Home' The Australian Senior Traveller : June 2010 Contents 22 THE SENIOR TRAVELLER June, 2010
by SUE WALLACE
IT DOESN'T take long to discover the
charm of Padua in northern Italy, a
famous university town and a centre of art,
learning and literature in the Middle Ages.
Today Padua is a vibrant, colourful city,
40km west of Venice, and home to more
than 65,000 university students.
I travel by train from Milan, pre-booked
from Australia with Rail Europe, and it's
all so easy and hassle free.
First on my to-do list is a visit to Padua
University, the second oldest university in
Italy that dates back to 1222.
Step inside the hallowed halls and you
are almost overwhelmed by the grandeur
of the buildings and the sense of history.
You can even see the original lectern of
Padua's most famous teacher, Galileo
Galilei, in Palazzo Bo's Sala dei Quaranta
hall named after 40 portraits on the walls,
each depicting an esteemed foreigner who
William Harvey, the Englishman famous
for his study of blood circulation and a
founder of the English school of medicine,
is among the portraits.
Our guide tells us Galilei's students
made and set up his lectern so he could
teach in the "great hall of jurists", as the
other rooms were too small to house the
large crowds that came to his lessons.
But it is Padua's famous anatomy the-
atre, built in 1594, which holds many of the
university's most intriguing stories.
The tiny elliptical theatre with six tiers
accommodated 300 people. In the centre
was an autopsy table where professors
would dissect corpses which, at the end of
the lesson, would be dumped into the river
that runs under the building.
Women were banned from attending
autopsies, however our guide whispers that
didn't stop them dressing as men.
Official autopsies were done on crimi-
nals from distant towns under torch-light,
but there were others carried out secretly
in the name of science.
The Botanic Gardens, is another scien-
tific treasure, founded in 1545 by Padua
University for the study of medicinal
The oldest university botanical garden
in the world, it has more than 6000 plants
including exotic, medicinal, poisonous and
Padua is also a city of amazing frescos.
There are kilometres of them depicting
extraordinary stories in churches, chapels
Giotto's frescos in Scrovegni Chapel are
described as the greatest masterpieces of
14th century Italian and European paint-
ings. Bookings are essential and you are
allowed in for just 15 minutes in small
Another must-see is St Anthony's
Basilica, which holds the remains of St
The best way to enjoy Padua is to get out
and walk -- follow the quaint lanes and
streets and you just never know where you
will end up.
Picturesque squares with historical
monuments are the scenes of colourful
markets where fresh fruit and vegetables
spill out of wooden boxes and where cus-
tomers are invited to taste before they buy.
Paduans have been meeting at three
squares -- the Piazza delle Erbe, della
Frutta and dei Signori -- for the past 800
After two days of traipsing around
Padua, I give my feet a rest and board a
cruise on the Burchiello, which meanders
along the Brenta River stopping at histori-
cal palaces and imposing villas all the way
to the Venice lagoon.
Our stops include the magnificent Villa
Pisani, now a national museum with 114
rooms including a grand bed and sunken
bath made for Napoleon.
He spent one night there, then gave the
* Sue Wallace travelled courtesy of Etihad
Airways, Rail Europe and Italian Tourism.
at squares like
these which are
often used for
The Botanic Gardens used for the study of medical plants.
Soak up the charm
of Padua ETIHAD Airways flies from
Sydney 11 times a week and
from Melbourne seven times a
week. Phone 1800-998-995,
RAIL Europe offers fast, efficient
high speed travel by train in Italy,
France, Switzerland, Spain, the
UK and across Europe. For
For tourism information,
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