Though under an hour from Venice, Padua seems a world away with its medieval marketplaces, Fascist-era facades and hip student population. As a medieval city-state and home to Italy’s second-oldest university, Padua challenged both Venice and Verona for regional hegemony. A series of extraordinary fresco cycles recalls this golden age – including Giotto’s remarkable Capella degli Scrovegni, Menabuoi’s heavenly gathering in the Bapistry and Titian’s St Anthony in the Scoletta del Santo. For the next few centuries Padua and Verona challenged each other for dominance over the Veneto plains. But Venice finally settled the matter by occupying Padua permanently in 1405.
As a strategic military-industrial centre, Padua became a parade ground for Mussolini speeches, an Allied bombing target and a secret Italian Resistance hub based at the university. Once Padua was wrested from Fascist control in 1945, there was a new industrial zone east of the city within a year, the university was back in session and the puzzlework that is Padua began anew.