Padua: Eremitani Church and Museums, Markets, Botanical Gardens, Duomo
April 12, 2022
What can I say about today? I don’t know. Honestly, I don’t know. I started writing this introductory paragraph over lunch, primarily as a placeholder. I’ve already been to the Eremitani Church and museums and a couple of markets in piazzas, as well as a building between the two piazzas. But I can’t say anything about this afternoon as it hasn’t happened yet. What am I, a seer?
Despite intending the preceding paragraph as a placeholder, I’ll probably leave it in. Wordsmiths are starving in sun-Saharan Africa. I hate to see already-written words go to waste.
... [the day continues] …
Okay. I’m done sightseeing for the day. I can add the botanical gardens, the duomo, and duomo-related stuff to the above list. Let’s get on with the narrative now, shall we?
What do you call a three-dimensional rectangle with unequal height, length and width. This is not a trick question. I don’t think I’ve ever known the answer. If the height, width and length are all equal, it’s definitely a cube. But I’m not sure if it’s still accurate to call it a cube if they’re not.
I tried searching on the oracle of all knowledge, Google, but the results were inconsistent. And I couldn’t find a source that looked reliable. My ignorance perpetually plagues me.
What does this have to do with the Eremitani Church? Whatever you call it, that pretty much defines the shape of the Eremitani Church. There’s a bit of a bulge at the front. But not much.
Sparsely adorned with frescos in varying states of decay and restoration and statues, the church is understated, but attractive.
The wood ceiling is pleasing in its rich plainness.
Eremitani Museums, Maybe
There are three Eremitani museums that I know of that were included in the 48-hour ticket that I bought for the Scrovegni Chapel, which I visited yesterday. There may be more, but there’s less English spoken in Padua than in more touristy towns. So, I might be confused and have missed one or two. I went to all three I know about: The Archaeological Museum, the adjacent Pinacoteca (picture gallery), and the Palazzo Zuckermann, which is across the street from the other two.
Actually, I’m not sure the Palazzo Zuckermann is an Eremitani museum. But it was on the same ticket as the Archaeological Museum and the Pinacoteca. And they definitely were listed as Eremitani museums.
Were the situation otherwise, I would have gone to all of the museums and the Chapel on the same day because they’re clustered together. However, the museums don’t open on Mondays. The Scrovegni Chapel does. Today is Tuesday. Too little was open on Mondays to not visit the chapel then. (I think I mentioned the preceding in yesterday’s post, but I forget and I’m too lazy to go back and check. If it is repetitive, consider this paragraphs to be one of those “previously on” recaps they sometimes do on television series. It’s a service I provide at no charge for my regular readers. My irregular readers should contact me for pricing information.)
All descriptive texts in the museum are unilingually Italian. I tried using the camera feature of Google translate. Google did a good job of translating, I think. I say “I think” because, how would I know how good a job it did? If a placard said, in Italian, “The Etruscan period produced many outstanding pieces of decorative, but functional pottery” and Google translated it to, “Here you’ll find crusty bread with delicious icing that functions well to provide sugar-based energy,” I’d just accept Google’s translation as accurate. Google, wouldn’t lie, would it?
But regardless of the quality of the translation, it was problematic. The translated text displayed in an excruciatingly small font. The only way I could enlarge it was to zoom in on the placard. But then only a small portion of the text appeared on my screen. It was way too tedious to read. So I gave up after one panel.
Despite learning little about them because of the language problem, the displays were interesting. They included all of the usual archaeological suspects: pottery, statues, and floor mosaics, as well as inscribed, un-inscribed, and sculpted building stones.
To be clear, the statement above about the lack of English was merely a note, not a complaint. I’m in Italy. The language here is Italian. An Italian visiting Toronto would find almost no Italian signs outside Little Italy. (There’s a large Italian-Canadian population in Toronto.)
I am very conscious of, and self-conscious about, the fact that we anglophones are spoiled by usually being able to get by, if only marginally, in English in most tourist spots anywhere in the world.
Picture Gallery (Pinacoteca)
The Picture Gallery (Pinacoteca) displays, well, er, um pictures. Or paintings to provide a more precise description. Despite being called a picture gallery, there are also some sculptures. Most of the paintings and sculptures are from the Renaissance and pre-Renaissance periods.
In one spot on the museum’s web site it calls this museum the Museum of Medieval and Modern Art. So the museum likely also has more recent art and I just missed it. On the other hand, the medieval period predates the Renaissance, so maybe the museum considers the Renaissance to be modern.
The paintings were nice enough, but nothing to write home about. Writing about them in a travel blog is completely different than writing home about them. But I’m still not going to write much more about them here. As regular readers know, art descriptions, praises, and criticisms are not my thing. Although, I will say that, in addition to being nothing to write home about, they were also nothing to lose your head over. (See the above photo of one of the museum’s paintings.)
The major piece in the museum is a wooden cross decorated in paint by Giotto. If you don’t know who Giotto is, you should go back and read the Scrovegni Chapel section of yesterday’s entry. I mean, really, do I have to do everything for you? I first learned about Giotto yesterday. Now you want me to relive that by recapping it for you here? Not gonna happen. It’s time for me to move on, people.
Giotto’s cross was originally in the Scrovegni Chapel. It sat between the section reserved for the Scrovegni family and the section where the general public worshipped. Sure, Scrovegni built the chapel to repent for the sin of charging the general public rapacious interest charges. But you can’t expect him to sit with them, can you? It’s enough that he built the chapel. Mixing with the riffraff would have been too much for him, I guess.
I imagine that the Palazzo Zuckermann is a palazzo once occupied by someone named Zuckermann, but I couldn’t find any information on that. Then again, I didn’t look very hard. Any eager beavers out there who want to search for it, knock yourselves out.
Today it houses a museum of decorative and applied arts. It displays furniture, clothing, dinnerware, and coins. The Palazzo Zuckermann is very well worth visiting if you’re into that sort of thing. I mean, it takes all kinds. But it’s not my kind of thing. Let’s move on, shall we.
Next, I visited two piazzas that host markets in the morning, the Piazza della Frutta and the Piazza delle Erbe. I read about the markets, so I knew they’d be there.
I used a mapping app with GPS to navigate to the Piazza delle Frutta first. With “frutta” in the name, I expected to find a fruit market. Google Translate tells me that frutta is the Italian word for fruit. I didn’t find a fruit market there. What I found was a market exclusively selling clothing.
I checked my mapping app. The GPS dot said I was smack dab in the middle of the square clearly labelled as Piazza delle Frutta. So I’m 93.52% certain that I was indeed in Piazza delle Frutta. Go figure.
The impressive Palazzo della Ragione is positioned between the Piazza delle Frutta and Piazza della Erbe. It’s ground floor contains another market, this one is also open afternoons. The stalls at Palazzo della Ragione are the domains primarily of meat, fish, and cheese mongers.
I walked through the Palazzo della Ragione to the Piazza delle Erbe. What do you think I found there? An herb market? (“Erbe” in Italian = “Herbs” in English.) Nope. There was a fruit and vegetable market in that piazza.
Padua has a nice little botanical garden. I know this because, as you probably guessed, I went there. It’s run by the Università degli Studi di Padova and it claims to be the world’s oldest university botanical garden.
I can’t verify that claim. Believe it or not, I wasn’t around in 1545 when it was founded. I also don’t know if the claim remains true if you remove “university” from it. Maybe there are older non-university botanical gardens that are still in existence. But it’s hard for me to believe there are.
I wasn’t sure what to expect in the way of blooms in mid-April. There were some, but not a lot. Then again, I think the plants there were mostly non-flowering bushes, shrubs and trees. So there may never be a lot of blossoms.
I don’t say that with a lot of confidence. I’m not a botanist. I can barely distinguish between a tulip and a tilapia. A tilapia is the one that swims, right? So, maybe there were a lot more flowering plants that just haven’t blossomed yet.
The botanical garden has a large greenhouse. It’s divided into five sections, with floor-to-ceiling glass walls between the sections to maintain the appropriate climate in each.
The garden labels the greenhouse sections as tropical, sub-humid tropical, temperate, Mediterranean, and arid. But I couldn’t distinguish a difference in the humidity levels in the topical and sub-humid tropical sections. On the humidity scale they both rose to the “absolutely shvitzing to death” level. So, sub-humid? If either were any more humid it’d be a lake.
Duomo and Related Stuff
I read in a tour book that Padua’s duomo (cathedral) is skippable. True, it lacks a wow factor. There’s nothing that I could see to set it above any other Renaissance cathedral. If, indeed, it is a Renaissance cathedral. What do I know about such things? But calling it skippable probably hurts its self-esteem.
Sure, it’s not as large or grand as the duomos in Milan or Florence, but with a little marketing pizzazz, it could compete honourably with either of them. Maybe the Padua duomo could get a permanent Cirque de Soleil show in there.
I realize it’s probably tough to woo Cirque de Soleil to set up an indefinite run, but I’m sure God can help the duomo with that. If the clergy and parishioners pray hard enough, how could God resist twisting Cirque’s arm to put on a show in one of his houses?
By the way, when I was in the duomo, the all of the crucifixes, large and small, were covered with crimson cloth.
I’m an atheist Jew. This is not a tradition I was familiar with. So I googled it. Apparently, the religion dictates that they cover their crosses during Passiontide, which is the last two weeks of Lent. Who knew?
This Friday is Good Friday, so we must be at Passion High Tide now.
Oh, oh. I hope there’ll be a restaurant open on Friday in Genoa, where I head next. Some people have religion. I have food.
The duomo’s small baptistery was listed as worth a visit, not skippable. Considering I already visited the skippable duomo, I couldn’t very well skip its unskippable baptistery, now could I?
The baptistery’s walls and ceiling are covered with frescos. All of them are, not surprisingly, religion-themed. Wouldn’t it be great if God had revealed the eventual coming of Elvis to some Renaissance and earlier painters? Then we could admire frescos and paintings of Elvis in old churches instead of just Jesus, Jesus, and more Jesus.
There’s also a museum associated with the duomo. When I was there, it had a temporary exhibit about the restoration of the Baptistery, or so the Google Translate camera feature told me.
The museum’s small regular collection includes old paintings and religious artifacts.
By the way, I typed much of this in the hotel bar while drinking an Aperol Spritz. The spritz might explain my typos and poor writing. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. Now I just need to come up with an excuse for my writing when I haven’t been drinking.
But that’s not why I added this aside. While I’m typing this, there’s Christmas music playing in the bar (which is empty other than for me). Today is April 12. Christmas music?! Isn’t there a law against that? If not, there should be.
Maybe they got their holidays mixed up. Easter is coming up soon.