Daytrip to Real Italy
Trip Start May 20, 2009
15Trip End Jun 04, 2009
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The other big attraction in Padova is the University, the second oldest university in Europe founded in 1222. (Bologna is oldest). Famous names from the University include Galileo and Copernicus. We toured a large room that Galileo essentially took over from the Law School and to teach his math classes. Imagine math kicking out law today! We also viewed the first anatomy theater in the world where medieval medical students would pack into the vertical balconies to view human autopsies. The Catholic church banned autopsies due to conflicts between the body and soul, but medical faculty and students would sneak in stolen corpses from cemeteries and bring them upriver to a side channel that passed underneath the anatomy theater. The corpse could then be raised into the theater from the stream below escaping any detection. Two students would stand guard outside the anatomy theater and would signal those inside if Church authorities were coming. The corpse could then be dumped into the stream below and replaced with an animal carcas instead. Many important medical discoveries were made by the Padova medical faculty. The University was an early center of learning in Europe as students from all over Europe came to study. The motto and practice of the University was open mindedness and tolerance of new ideas. This is what attracted many bright minds around Europe who were considered outcasts in their societies. I could still feel this attitude of tolerance in Padova as the atmosphere was definitely college town with lots of arts, music, cheap eats, attractive Italian co-eds, and no weird looks at the only Asian faces in town!
The final big attraction of Padova is the Basilica of Saint Anthony (San Antonio). St. Anthony is revered in the Catholic world as a saint of the people who worked tirelessly for the poor and also is viewed as a miracle worker. The basilica is gigantic with huge domes that apparently were the inspiration for the Blue Mosque in Istanbul. The basilica is a major pilgrammage site for Catholics around the world as they thank St. Anthony for any miracles like surviving a car crash or a sick child being healed. The area around St. Anthony's tomb is covered with photos of those who experienced miracles as well as messages of thanks. There are also holy relics of St. Anthony like his tongue, jawbone, robe. To many of us non-Catholics, ewwwwww. But holy relics were items of power in the old days and made your city important if you cathedral had them.
It was very refreshing to escape the relentless crowds of Venice for a day and see an Italian city without major tourism. Also helped that showers came to cool the temperatures down to the 70's. We returned to find an almost empty Venice. The rain showers apparently chased most people out of town. Supposed to be sunny and high 70's again, so it will be ideal for our last day of sightseeing in Venice.