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Finally, my date with Giotto!


So, my plans for Padua are falling into place (well, actually cemented into place, given how I love to over-plan.)

I've just made my "double-turn" reservation for the Scrovegni Chapel to see the Giotto frescos there, and I'm feeling extraordinarily excited about this.

Rules for visiting this gorgeous site are strict: pre-booking is mandatory and most tickets allow only a 15-minute visit (following a full 15 minutes in a decontamination room) because only 25 visitors are allowed in at a time, to protect these precious frescos.

However, the double-turn ticket allows me to spend a full 40 minutes inside the chapel with the Giotto frescos, which I have wanted for years to see. The chapel sounds truly magnificent. Annie gave such a wonderful description of the chapel after visiting it last year, that it only increased my interest in seeing these for myself.

Then, Zerlina mentioned the 40-minute ticket which is available some evenings after 7 p.m. As she noted, 15 minutes for a visit "is much, much too short to see it all," said Zerlina in a comment on my blog. "There are at least 45 panels. Do the math: three panels per minute, 20 seconds each." That is far too short.

So, my ticket will give me a full 40-minutes to gawk!!!! I worry slightly about the lighting in the evening. Still, I can't wait to be there; I really admire Giotto's work and have made several visits to San Francesco in Assisi to see what may (or may not) be his work. It seems there is some question about how much of the design and work there is really his. I chose to believe Giotto was an important force in Assisi.


In any event, in preparation for Padua, last night I reviewed Sister Wendy's discussion of the Scrovegni chapel and Giotto's efforts to capture the humanity of the people in his scenes. (Sister Wendy Beckett's Story of Painting DVD produced for the BBC is a favourite of mine!)

She argues that while other artists of the time had loftier aims, often portraying the Holy Family or saints as being far above the rest of us, Giotto tried to portray them in his frescos as real humans with real emotions. In this way, the people of Padua and their visitors could relate to what they were seeing, for example, the pain Mary must have suffered as she cradled her dead son as portrayed in the above fresco of the Lamentation (The Mourning of Christ.) This reproduction is taken from the Scenes from the Life of Christ cycle in Padua and shown on the website The Web Gallery of Art.

Giotto's frescos date back about 700 years, which boggles my mind! According to WGA, work on this chapel began in roughly 1300 when Enrico Scrovegni of Padua, wanting to build a palace and private chapel, bought a large piece of land in the area around the town's Roman amphitheatre -- known as the Arena. Which helps to explain why the word "Arena" is often associated with the Scrovegni chapel.

It seems that Scrovegni wanted to improve his family's standing with The Powers That Be -- Enrico was the ambitious son of the rich Reginaldo, whom Dante Alighieri had consigned to hell as a usurer in his Divine Comedy. According to WGA, the redemption of his father and the saving of his own soul were his foremost considerations when making this donation. The church was therefore dedicated on 16 March 1305 to Saint Mary of Charity.

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.

On a more prosaic note, I'll be traveling to Padua from Ferrara by train, and will have a full day to fill (including a couple of feedings) before my 7 p.m. date with Giotto. Thanks to Annie for her earlier suggestion I have lunch at the Snack Bar “Il Gancino” in the Piazza Duomo. I'm now seeking any other ideas on what else to do in Padua before my date!

Comments (18)

I absolutely loved the Scrovegni and 15 minutes was a terrible tease. The 40 minute ticket sounds like heaven. Enjoy it!

Oh, I'm so excited for you! I'm glad it worked out to get the double-turn ticket too.

One suggestion for the afternoon before your visit is to shop! There are several very cool-looking outdoor markets around the Duomo; I could have spent several hours browsing in those but didn't because it was pouring rain the day I was there.


Thanks Rebecca, I really have high hopes for my 40 minutes with Giotto.

Annie, the shopping idea is very good. I haven't forgotten the Giotto book that you described finding in Padua; I'll bet there are some fascinating things there.

I didn't know about the 40-minute ticket. That sounds perfect! I was there so long ago, I can't remember details now but there is another big church you would probably enjoy visiting. I think it is called Sant' Antonio. I have been talking with my friends Katia & Guido and we might go to check out the the Scrovegni chapel while I am visiting them. It is still up in the air, but a possibility. Can't wait to hear about your visit.

barb cabot:

I'm getting so excited for you. You're such a good planner. This is going to be vicarious fun for me. Can't wait.

Girasoli got the name right... the Basilica of San Antonio (also called Il Santo) is an amazing church, definitely worth visiting.

Kathy (Trekcapri):

Hi Sandra, 40 minutes sounds fabulous. I remembered Annie's entry on the Scrovegni Chapel and now reading your post this morning, I must add Padua to my Italy must see list for the future.

Great news to hear that you have secured your double turn reservations. I'm looking forward to reading about your experience.

It will be 40 minutes of ecstasy! I will look forward to hearing your first-hand, personal account. ENJOY.


Thanks for the tip, Girasoli and Annie. I'm going to look into more information about the Basilica of San Antonio -- sounds like something I would definitely want to see!

Girasoli, I hope you're able to visit Padua with your friends -- it sounds as if you always have a really good time with them.

Barb, you're very kind. I think I'm an over-planner -- but I just don't want to miss anything!

Hi Kathy, I'm pretty excited about the 40-minute viewing. I suspect it will fly by -- even the 30 minute visit last year to the Piero della Francesca frescos in Arezzo seemed to last no longer than a heart-beat.

Mary, that's a vivid and accurate description -- you know how much I love frescos and admire Giotto. And I'll enjoy re-living it with a blog entry about the experience!

I see in a new fresco cycle in the future: "The Ecstasy of Santa Sandra"! THAT I will pay to see!

I saw the freschi 11 years ago and they were awesome, although I think I would appreciate them more now that I am older and wiser.


Sounds fabulous Sandra! Padua has been on my "hope to see someday" list for quite some time. I have a few books from an old Time-Life series on various artists (inherited from an aunt) and happily one of them is Giotto. There are several colour pages of the frescos in the Scrovegni Chapel. Gorgeous!!


Hilarious, Chiocciola! Maybe "Sandra possessed by Italy!"

I could kick myself when I think of opportunities wasted, trips that I didn't make the most of a decade ago. But all the more reason to go back!

Anne, it DOES look so beautiful, doesn't! Maybe the next time you visit Venice, you can make a quick daytrip to Padua.

Sounds exciting? I can't wait to see your return photos - definitely something to be seen - on my list! From your countdown clock, you will soon be there in person..hope you enjoy.menehune


Sandra, I don't blame you for being excited! This is something you have wanted to do for a long time, and now it's going to happen!

I too will be following along on your journey.

You sure lucked out with that 40 minute ticket - I am sure that it won't seem long enough but imagine a flickering 15 minutes! ARGH I can't wait to hear about your adventures when you return.

I spent three days in Padova in 2001 but did not see the frescoes because the chapel was closed for restuaro. On my next trip to northern Italy, I will see the frescoes no matter how far I have to travel. I’m glad to hear that there’s a longer alternative to the short 15 min. ticket.

As mentioned by Girasoli, there's the Basilica di Sant’Antonio, a lavish church with many domes and spires, with a treasury chapel containing relics of Il Santo. I saw his uncorrupted tongue and jaw bone.

There’s also the historic Caffe Pedrocchi, allegedly the hub of the Resorgimental uprisings. A perfect place to sit and have coffee and watch the Padovani and according to the New York Times Travel Guide it has the nicest restrooms in the town center.


Menehune, Nancy -- I AM getting really excited and all my plans seem to be falling into place (famous last words!)

Hi Jerry -- I'm hoping the 40 minute ticket works out well. As long as there is still good light in the chapel, it should be fantastic.

Maria, what a shame you weren't able to see the Giottos when you were in Padua -- a good excuse to return!

I think that I have to check out the relics of Sant'Antonio -- for some reason, relics fascinate me. And I'm definitely planning on spending some time in Cafe Pedrocchi. It sounds beautiful AND historic (and the bathroooms will be an added bonus -- thanks for the tip!)

Excellent site, keep up the good work

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