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I'm going to Padua!


Okay, I realize I'm getting ahead of myself. I'm not going to Padua right away! But it brightens a gloomy winter day to think about my next trip to Italy, coming up later in the spring.

And one town that I'm determined to visit this year is Padova, or Padua, which lies in the Veneto region. I've long wanted to visit this historic town, particularly to see the Scrovegni Chapel and its Giotto frescos.

Annie's post from last month on her blog (Churches in Venice) about seeing this incredible site really focused my interest: http://www.slowtrav.com/blog/annienc/2008/12/thursday_night_giotto.html

I snagged the above fresco from the Web Gallery of Art website. This is a detail from Giotto's Scenes from the Life of Joachim: Joachim's Dream. It was painted between 1304 and 1306 in the Cappella Scrovegni.

Apparently, some of the most dramatic parts in the fresco cycles are played by the small angelic spirits.


This detail is also from the Cappella Scrovegni , from Giotto's Scenes from the Life of Christ: 4. Flight into Egypt and was painted in the same period.

According to Web Gallery of Art, Enrico Scrovegni of Padua, wanting to build a palace and private chapel, bought in 1300 a large piece of land in the area around the town's Roman amphitheatre -- known as the Arena. (Finally -- this explains why I keep seeing the word "Arena" associated with the Scrovegni chapel!) All that remains today of his buildings is the single-nave church, known to many as the Arena Chapel because of its location. Apparently, Scrovegni is depicted in one of Giotto's frescoes, on the side of the Blessed at the Last Judgment.

The nave of the church is vaulted by a starry sky with the two centres of Christ and Mary, the Last Judgment in the west and the Annunciation in the east, witnessed by God. The story of Mary is narrated on the upper register of the walls - beginning with scenes from the lives of her parents, Joachim and Anne - and the youth of Christ and the story of his Passion are narrated on the two lower registers.

The frescoes in the Arena Chapel have been considered as Giotto's first mature masterpiece, and at the same time as an important milestone in the development of western painting.

I'm really looking forward to seeing these frescoes -- Annie said she was gob-smacked by their magnificence. Visitors are strictly kept to a 15-minute time slot, which must be reserved in advance. I wonder if I might be able to get two slots?

Comments (27)

How exciting!! I had a great time in Padova. It is a beautiful town. Unfortunately the Scrovegni Chapel was closed for renovations. I really need to plan to visit Padova again one day. Maybe you can make a reservation for a visit twice (for 2 different days - if you stay there)?

I'm so excited for you! It's funny because I bought a refrigerator magnet of that first angel in your post. You'll love all the swooping angels in those frescoes!

I wonder about the two time-slots too. If it's possible, I definitely recommend it. That 15- minutes flew by and I would have loved to have stayed longer.

I haven't done my ST reviews yet but I had lunch in a great place in the Piazza Duomo - I'm blanking on the name right now but will pass it on when I get to work (it's on my computer there).

You are going to be gobsmacked too!


Hi Girasoli, I didn't know that you had visited Padova -- you really are an Italy expert! I'm glad to hear that you found it to be beautiful.

At this point, I'm thinking of Padova as a day trip, from either Bologna (where I plan to stay a week) or from Ferrara (where I'm only staying 2 nights.) I am tilting towards visiting from Bologna, in part because the train trip isn't really any longer than it would be from Ferrara, even though the latter is closer to Padova.

Annie, I'm really looking forward to seeing your reviews from your recent visit there (lunch recommendations would be much appreciated) as well as photos from your visit there. Those could likely fill a full week during our February blogging challenge!

Snack Bar “Il Gancino”
Piazza Duomo 1 - Padova

This is the place where we had lunch - my friend Cristiano knew about it and it was really good. The card says "snack bar" but the inside looks more like Florian's with lots of wood and glass. Much cheaper than Florian's though and the food was great (no table charge either).

Yes, I want to do a couple of posts about Giotto and Padua soon. I took very few photos that day because it was pouring rain the whole time (and of course, no photos at all inside the Chapel!).

This sounds exciting. I wanted to visit this when we were in Venice in 2002 but we didn't have time. A friend said they were stunning.

And perfect daydream on a cold winter day.


Thanks very much, Annie -- that sounds like a lovely place (and much nicer than a snack bar!) And I think it would be hard to find a place more expensive than Florian's!

Thanks, Marta, I'm looking forward to seeing Padua. But I think it would be hard to tear yourself away from Venice for a day trip.

I hope your trip planning is going well, now THAT's un voyage intérresant!

Kathy (Trekcapri):

Hi Sandra, your trip to Padova to see the Giotto frescos at the Scrovegni Chapel sounds wonderful. From the photos, they look amazing and I envy your trip to see them in person. I enjoyed reading Annie's blog about her visit there.

Sounds like you have a great trip to look forward to in the Spring. I looking forward to all your pre-trip blogging about your plans!

Exciting news, Sandra! I spent four days in Padova back in 2001 and loved it. It's a fun university town. The Scrovegni Chapel was closed for renovations so I missed seeing the frescoes but I know I'll return one day.
I also visited Ferrara and Bologna and loved them both.

What a wonderful trip you're planning! Perfect antidote to the winter blues. :)

A week in Bologna sounds wonderful. I was only there for a half a day on my first "not slow" trip to Italy. Definitely a place that deserves more time.

It's a quick and easy walk from the Padua train station to the Scrovegni Chapel. 10 minutes or so.


Hi Kathy, Annie's post about the Scrovegni Chapel was intriguing, wasn't it?
I'm probably getting ahead of myself -- planning day trips so many months in advance, but it's so much to dream about!

Maria, I didn't know you spent four days in Padua. That's wonderful Slow Travel! I'm glad to hear that you loved Bologna and Ferrara. I'm always tinkering a bit with the weighting in a travel plan -- how long to spend in each place, and 2 days sounds so short for Ferrara. I wondered if I should just make it a day trip. Yet, I really believe that you can see so much more of a town when you stay through an evening or two, as opposed to a day trip.

Annie, I was just thinking about how to get from the Padova train station to the chapel (would I need a bus?) So, thanks for the thoughtful tip!

The freschi are wonderful! I saw them back in 1998 when I spent almost two weeks in Padova as part of a Lions Club summer exchange. The family who hosted me even had freschi in their apartment! Padova is definitely doable as a day trip from Bologna.

Beautiful shots! Trip planning is a perfect way to beat the Canadian chill isn't it?


Hi Chiocciola -- wow, that must have been wonderful, staying in an apartment with its own freschi! I'm glad to hear to that you enjoyed Padua, I'm very much looking forward to seeing it.

Jerry, it is a nice distraction from winter (although your upcoming trip to California is an even better distraction!)

Sounds like a great idea! I went up for the day once, when we were staying in Modena. Too short a time. I hope you get to see more than I did. :)

Sandra, there are buses but my friend Cristiano said that it would be much quicker and easier to walk, so we did. And it was an easy (and interesting) walk. There's a main road going right from the train station down to the historic center (I'll see if I can find the name) and you just stay on that one road. You cross a bridge over the river and then see a park on the left. That's where the chapel is. You walk by the chapel though and go to the Museo Civici to pick up your ticket and give blood (that part is a joke!) and then you back track just a little bit to the Chapel and move into the airlocks.


Hi Leslie, and thanks Annie for the info about finding the Museo and the chapel.

Both of your comments are now making me wonder if I should consider spending a few days in Padova, rather than staying in Ferrara for a couple of days. This would mean I'd instead make Ferrara day trip from Bologna. This could be a topic for another blog post!

Sandra, I'm considering spending a night or two in Padua next time I've over there. There were other things I would have liked to have seen. And in the historic center, there's an enormous outdoor market, part food and part booths with all these cool-looking ethnic clothes and crafts. I would have enjoyed doing some shopping there. And Padua has Europe's oldest Botanical Gardens - I would like to visit that too.


If you go in the evening on a special promotion, you can stay in the Chapel for 40 minutes.

My last visit to the Chapel was the regular 15-minute thing, which is much, much too short to see it all. There are at least 45 panels. Do the math: three panels per minute, 20 seconds each.

Ah, for my first few visits, before the restoration and before it went high tech. I'd spend a few hours in the Chapel, going out for a breath of fresh air now and then...

I'm all for restoration and preservation, but I really think limiting most visits to 15 minutes is a disservice to the art and the visitor.

Zerlina's comments are interesting. From what I've read, part of the deal is that they don't want to open the door very often (to preserve the frescoes). Once you are in, you can't leave until the 15 minutes is up! Now to me, it would make more sense to have 30 minute long visits but perhaps that is too long for some tourists?

A 40 minute evening visit sounds wonderful!


Annie, the more I consider Padua, the more interesting it sounds! I think it is worth looking into a longer visit there.

Hello Zerlina, it's nice to hear from you again. And what a brilliant suggestion! I see on the Cappella website the 40-minute "double-turn" promotion, evenings from 7 p.m. on. That's much more reasonable. This also argues for more than a day trip to Padua (altho there is an 8 p.m. train back to Bologna.)

I think you're quite right, 15 minutes is not nearly enough time to view such a site. And, as Annie points out, it would arguably be more deleterious to the art to have people coming and going in such rapid succession.

Even the 30 minute limit on viewing Piero della Francesca's Legend of the True Cross in Arezzo seemed too tight.

Barb Cabot:

Very excited for you. The news of any trip is always something to look forward to. I know you will come back with many stories and many wonderful photos. What a thrill. Yay!


Thanks Barb -- you're so right, the planning is half the fun. And worth lots of posts for the February blogging challenge!

Hi Sandra,

This is the first I realized you were definitely going to Italy this spring. So exciting! I see your itinerary from the comments... when are you going?



Hi Dana, I'm planning to travel the first 3 weeks in June! It seems a long way off, but it'll give me time to save up some $$$$$!

Wow... 3 weeks, that is so great! And June will be here before you know it. Looking forward to hearing more of your plans as you make them.



I would like to know more about evening on a special promotion in the chappel. 40 minutes visit seems magnificent, but is there enough lightingt in the evening?


Galina, that's a very good question! I have read that when the chapel was restored, they developed a mix of natural light, fluorescent and discharge lamps to illuminate the frescos without causing damage.

So I'm assuming that even late in the day (or on dark, cloudy days) the frescos can still be seen! I'm definitely going to book a double ticket for a 40-minute visit when I'm in Padua in June.

Here's a link to the website for the Scrovegni Chapel:


It explains how to book tickets, including what they call the "double-turn" ticket for a 40 minute visit.

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