Thursday, February 09, 2012
9 Febbraio, 2012
I had a wonderful escape up to Padova the week before the Mediterranean cyclone hit with all the winter weather. I first stopped off in Bologna to see my friend Angela from the slow food masters program of 2006. We shared a few memories and I got to see her new workplace, a beautifully integrated Eataly/bookstore combo where she is the manager. She also treated me to some of my favorite italian cheese Macagn from the Valsesia area of the Piemontese Alps. I then drove through Ferrara, which reminded me a lot of Parma, another rich city of the Po river valley, but not quite as pretty. I then continued on up the autostrada to Padova (Padua), where I stayed in a convenient hotel near the river Brenta, called the Hotel Garibaldi. It is conveniently located near bus stop 18, which takes you right downtown.Fortunately for me, I never had to use the local mass transit as I had a wonderful guide in Anna, an expert in art preservation and conservation. She knows all about how to repair those damaged frescoes, statues and ornamentation, how they were made initially and taught me a lot about the ancient techniques as well as being excellent company.
Padova is in the Veneto region and besides the river Brenta is traversed by the river Bacchiglione. It has been around for about 3000 years or so, but as an independently governed city, the 1100's, really. It houses one of the oldest universities in the world, which was one of the reasons I have always wanted to visit. It has the oldest fixed anatomy theater in the world and has the original lectern where Galileo taught students. He was one of the most popular professors, in a time when the teachers were kept on only if they attracted enough students. In his later life, he stated his times in Padova were perhaps his happiest years (not unlikely considering the problems he had with the church after he had moved back to Tuscany) I toured the university, (see below) with my guide and highly recommend the 50 minute jaunt here.
One of the famous "bars" in Italy, the Caffe Pedrocchi, built in the 1800's and with a little museum above which I didn't visit. They serve Illy coffee in a very elegant setting.
I recommend a visit to the Capella degli Scrovegni or Scrovegni Chapel, where a 15 minute visit will allow you to gaze upon a beautifully frescoed chapel, with the painting done by Giotto in a 2 year period. The frescoes, cover the whole of the bible story with stories from the Old Testament, the life of Mary, and Jesus and concluding with a famous "Last Judgement". The ceiling is decorated with the prophets, including some of those lesser known. Giotto also decorated the Basilica of St. Francis in Assisi and some people consider him the father of western art. Notwithstanding that long winded explanation, the picture above is from the municipal art gallery which is included in the ticket price for the chapel and right next door.
Two pictures of the Palazzo della Ragione and its outdoor market. For another 9 euros you can enter upstairs and see what is supposedly the largest unsupported ceiling in Europe. I opted for a 9 euro bottle of wine instead. Downstairs are numerous vendors of meats and cheeses and produce and it is quite impressive.
Behind construction curtains, always a bit frustrating for a photographer as are the cranes, but when things are older than america, they often need reinforcement. This is the famous Basilica of Sant'Antonio. Saint Anthony modeled his life after St. Francis and like the latter, when he died, instead of a simple monument to celebrate his life, as he may have preferred, they built a monstrous byzantine masterpiece to house his bones. The crypt area is quite pretty as are the internal gardens with a huge magnolia tree.
This statue by Donatello is the first mounted rider of this size made since Roman empire times. I think they had lost the ability to make horse statues this large for many centuries.
The huge magnolia in winter inside the cloister
Statue of Cavour watching over the Padovani youth
The Palazzo del Capitanio with its astronomical clock from the mid 1300's
The building itself was built a couple of hundred years later and the clock was then incorporated.
Me, in the Palazzo del Bo, the ancient center of the university looking at all the plaques of the famous people who attended the school. Pictures were not encouraged (forbidden :), so thanks to Anna and her iPhone for the following images.
The anatomy theater, oldest of its kind in the world (built in 1594), where cadavers were dissected in front of as many as 300 students in the tiers above. Everyone had to stand and the space to stand in was so narrow, if you fainted you would be held up by the banister. I could fit in the rows (we were not allowed above the floor level, but there was a full sized model on display. I think the rows were about 20" deep), and couldn't imagine the stench the students must have experienced. The "lessons" were always held in the winter, thank goodness. I was always of a mind that cadaver dissection was forbidden by the authorities, civil and church in this time period, but that was not true. There were a limited number of bodies available for dissection, however, which were never enough. Grave robbing helped augment the need for more bodies and that was not allowed.
Here I am asking the University guide if it was true they dumped bodies through a trap door into the river below when the authorities arrived and there was an unauthorized body. She explained that was the rumor, but it has not been verified. Her story was there was a dog being dissected on the other side of the table which they could flip over if they heard someone coming to investigate.
Looking at a small piece of the Last Judgement in the Cappella degli Scrovegni. The chapel was built by the son in atonement for the sins of the father who was guilty of usury (as was the son, in fact). By building a church, they were going to avoid the eternal damnation described by Dante in his famous Inferno.
If you head to Padova, you can add another of my favorite cities to your itinerary, Verona, and also Treviso, Vicenza and the Euganean Hills. All, of course, very close to Venice and Lake Garda. Sounds like a good 4 days of activities to me!
Posted by Dwight at 11:06 AM