|Part of the massive fresco “The Last Judgment”|
Most visitors race from Firenze to Venice without considering a stop at any of the wonderful cities that can easily be visited during this trip. Travelers, unlike tourists, seek experiences that may not be on the top 10 list of a tourist guides. Padua offers a number of experiences that should be added to your travel list even if you only spend a few hours in the city: the city market, restaurants, cafes, churches and a pedestrian shopping street. Padua also has a massive weekly market with products for locals not the tourist market!
Padua city center is a short walk from the train station. The station was a wonderful surprise for a traveler. It includes a full service tourist office, several restaurants and a grocery store in addition to the usual station services.
On a June trip Home to Italy I saw a post on author Susan Van Allen‘s face book page mentioning the new hours/tours available at the Scrovegni Chapel in Padua. Since I was staying only 40 minutes away, I booked a visit.
According to giottodibonone.com, “Italian artist Giotto di Bondone (c. 1267–January 8, 1337), better known simply as Giotto, was an Italian painter and architect from Florence. He is generally considered the first in a line of great artists who contributed to the Italian Renaissance.” Years ago, as an exchange student in Firenze, our class often visited some of his original work when studying the Renaissance artists.
Enrico degli Scrovegni, a banker in Padua in the 1300’s, built the chapel as part of the family palace complex. Scrovegni commissioned Giotto to decorate the interior of the chapel. The theme of fresco cycle is the life of the Virgin Mary.
Taking photos from 5 feet off the ground do not do this amazing array of paintings any justice. And visiting in the afternoon limits the natural light available. note: photos were allowed but NO flash
The colors are far more vibrant and the expressions on the faces in the paintings are very lifelike.
There was far too much to see and appreciate in this short time period.
The chapel walls and ceiling are covered with frescoes created centuries ago, but are as alive with color as if they were in the 1300’s.
VISITING THE CHAPEL
The chapel is one of the buildings in the large green park area. It is set apart from the visitors center/gift shop and the exceptional museum that was included in my ticket. Suggestion: arrive early so you can check in, line up for a mandatory bag checking and review the many tour guides available for purchase.
The chapel is separate from the main buildings, a short walk to the meeting point. BE ON TIME. If you miss your assigned ticket time you will not be admitted. The doors lock to begin the mandatory ‘atmosphere stabilization’ process. There are staff to answer questions but it was not clear what time to line up or where to find the start of the tour.
|The waiting room that is air locked for 15 minutes before your visit|
Each tour group waits in a comfortable room for 15 minutes prior to visiting the chapel. The climate-controlled air locked vault is used to stabilize the temperature between the chapel and the exterior. You do not feel any change in temperature or air pressure while you watch the video presentation. The excellent video with English subtitles is very quick paced giving an overview of the paintings we would see in a few minutes.
My group was only 3 people but we found a large tour group in the chapel who had purchased an ‘extended visit’ of 40 minutes. This was unfortunate because the tour guide was loud and the group reluctant to move away from the paintings so it can be more difficult to peacefully view this incredible site, depending on the group.
Art experts spend decades studying the work of Giotto so my 15 minutes was more of an attempt to see as much before the signal to leave was announced. Wikipedia has a wonderful review of the panels giving me background for the photos I was able to capture.
Visiting the Scrovegni Chapel reminds me of a visit to the Sistine Chapel for the first time: too much to see and absorb in a single visit.
On the lower portion of the side walls you find depictions of the ‘vices’ and ‘virtues’. There is little color in these painting but the vivid message they offer is clear. I particularly enjoyed the woman with the snake in her mouth: envy
I did not allow enough time to visit the amazing museum that is also in this location. It was almost empty and you could have viewed every item up close and without distraction. The manager of the ticket office strongly suggested I at least see the wood cross attributed to Giotto so I race walked through the 2 floors to reach this room.
Equally striking were two carvings outside the exhibit, very arresting:
Viewing some of the museum without any other visitors.
Information on purchasing tickets is available on the online ticket system: http://www.cappelladegliscrovegni.it/index.php/en/
Purchase your tickets in advance. You can pick up the tickets in the ticket office/entrance prior to your entry time.
The addition of evening tours offers a different way to view the chapel. http://www.giottosottolestelle.it/index_EN.html#home
And animated tours with actors re creating the scenes in the paintings, available in Italian. http://www.visiteanimate.it/visite/giotto-sotto-le-stelle
Even a guided tour is available, when booked in advance, according to the web site instructions. Fees and restrictions on the web site.