A quick day trip from Venice to Padova (what you and I might call Padua.) It was a kind of a mini-reverence to Kenneth Clark, he of the wonderfully idiosyncractic Civilisation series from the 1960s, in which he had raved about the significance of Giotto’s frescoe series in the Scrovegni chapel.
Magnificent, yes. Startling really. A good-sized chapel completely imagined by one artist in just two years (1303 to 1305). You only get 20 minutes inside as they try to protect the building, which is barely enough time to follow the story around the panels. You come out exhausted from holding your breath.
That was the thing I had come to Padua for, and the rest of the day was in the hands of LittleDavyOne and a map. And what a charming city Padua turned out to be. A Saturday full of Italians out for their stroll to see and be seen; the Baptistery of the Cathedral empty except for us; a parade of military brass band with men wearing what looked like pigeons on their hats; and the stupendously unexpected Palazzo della Ragione.
It’s a football field long and wide, with a perfect barrelled wooden ceiling. (And if they could do this in the 13th century, how come we couldn’t do a decent stadium in Auckland for 2007?) In its day it was where all the legal stuff happened; an open-plan work space for clerks and lawyers and judges and litigants and defendants to mill around and dispute. In Italian.
It must have been a ball. It still is.