. Considered as one of the oldest gardens still in existence, the Orto Botanico was created in 1545. Its original purpose was as a center of learning for university students in Padua to understand more about the natural world.
The Orto Botanico also features some modern enhancements, such as greenhouses with a mix of different plant species. There is also a nursery garden at the other end of the location, which is divided into a range of different charming sections.
The Musei Civici
An impressive museum complex within the city of Padua is the Musei Civici. It contains two museums and the Capella degli Scrovegini. There are artworks from masters of the Renaissance, including Giotto and Bellini. The collection features numerous examples of Venetian art, collected between the 12th and 19th centuries.
In addition to fantastical works of art, there are artifacts collected within the museums that date back to pre-Roman eras, including ancient Greek and Etruscan. The museums feature wonderful displays as well as multimedia features to help you get the most out of your visit. Once you’ve had your fill of artwork and history, it’s time to take a stroll in the nearby Giardini dell’Arena. It’s a lovely little park with many areas to stroll and explore or sit and enjoy the shade. Here, you can ponder what you’ve just learned.
While you’re in the area of the Giardini dell’Arena, you can visit the spectacular collection in the Palazzo Zuckerman. This collection of art has been collected over many years, and the collection that is featured has been split between two large floors. The first floor contains works from around Padua, including pottery, ivory, textiles, and furniture.
The second floor of the Palazzo Zuckerman features a museum dedicated to the life of Nicola Bottacin, a merchant from Italy. He amassed a collection of artwork, as well as coins and weaponry, which provides an excellent look at the history of the region.
Palazzo della Ragione
When you come to Padua, Italy, another thing to do is visit the Palazzo della Ragione. Palazzo della Ragione is an immense town hall situated in the center of the Piazza della Frutta. An important icon in Padua, this building features what is considered the largest unsupported roof in Europe and is a testament to the power that the city used to have.
The Palazzo della Ragione was built between 1172 and 1219, standing for centuries. It has been used in numerous ceremonies and legal courts over the years. Once you get inside the impressive structure, you can see the decorated open chamber that features hundreds of colorful frescoes, which depict historical events and allegories.
While you’re backpacking in Padua, you should take some time to sample the beverages and cuisine of the region. Here you can spend as much or as little as you want, but you should splurge at least once while you’re in the city. At the Cafe Pedrocchi, you can experience the locals bringing their pooches to the cafe. Considered a great value for the money, there are appetizers, snacks, and a variety of beverages served at this establishment.
In addition to the selection of cafes, you’ll find while you visit Padua, there are also a variety of restaurants. Take a trip to one such as Trattoria al Prato, which features international cuisine and classic, traditional Italian dishes.
The restaurant is in a great location, within a roughly 15-minute walk from the main areas of Padua, so you can get there easily after a day spent exploring the city.
Hotels In Padua
While you’re visiting Padua and seeing the sights, you’re probably concerned about where to stay, as this is generally the largest portion of any travel budget. The good news is that there is a range of places you can spend the night while in Padua.
From classic hotels to Airbnbs, you’re sure to find the right place for your budget. Staying a little outside of the town center in a place such as an Airbnb is usually going to be less expensive than staying in a hotel in the city center, so you might want to consider that option.
If you’re backpacking in Padua, there are also hostels that you can get a room in at an affordable cost (some as little as $25 per night).
Travel To Padua
Padua offers a great deal of things to do when you come and is a wonderful place to stop for a few days if you’re backpacking through Italy. Take time out to see the sights and take in the friendly atmosphere. Visit a church or two for the impressive architecture and frescoes. Spend your afternoon at a friendly cafe or in the park.