Though under an hour from Venice, Padua (Padova in Italian) 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 in Giotto’s blockbuster Cappella degli Scrovegni, Menabuoi’s heavenly gathering in the baptistry and Titian’s St Anthony in the Scoletta del Santo. For centuries, Padua and Verona fought for dominance over the Veneto plains. But Venice finally occupied 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 (at its university). Even today, Padua remains an important industrial city – its industrial zone employs some 50,000 people – a dynamic university town and an important pilgrimage centre.