Padua stands on the Bacchiglione River, 40 kilometres west of Venice and 29 km southeast of Vicenza. The Brenta River, which once ran through the city, still touches the northern districts. Its agricultural setting is the Venetian Plain. To the city's south west lies the Euganaean Hills, praised by Lucan and Martial, Petrarch, Ugo Foscolo, and Shelley.
It hosts the University of Padua, founded in 1222, where Galileo Galilei was a lecturer.
The city is picturesque, with a dense network of arcaded streets opening into large communal piazze, and many bridges crossing the various branches of the Bacchiglione, which once surrounded the ancient walls like a moat.
Padua is the setting for most of the action in Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew. There is a play by the Victorian writer Oscar Wilde, titled The Duchess Of Padua.
The original significance of the Roman name Patavium (Venetian: Padoa, German Padua) is uncertain. It may be connected with the ancient name of the River Po, (Padus). Additionally, the root pat-, in the Indo-European language may refer to a wide open plain as opposed to nearby hills. (In Latin this root is present in the word patera which means "plate." and the verb patere means "to open.") The suffix -av (also found in the name of the rivers such as the Timavus and Tiliaventum is likely of Venetic origin, precisely indicating the presence of a river, which in the case of Padua is the Brenta. The ending -ium, signifies the presence of villages that have united themselves together.
Padua claims to be the oldest city in northern Italy. According to a tradition dated at least to the time of Virgil's Aeneid and to Livy's Ab Urbe Condita, Padua was founded in around 1183 BC by the Trojan prince Antenor. After the Fall of Troy, Antenor led a group of Trojans and their Paphlagonian allies, the Eneti or Veneti, who lost their king Pylaemenes to settle the Euganean plain in Italy. Thus, when a large ancient stone sarcophagus was exhumed in the year 1274, officials of the medieval commune declared the remains within to be those of Antenor. An inscription by the native Humanist scholar Lovato dei Lovati placed near the tomb reads:
This sepulchre excavated from marble contains the body of the noble Antenor who left his country, guided the Eneti and Trojans, banished the Euganeans and founded Padua
However, more recent tests suggest the sepulchre dates to the between the 4th and 3rd centuries BC. Nevertheless, archeological remains confirm an early date for the foundation of the center of the town to between the 11th and 10th centuries BC. By the 5th century BC, Padua, rose on the banks of the river Brenta, which in the Roman era was called Medoacus Maior and probably until AD 589 followed the path of the present day Bacchiglione (Retrone). Padua was one of the principal centers of the Veneti.
The Roman historian Livy records an attempted invasion by the Spartan king Cleonimos around 302 BC. The Spartans came up the river but were defeated by the Veneti in a naval battle and gave up the idea of conquest. Still later, the Veneti of Padua successfully repulsed invasions by the Etruscans and Gauls. According to Livy and Silius Italicus, the Veneti, including those of Padua, formed an alliance with the Romans by 226 BC against their common enemies, first the Gauls and then the Carthaginians. Men from Padua fought and died beside the Romans at Cannae.
With Romes northwards expansion, Padua was gradually assimilated into the Roman Republic. In 175 BC, Padua requested the aid of Rome in putting down a local civil war. In 91 BC, Padua, along with other cities of the Veneti, fought with Rome against the rebels in the Social War. Around 49 (or 45 or 43) BC, Padua was made a Roman municipium under the Lex Julia Municipalis and its citizens ascribed to the Roman tribe, Fabia. At that time the population of the city was perhaps 40,000. The city was reputed for its excellent breed of horses and the wool of its sheep. In fact, the poet Martial remarks on the thickness of the tunics made there. By the end of the first century BC, Padua seems to have been the wealthiest city in Italy outside of Rome. The city became so powerful that it was reportedly able to raise two hundred thousand fighting men. However, despite its wealth, the city was also renowned for its simple manners and strict morality. This concern with morality is reflected in Livy's Roman History (XLIII.13.2) wherein he portrays Rome's rise to dominance as being founded upon her moral rectitude and discipline. Still later, Pliny, referring to one of his Paduan protégés' Paduan grandmother, Sarrana Procula, lauds her as more upright and disciplined than any of her strict fellow citizens (Epist. i.xiv.6). Padua also provided the Empire with notable intellectuals. Nearby Abano was the birthplace, and after many years spent in Rome, the deathplace of Livy, whose Latin was said by the critic Asinius Pollio to betray his Patavinitas (q.v. Quintilian, Inst. Or. viii.i.3). Padua was also the birthplace of Thrasea Paetus, Asconius Pedianus, and perhaps Valerius Flaccus.
Christianity was introduced to Padua and much of the Veneto by Saint Prosdocimus. He is venerated as the first bishop of the city. His deacon, the Jewish convert Daniel, is also a saintly patron of the city.
The history of Padua during Late Antiquity follows the course of events common to most cities of north-eastern Italy. Padua suffered from the invasion of the Huns and was savagely sacked by Attila in 450. A number of years afterward, it fell under the control of the Gothic kings Odoacer and Theodoric the Great. It was reconquered for a short time by the Byzantine Empire in 540 during the Gothic War. However, depopulation from plague and war ensued. The city was again seized by the Goths under Totila, but was restored to the Eastern Empire by Narses only to fall under the control of the Lombards in 568. During these years, many of Paduans sought safety in the countryside and especially in the nearby lagoons of what would become Venice. In 601, the city rose in revolt against Agilulf, the Lombard king who put the city under siege. After enduring a 12-year-long bloody siege, the Lombards stormed and burned the city. Many ancient artifacts and building were seriously damaged. The remains of an amphitheater (the Arena) and some bridge foundations are all that remain of Roman Padua today. The townspeople fled to the hills and later returned to eke out a living among the ruins; the ruling class abandoned the city for the Venetian Lagoon, according to a chronicle. The city did not easily recover from this blow, and Padua was still weak when the Franks succeeded the Lombards as masters of northern Italy.
At the Diet of Aix-la-Chapelle (828), the duchy and march of Friuli, in which Padua lay, was divided into four counties, one of which took its title from the city of Padua.
The end of the early Middle Ages at Padua was marked by the sack of the city by the Magyars in 899. It was many years before Padua recovered from this ravage.
During the period of episcopal supremacy over the cities of northern Italy, Padua does not appear to have been either very important or very active. The general tendency of its policy throughout the war of investitures was Imperial (Ghibelline) and not Roman (Guelph); and its bishops were, for the most part, of German extraction.
Under the surface, several important movements were taking place that were to prove formative for the later development of Padua.
At the beginning of the 11th century the citizens established a constitution, composed of a general council or legislative assembly and a credenza or executive body.
During the next century they were engaged in wars with Venice and Vicenza for the right of water-way on the Bacchiglione and the Brenta. The city grew in power and self-confidence and in 1138, government was entrusted to two consuls.
The great families of Camposampiero, Este and Da Romano began to emerge and to divide the Paduan district among themselves. The citizens, in order to protect their liberties, were obliged to elect a podestà in 1178. Their choice first fell on one of the Este family.
A fire devastated Padua in 1174. This required the virtual rebuilding of the city.
The temporary success of the Lombard League helped to strengthen the towns. However, their civic jealousy soon reduced them to weakness again. As a result, in 1236 Frederick II found little difficulty in establishing his vicar Ezzelino III da Romano in Padua and the neighbouring cities, where he practised frightful cruelties on the inhabitants. Ezzelino was unseated in June 1256 without civilian bloodshed, thanks to Pope Alexander IV.
Padua then enjoyed a period of calm and prosperity: the basilica of the saint was begun; and the Paduans became masters of Vicenza. The University of Padua (the second university in Italy, after Bologna) was founded in 1222, and as it flourished in the 13th century, Padua outpaced Bologna, where no effort had been made to expand the revival of classical precedents beyond the field of jurisprudence, to become a center of early humanist researches, with a first-hand knowledge of Roman poets that was unrivalled in Italy or beyond the Alps.
However, the advances of Padua in the 13th century finally brought the commune into conflict with Can Grande della Scala, lord of Verona. In 1311 Padua had to yield to the Scaligeri of Verona.
Jacopo da Carrara was elected lord of Padua in 1318, at that point the city was home to 40,000 people. From then till 1405, nine members of the moderately enlightened Carraresi family, including Ubertino, Jacopo II, and Francesco il Vecchio, succeeded one another as lords of the city, with the exception of a brief period of Scaligeri overlordship between 1328 and 1337 and two years (1388–1390) when Giangaleazzo Visconti held the town. The Carraresi period was a long period of restlessness, for the Carraresi were constantly at war. Under Carrarese rule the early humanist circles in the university were effectively disbanded: Albertino Mussato, the first modern poet laureate, died in exile at Chioggia in 1329, and the eventual heir of the Paduan tradition was the Tuscan Petrarch.
In 1387 John Hawkwood won the Battle of Castagnaro for Padua, against Giovanni Ordelaffi, for Verona. The Carraresi period finally came to an end as the power of the Visconti and of Venice grew in importance.
Padua came under the rule of the Republic of Venice in 1405, and mostly remained that way until the fall of the Republic of Venice in 1797.
There was just a brief period when the city changed hands (in 1509) during the wars of the League of Cambrai. On 10 December 1508, representatives of the Papacy, France, the Holy Roman Empire, and Ferdinand I of Spain concluded the League of Cambrai against the Republic. The agreement provided for the complete dismemberment of Venice's territory in Italy and for its partition among the signatories: Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I of the House of Habsburg was to receive Padua in addition to Verona and other territories. In 1509 Padua was held for just a few weeks by Imperial supporters. Venetian troops quickly recovered it and successfully defended Padua during a siege by Imperial troops. (Siege of Padua). The city was governed by two Venetian nobles, a podestà for civil affairs and a captain for military affairs. Each was elected for sixteen months. Under these governors, the great and small councils continued to discharge municipal business and to administer the Paduan law, contained in the statutes of 1276 and 1362. The treasury was managed by two chamberlains; and every five years the Paduans sent one of their nobles to reside as nuncio in Venice, and to watch the interests of his native town.
Venice fortified Padua with new walls, built between 1507 and 1544, with a series of monumental gates.
In 1797 the Venetian Republic came to an end with the Treaty of Campo Formio, and Padua, like much of the Veneto, was ceded to the Habsburgs. In 1806 the city then passed to the French puppet Kingdom of Italy until the fall of Napoleon, in 1814, when the city became part of the newly formed Kingdom of Lombardy-Venetia, part of the Austrian Empire.
Austrian rule was unpopular with progressive circles in northern Italy, but the feelings of the population (from the lower to the upper classes) towards the empire were mixed. In Padua, the year of revolutions of 1848 saw a student revolt which on 8 February turned the University and the Caffè Pedrocchi into battlegrounds in which students and ordinary Paduans fought side by side. The revolt was however short-lived, and there were no other episodes of unrest under the Austrian Empire (nor previously had there been any), as in Venice or in other parts of Italy; while opponents of Austria were forced into exile.
Under Austrian rule, Padua began its industrial development; one of the first Italian rail tracks, Padua-Venice, was built in 1845.
In 1866 the Battle of Königgrätz gave Italy the opportunity, as an ally of Prussia, to take Veneto, and Padua was also annexed to the recently formed Kingdom of Italy.
Annexed to Italy during 1866, Padua was at the centre of the poorest area of Northern Italy, as Veneto was until the 1960s. Despite this, the city flourished in the following decades both economically and socially, developing its industry, being an important agricultural market and having a very important cultural and technological centre as the University. The city hosted also a major military command and many regiments.
When Italy entered World War I on 24 May 1915, Padua was chosen as the main command of the Italian Army. The king, Vittorio Emanuele III, and the commander in chief, Cadorna, went to live in Padua for the period of the war. After the defeat of Italy in the battle of Caporetto in autumn 1917, the front line was situated on the river Piave. This was just 50–60 km (31–37 mi) from Padua, and the city was now in range of the Austrian artillery. However, the Italian military command did not withdraw. The city was bombed several times (about 100 civilian deaths). A memorable feat was Gabriele D'Annunzio's flight to Vienna from the nearby San Pelagio Castle air field.
A year later, the threat to Padua was removed. In late October 1918, the Italian Army won the decisive Battle of Vittorio Veneto, and the Austrian forces collapsed. The armistice was signed at Villa Giusti, Padua, on 3 November 1918.
During the war, industry grew rapidly, and this provided Padua with a base for further post-war development. In the years immediately following World War I, Padua developed outside the historical town, enlarging and growing in population, even if labor and social strife were rampant at the time.
As in many other areas in Italy, Padua experienced great social turmoil in the years immediately following World War I. The city was shaken by strikes and clashes, factories and fields were subject to occupation, and war veterans struggled to re-enter civilian life. Many supported a new political way, fascism. As in other parts of Italy, the National Fascist Party in Padua soon came to be seen as the defender of property and order against revolution. The city was also the site of one of the largest fascist mass rallies, with some 300,000 people reportedly attending one speech by Benito Mussolini.
New buildings, in typical fascist architecture, sprang up in the city. Examples can be found today in the buildings surrounding Piazza Spalato (today Piazza Insurrezione), the railway station, the new part of City Hall, and part of the Bo Palace hosting the University.
Following Italy's defeat in the Second World War on 8 September 1943, Padua became part of the Italian Social Republic, a puppet state of the Nazi occupiers. The city hosted the Ministry of Public Instruction of the new state, as well as military and militia commands and a military airport. The Resistenza, the Italian partisans, was very active against both the new fascist rule and the Nazis. One of the main leaders of the Resistenza in the area was the University vice-chancellor Concetto Marchesi.
Padua was bombed several times by Allied planes. The worst hit areas were the railway station and the northern district of Arcella. During one of these bombings, the Church of the Eremitani, with frescoes by Andrea Mantegna, was destroyed, considered by some art historians to be Italy's biggest wartime cultural loss.
The city was finally liberated by partisans and New Zealand troops (2nd New Zealand Division) of the British Eighth Army on 28 April 1945. A small Commonwealth War Cemetery is located in the west part of the city, commemorating the sacrifice of these troops.
After the war, the city developed rapidly, reflecting Veneto's rise from being the poorest region in northern Italy to one of the richest and most economically active regions of modern Italy.
Padua experiences a humid subtropical climate (Köppen climate classification Cfa) characteristic of Northern Italy, modified by the nearby Adriatic Sea.
In the neighbourhood of Padua are numerous noble villas. These include:
Padua's historic core, includes numerous churches of significant architecture and arts. These include:
Padua has long been acclaimed for its university, founded in 1222. Under the rule of Venice the university was governed by a board of three patricians, called the Riformatori dello Studio di Padova. The list of notable professors and alumni is long, containing, among others, the names of Bembo, Sperone Speroni, the anatomist Vesalius, Copernicus, Fallopius, Fabrizio d'Acquapendente, Galileo Galilei, William Harvey, Pietro Pomponazzi, Reginald, later Cardinal Pole, Scaliger, Tasso and Jan Zamoyski. It is also where, in 1678, Elena Lucrezia Cornaro Piscopia became the first woman in the world to graduate from university. The university hosts the oldest anatomy theatre, built in 1594.
The university also hosts the oldest botanical garden (1545) in the world. The botanical garden Orto Botanico di Padova was founded as the garden of curative herbs attached to the University's faculty of medicine. It still contains an important collection of rare plants.
The place of Padua in the history of art is nearly as important as its place in the history of learning. The presence of the university attracted many distinguished artists, such as Giotto, Fra Filippo Lippi and Donatello; and for native art there was the school of Francesco Squarcione, whence issued Mantegna.
Padua is also the birthplace of the celebrated architect Andrea Palladio, whose 16th-century villas (country-houses) in the area of Padua, Venice, Vicenza and Treviso are among the most notable of Italy and they were often copied during the 18th and 19th centuries; and of Giovanni Battista Belzoni, adventurer, engineer and egyptologist.
The sculptor Antonio Canova produced his first work in Padua, one of which is among the statues of Prato della Valle (presently a copy is displayed in the open air, while the original is in the Musei Civici).
The Antonianum is settled among Prato della Valle, the Basilica of Saint Anthony and the Botanic Garden. It was built in 1897 by the Jesuit fathers and kept alive until 2002. During World War II, under the leadership of P. Messori Roncaglia SJ, it became the center of the resistance movement against the Nazis. Indeed, it briefly survived P. Messori's death and was sold by the Jesuits in 2004.
Padua also plays host to the majority of Taming of the Shrew by William Shakespeare and in Much Ado About Nothing Benedick is named as "Signior Benedick of Padua."
Paolo De Poli, painter and enamellist, author of decorative panels and design objects, 15 times invited to the Venice Biennale was born in Padua. The electronic musician Tying Tiffany was also born in Padua.
In 2007, there were 210,301 people residing in Padua, located in the province of Padua, Veneto, of whom 47.1% were male and 52.9% were female. Minors (children ages 18 and younger) totalled 14.87% of the population compared to pensioners who number 23.72%. This compares with the Italian average of 18.06% (minors) and 19.94% (pensioners). The average age of Padua residents is 45 compared to the Italian average of 42. In the five years between 2002 and 2007, the population of Padua grew by 2.21%, while Italy as a whole grew by 3.85%. The current birth rate of Padua is 8.49 births per 1,000 inhabitants compared to the Italian average of 9.45 births.
As of 2006, 90.66% of the population was Italian. The largest immigrant group comes from other European nations (the largest being Romanians, Moldovans, and Albanians): 5.14%, sub-saharan Africa 1.08%, and East Asia: 1.04%. The city is predominantly Roman Catholic, but due to immigration now has some Orthodox Christian, Muslim and Hindu followers.
Since local government political reorganization in 1993, Padua has been governed by the City Council of Padua. Voters elect directly 33 councilors and the Mayor of Padua every five years. The current Mayor of Padua is Sergio Giordani (independent, supported by the PD), elected on 26 June 2017.
Padua hosts consulates for several nations, including those of Canada, Croatia, Ivory Coast, Peru, Poland, Switzerland and Uruguay. A consulate for South Korea is opening soon and a consulate for Moldova was opened on 1 August 2014.
The industrial area of Padova was created in the eastern part of the city in 1946; it is now one of the biggest industrial zones in Europe, having an area of 11 million sqm. The main offices of 1,300 industries are based here, employing 50,000 people. In the industrial zone, there are two railway stations, one fluvial port, three truck terminals, two highway exits and a lot of connected services, such as hotels, post offices and directional centres.
By car, there are 2 motorways (autostrade in Italian): A4 Brescia-Padova, connecting it to Verona (then to Brenner Pass, Innsbruck and Bavaria) and Milan (then Switzerland, Turin and France); A4 Padova-Venezia, to Venice then Belluno (for Dolomites holiday resorts like Cortina) Trieste and Tarvisio (for Austria, Slovenia, Croatia and Eastern Europe); A13 Bologna-Padova, to Ferrara and Bologna (then Central and South Italy). Roads connect Padua with all the large and small centers of the region. A motorway with more than 20 exits surrounds the city, connecting districts and the small towns of the surrounding region.
Padua has two railway stations open to passengers. The main station Stazione di Padova has 11 platforms and is sometimes incorrectly referred to as "Padova Centrale"; it is one of the biggest stations in Italy. More than 450 trains per day leave Padova. The station is used by over 20 million passengers per year. Other railway stations are Padova Ponte di Brenta (soon to be closed), Padova San Lazzaro (planned), Padova Campo di Marte, with no passenger service once used as a freight station which could become one of the stations of the "Servizio Ferroviario Metropolitano Regionale". From Padova, high speed trains connect to Milan, Rome, Bologna, Florence and Venice; one can reach Milan in 1h and 51 min, Rome in 3 hours an 0 min and Venice in 20 min.
The station was opened in 1842 when the service started on the first part of the Milan–Venice railway (the "Imperial Regia Ferrovia Ferdinandea") built from Padua to Marghera through Mestre. Porta Marghera is a major port of the Venetian area.
Railways enthusiasts can visit the Signal Box A (Cabina A), preserved by the "Società Veneta Ferrovie" (a society named after the former public works and railway company, based in "Piazza Eremitani" in Padua) association.
Padua is relatively close to airports at Venice, Verona, Treviso and Bologna. The Padua airport, the "Gino Allegri" or Aeroporto civile di Padova "Gino Allegri", or Aeroporto di Padova, is no longer served by regularly scheduled flights. Padua is, however, the home of one of Italy's four Area Control Centres.
Venice, approximately 50 km (31 mi) away, is the nearest seaport.
Urban public transport includes public buses together with a new Translohr guided tramway (connecting Albignasego, in the south of Padua, with Pontevigodarzere in the north of the city, thanks to the new line built in 2009) and private taxis.
The city centre is partly closed to vehicles, except for residents and permitted vehicles. There are some car parks surrounding the district. In this area, as well, there are some streets and squares restricted to pedestrian and bicycle use only.
Padua has approximately 40 bus lines, which are served by new buses (purchased in 2008-9).
The Veneto Region is building a regional rail line (S-Bahn-like system) around the city with 15 new stations. Its name will be SFMR and it will reach the province of Venice.
The average amount of time people spend commuting with public transit in Padova, Vicenza e Verona, for example to and from work, on a weekday is 46 min. 5% of public transit riders, ride for more than 2 hours every day. The average amount of time people wait at a stop or station for public transit is 13 min, while 30% of riders wait for over 20 minutes on average every day. The average distance people usually ride in a single trip with public transit is 4.7 km, while 4% travel for over 12 km in a single direction.
Padua is the home of Calcio Padova, an association football team that plays in Italy's Lega Pro, and who played 16 Serie A championships (last 2 in 1995 and 1996, but the previous 14 between 1929 and 1962); the Petrarca Padova rugby union team, winner of 12 national championships (all between 1970 and 2011) and 2 national cups, and now plays in the National Championship of Excellence league; and the Pallavolo Padova volleyball club, once called Petrarca Padova as well, which plays in the Italian second division (A2) and who won a CEV cup in 1994. Basketball, cycling (Padua has been for several years home of the famous Giro del Veneto), rowing (two teams among the best ones in Italy, Canottieri Padova and Padova Canottaggio), horseback-riding and swimming are popular sports too.
The venues of these teams are: Stadio Euganeo for football and athletics, about 32,000 seats; Stadio Plebiscito for rugby union, about 9,000 seats; Palazzetto dello Sport San Lazzaro for volleyball and basketball, about 5,000 seats, and has just been restored; Ippodromo Breda - Le Padovanelle for horse races. The old and glorious Stadio Appiani, which hosted up to 21,000 people, presently reduced to 10,000 for security reasons twenty years ago, and near to Prato della Valle in the city central area, is almost abandoned and is to be restored. A small ice stadium for skating and hockey is about to be completed, with about 1,000 seats.
Since 2012 the city also has its own Gaelic football club, Padova Gaelic Football. Later that year they had the honour of taking part in the first official GAA match in Italy when they played Ascaro Rovigo GFC in the Adige Cup. The team colours are red and white.
The F1 racing driver Riccardo Patrese (runner-up 1992, 3rd place in 1989 and 1991; held the world record for having started the most Formula One races, beaten by Rubens Barrichello during the 2008 season) was born and lives in Padova; the racing driver Alex Zanardi also lives in Padova.
The Bergamasco brothers were also born in Padova, as well as Bortolami, Marcato and Leonardo Ghiraldini, of the Italian Rugby national team. All of them started their careers in Petrarca Padova.
Well known footballers from Padua were Francesco Toldo, who was born here, and Alessandro Del Piero, who started his professional career in the Calcio Padova.