On a visit to Padova it is impossible to avoid the magnificent medieval market hall, the Palazzo Della Ragioni, which is a huge building that dominates the centre of the city and separates the two sections of the daily market. At ground level there are food stall, butchers, bakers, fishmongers and purveyors of dairy produce and the assault on the senses from the competing cacophony of sights and smells was wonderful, eye-popping and a true sensory symphony.
It was here that I decided that the next time I visit Italy, or France or Spain or anywhere else for that matter, I will find some self catering accommodation so that I can enjoy shopping in places like this, selecting the ingredients for myself, cooking simple food and eating and enjoying my own interpretation of local recipes.
It was with some difficulty that we located the entrance to the upper floors but after circumnavigating the building we found the steps and paid the modest entrance fee. The two-story loggia-lined “Palace of Reason” is topped with a distinctive sloped wooden roof that resembles the upturned hull of a ship and is said to be the largest of its kind in the world. It was built in 1219 as the seat of the Parliament of Padua and was used as an assembly hall, courthouse, and administrative centre to celebrate Padua’s independence as a republican city.
The magnificent hall is eighty-one metres long and is considered to be a masterpiece of civil medieval architecture and today is a must-visit site for both its floor-to-ceiling fifteenth century frescoes that are similar in style and astrological theme to those that had been painted by Giotto in the nearby Scrovegni Chapel and a wooden sculpture of a horse attributed to Donatello which is massive but simply dwarfed by the interior scale of the building.
I stayed in Padova in preference to nearby Venice, it is a lot cheaper, not nearly so crowded and has a fast and reliable train service to its more famous neighbour.
If you are thinking of going to Venice then I recommend doing the same.