A compact northern Italian university town with lots of history is an easy day trip or overnight stay.
Padova, or Padua in Italian, is conveniently situated on the train line between Florence and Venice, making it an easy day trip from either city or as a handy stopover. Would one day in Padova be enough time to get a feel for the compact city? We gave it our best shot!
While I don’t tend to recommend one day stops in many towns in Italy, I do have two exceptions. Firstly, it can be a good idea if the stopover breaks up a long journey between two key destinations. We did this when travelling between Cinque Terre and Venice, stopping for an evening and early morning in Pisa. It can also work if the town seems short of attractions (so I don’t want to dedicate more than a day) and it doesn’t fit into the itinerary as a day trip. In this instance, we were flying out of Venice the next morning after coming from Lucca and Florence.
Getting to and from Padova
Arrival into and departure from Padova via the train station also means you’re close to the bus station (it’s directly in front of the train station). Tickets are little over a euro and the bus takes you to and from the city centre. Being on a main train line, there’s easy access to a number of towns in under an hour such as Verona, Venice and Ferrara.
To Venice’s Marco Polo Airport
Getting to Venice’s airport from Padova was pretty seamless once we found the ticket booth for the buses! When leaving the train station, head to the left. With a direct bus ride between Padova and the Marco Polo airport taking a little over a hour, it provided for a laid back final night in Italy.
The bus terminal is next to the train station and tickets are inexpensive. The ride was on time, mostly on the autostrada so limited chances for delays and dropped us off at the departures area of the airport. It makes a stop in Venice, so we were able to get a small glimpse of the Grand Canal. Overall, it couldn’t have been easier.
What to see in Padova
With a number of sites, a full day would be ideal to see the biggies.
Cappella degli Scrovegni
If you look in any guidebook it will tell you the top highlight in Padova is the Cappella degli Scrovegni and its famous interior frescos. Alas, we were visiting from late afternoon to early morning so unfortunately not within the timetable of the church. For this reason alone, it would be worth arriving in Padova earlier in the day to fit it into the itinerary.
Piazza dei Signori
The Piazza dei Signori is unlike any other piazza I could think of in recent memory. We arrived just in time for it to be pack full of people having their aperitivo. The piazza is lined with bars and restaurants, with seating spilling out on the piazza. Visiting on a beautiful day in late May, it was absolutely bumpin’!
Padova is a university town so is full of students at that time of the year. After spending the previous night in Florence and a week in Lucca before that, Padova had an entirely different vibe. I don’t know if it was the lack of tourists or what, but I have serious feels for this Northern Italian town.
Even from the outside, the Padova Cathedral was impressive. If we had more time, we would have gone in for a quick look.
Prato delle Valle
We saved this huge park for an early morning walk. Being a Saturday, it also coincided with a huge market. While we were there before 8am, we didn’t have a chance to shop, but instead watched as the stall owners set up for a big day of trading. It would have been great to stroll through the market later in the morning, but alas, we had to catch a bus to the airport.
Where we ate
With only one day in Padova, (actually only a night!) we didn’t get a chance to try much of what the city has to offer. We also didn’t know where to start looking for a best restaurants. After walking around for a bit too long trying to find the ‘it’ place to eat after starting at the Piazza dei Signori, we ended up in the piazza next door – Piazza della Frutta. We chose Osteria al Peronio as it was the only place that wasn’t going to take longer than a half hour to get a table. I told you it was a busy Friday night! Despite the wait for a table, the food was decent, the drinks cold and the service pleasant. As we were leaving the bars were starting to get busy. I think this would be a great area to bar hop.
Where we stayed
Probably the less I say about this place the better! With only a single night and limited time, I went for cheap over quality when booking a room in Padova. Casa Roma Rooms was our home for the night. The room was on a second level and had a shared bathroom and the person checking us in spoke little English. Despite my use of Italian, the reception was anything but warm! The room was nothing special but it was huge for a triple room, clean and located a few minutes walking distance from Piazza dei Signori. It served its purpose for the night but I wouldn’t rush back for an extended stay!
Overall thoughts on Padova
I don’t know what it was about Padova but I really liked the compact, but atmospheric town centre. It probably helped that it was a Friday night when we visited and the weather the previous two weeks had been average so everyone was out in hoards for the warm weather. It really made me sad to leave Italy as I would have liked to spent another day exploring the piazzas and churches.
With a few grand piazzas, a striking cathedral and the frescoes in the Cappella degli Scrovegni, I would recommend two nights and one full day to see the best of what Padova has to offer. Or even better, make it your base as a jumping off point for day trips to the surrounding area and enjoy Padova’s excellent evening atmosphere.