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GOLDEN DAY TWENTY-NINE: Padua and the Scrovegni Chapel

May 26, 2010

It took me several trips to Venice before I could tear myself away for the half hour train ride to Padua–NOW Padua and the Scrovegni Chapel have become a MUST on the Veneto itinerary. Padua is a jewel of a town, with a splendido open market and restaurants to match, AND The Scrovegni Chapel is at the top of my list as far as Italian masterpieces.

In fact, if you showed me two doors and one was labeled SISTINE, the other SCROVEGNI…I would head for Scrovegni. Michelangelo surely got his inspiration from this chapel that was created centuries before his, by the blessed Giotto. YES the Sistine Chapel is an awe-inspiring massive space, but the emotions that Giotto so elegantly expresses in the Scrovegni chapel, his focus on the Life of Mary (which as you know I’m especially drawn to), and the smaller, more human scale of it, makes this chapel extra appealing. PLUS, the visiting experience is so much more peaceful than being pushed along with those Sistine Chapel crowds.

The moment you walk into the Scrovegni, you’ll be wowed by the intense, heavenly blue star studded ceiling that tops 38-Giotto-masterpiece-frescoes.

To visit the Scrovegni you have to make a reservation in advance, or you could take a chance and just show up and wait a bit, the wait time depending on the season. You are escorted inside with a smallish group  (20 or so), shown a film about the chapel, and then brought into the amazing space and lectured by an Italian art historian for your 15 minute visit. Every element of this place is stunning. And you may want to do a little research before you enter, as none of the frescos are marked, and if you don’t speak Italian you may be in the dark as to the meaning of some of the frescos. They tell the story of the Life of Mary and then of Christ as interpreted by a popular novel of Giotto’s day, titled “The Golden Legend.”

To make a Golden Day out of it, spend time in the Padua market in the Piazza delle Erbe, have lunch nearby at Isola di Caprera (Via Marsilo di Padova 15 049 8760244) and a caffe at the classic Caffe Pedrocchi (Via VIII Febbraio 15).

For tickets to the Scrovegni Chapel, go to

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