Ancient Padua (Padova) was a wealthy center of commerce, but centuries of barbarian attacks and natural disasters left few of her architectural treasures intact. Padua is an old university town with an illustrious academic history. Luminaries such as Dante, Petrarch, Galileo, Copernicus, Mantegna, Giotto, and Donatello have contributed to the city's reputation as a center of learning. Padua's university, founded in 1222 and second in seniority to Bologna's, brings an air of liberal individualism to the city's statue-lined piazza.
Padua ranks with Florence and Bologna as one of the main Italian centers of learning. The 12th-14th centuries represented a vigorous period in the city's history, typified by the building of basilicas and the expansion of the university.
The locals are proud of their city as the last resting place of St. Anthony of Padua. Honored with a seven-domed basilica that closely resembles a mosque, the Basilica di Sant' Antonio is one of the most popular pilgrimage destinations in Italy.
Not to be missed is the magnificent Scrovegni Chapel ( Cappella degli Scrovegni ), north of the city center, which is famous for Giotto's lyrical frescoes. Close to the train station, it forms part of the complex incorporating the Eremitani church and museums.