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Ferrara versus Padua



It's always a tough call when planning a trip: what to include, what to drop. Right now, I'm debating: 3 nights in Ferrara (and its Castello Estense, top) OR 3 nights in Padua (second photo. Both photos from tourist information sites)

In my tentative plans for a June trip to Italy, I'm tilting towards flying into Florence, immediately taking the train to Parma for 3 days; then a week in Bologna. This far, the planning is relatively easy. Parma sounds so lovely and while I don't like to change hotels too often (wasting all that time packing and unpacking, etc.etc.) there is something to be said for staying a few nights in a town. I feel like I can get to know a place a wee bit better by staying over for a least a few nights, compared with a day trip.

So, Parma is in; Bologna for a week (including a day trip to Ravenna); and I plan to end the trip with five nights in Umbria. That leaves a small gap of maybe 3 nights post-Bologna. This space I had been saving for a visit to Ferrara. I've heard good things about Ferrara, I like the idea of staying the Emilia-Romagna region for most of my vacation (rather than jumping between too many regions) and I could easily do a day trip to Padua from Ferrara (or from Bologna, for that matter.)

I very much want to see Padua (which gets glowing reviews) and also spend as much time as possible with the Giotto frescos in the Scrovegni Chapel. However, the chapel enforces strict 15-minute limits on visitors, except -- as Zerlina has kindly point out -- it's possible after 7 p.m. to book a full 40-minute visit. That would be fabulous. Downside: it's hard to get out of Padua after 8 p.m., meaning I could become stranded at the end of the day trip.

So, there's my dilemma: should I stick with 3 nights in Ferrara or opt for 3 nights in Padua?

Already, Padua gains some points because I know of at least one glorious sight I want to see there (Scrovegni Chapel.) And I will confess (because this isn't really slow travel) that I would be tempted to slip over to nearby Venice for a day from Padua. (I've visited Venice twice before and I do love it.)

Yet Ferrara sounds very interesting. I really love art, I love Renaissance art, and Ferrara seems to have much to boast about. As well, UNESCO has classified Ferrara's historic centre as a world heritage list, defining it as "...a fine example of a town planned in the Renaissance that has managed to retain the integrity of its historic centre."

Ferrara versus Padua: all insights welcome!

Comments (14)

I haven't been to either yet. But my gut feeling is, why don't you stick with your original plan? Ferrara for the three nights with a day trip to Padua. If you feel you need more time, just stay three nights in Padua next trip.

I've never been to Ferrara so I can't really give you advice about that.

I will say that even the 15 minute visit to the frescoes was wonderful (even though very short), and if it doesn't work out to spend the night in Padua and do that evening visit, it would still be a worthwhile day trip.

And who cares if it's slow or not - zoom over to Venice for a day, I say!

The Giottos are hard to pass up but me, I'd choose Ferrara.

Just for the heck of it, I checked the train schedules. It is about 4 hours from Ferrara to Perugia and 5 hours from Padova to Perugia depending on the train you take. I wasn't sure where in Umbria you would be stopping. To throw another wrench into your planning, you might want to do Parma to Ferrara to Bologna to Umbria. Train schedules are a little friendlier this way.

I personally would choose Ferrara over Padova. I fell in love with Ferrara twice. Padova was nice also, but not as charming as Ferrara.

Tough decision. You will just have to go back again!!

I haven't been to Padua or Ferrara yet Sandra, but your post makes me want to visit both. As to your choice, I don't think you can go wrong either way. Most seem to be saying to stick with your original plan; perhaps there's something to be said for a mostly Emilia-Romagna trip this time, centered on the one region. You know you'll be back there again...



Thanks for all of the advice -- interestingly, most everyone is tilting towards Ferrara! With Padua as a day trip, of course.

Candi and Dana, a full stay in Padova during some future Veneto trip is good advice.

Annie, I could cough up the cash for 2 admission fees and that way, I'd get a full 30 minutes with the Giottos.

Angie, coming from an artist, that's a very strong endorsement for Ferrara.

Girasoli, thanks so much for checking schedules for me. Padova to Umbria is quite a bit more effort than Bologna to Umbria (I'll be going as far as Foligno, where I'll get a rental car)And it's interesting to hear that you really fell in love with Ferrara -- I knew that you liked it a lot! It must be very special.

Kathy (Trekcapri):

Hi Sandra, looks like you have some awesome choices to choose from. I'm so glad to read that you'll be visiting Ravenna. If you have time you should have a meal at the La Gardela restaurant that Shannon recommended to me. I think you will totally love seeing those beautiful mosaics.

I stopped in Fererra on my way back to Venice from Ravenna. I didn't have much time to really explore too much. I spent most of my time at Castello Estense. They had these beautiful ceiling art that I enjoyed seeing. I wished I had more time there. I have not been to Padua but from reading Annie's blog about her experience there I'd be tempted to go there too. What a difficult choice for you. And yet what a delightful choice it is too. Reading about your trip is getting me excited to start thinking about my trip. Yay!

I'm really looking foward to reading about what you have decided.

I'd say - enxtend your vacation and visit both! Mind you, this is why I have no savings account.

I agree that there was something very special about Ferrara. It was just so pleasant! I felt similarly about Modena - just walking around you realize that the quality of life is really high! I think you can't go wrong either way. I believe Marian spent time in Ferrara, maybe you can ask her too?


Hi Kathy -- I am pretty excited about see Ravenna (hmmmm, I feel a blog post coming on!) The photos that I've seen of the mosaics there look very beautiful. It's good to hear that you enjoyed it, as well as Ferrara. And thanks so much for the restaurant suggestion. I plan to spend a long day in Ravenna so I'll defintely need to eat well.

What are you planning for your next trip?

Jerry, you and me both! Every time I begin to get a little money in my ING savings account, another trip comes along and gobbles up the cash!

Chiocciola, I get the impression that Ferrara is quite elegant, with a wonderful quality of life. I did talk with Marian last year, when I was previously planning a trip to E-R, and she raved about Ferrara. But thanks for the reminder, I think I'll pester Marian for more details.


I've been to Ferrara and Loved it! Don't forget it's a total win/win whatever you choose.


Tough call, indeed.

I also found Ferrara more appealing as a town than Padua. If they will let you do two consecutive 15-minute stints in the Cappella degli Scrovegni, it would be an excellent solution. But check it out with them by email first before you book; they're really very finicky about their rules and limits. On a day trip to Padua, I'd do the market and a bite at Caffe Pedrocchi in addition to the Scrovegni/Eremitani complex and give the Basilica a miss. It's interesting enough, but it's more of a pilgrimage destination than an artistic experience - and it's pretty much at the other end of town.

If the two stints don't work, do think about the evening double-turn. There's a train from Padua to Ferrara at 8:33 pm; the train station is only about 5-10 minutes on foot from the chapel. Train times may change between now and June, but probably only by a few minutes; it's very unlikely that they would cancel the train.

And I promise that you will find Ravenna and the mosaics absolutely stunning! (The Ravenna tourist office's Web site is unusually informative for planning purposes.)


Jan, you are so right -- I can't got wrong either way.

Still, I think I will stick with Ferrara as a base and visit Padova for the day (this time!)

Zerlina, thanks so much for your ideas. I have checked with the Scrovegni reservation office and the staff there say there won't be a problem with 2 reservations on the same day. That said, I am still intrigued with the idea of the evening visit and if it can be done from Ferrara more easily than from Bologna, that might be the best solution. I'm going to double-check the Trenitalia schedule for the particular days of the week when I could go from Ferrara.

That would give me the full day to see Padua -- and thanks for the tip about the Basilica. It looks beautiful from the outside but I won't worry about making much time for a visit there.

I've just posted about Ravenna, I've only started planning, but -- like the Scrovegni chapel -- this is an absolute must for me to visit.


lol at Jerry's comment! I just wrote on another entry that I had looked seriously at staying in Ferrara last October. I thought Ferrara sounded incredibly fascinating. As does Padova, of course, but for some reason, Ferrara captured my fancy. I have it high on my list for future trips!

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