I returned to Padua two days after my first trip and this time I was much more prepared for finding the Roman Arena. The route was simply to exit from the train station (with a good map) and head straight up Corso del Popolo. I crossed over Via Trieste and found myself at the river around the old walls of Padua and a bridge that took me over the water to Torrione dell’Arena. There was no tower to see here but I could see the Capella degli Scrovegni (#4 on map on left) in the distance. I presumed wrongly that if I wandered through the Torrione dell’Arena park that this would lead me to the gate leading into the area where the walls of the Roman arena stood. I didn’t manage to find such a gate but I encountered plenty of school children on excursions and lots of volunteers keeping them off the gardens!

I escaped the gardens and made my way back to Corso del Popolo and walked along to the small piazza where the usual statue of Giuseppe Garibaldi (the military hero of the Italian Unification in the 19th century) stood. This statue was made in 1866 by Ambrogio Borghi. It seems a rule that major Italian cities need to have a prominent statue of Garibaldi. When I went to Bologna and I was walking the Via dell’Independenza; there was Garibaldi again, this time seated on his horse.

In order to inspect the Roman Arena, I had to walk up to the Eremitani Church which I had found two days before but had approached it from the other side. I hadn’t known that the museum and the arena were on the other side of this church. For some obscure reason I thought the Roman Arena would have been part of an open public park but discovered that there was an entry fee to be paid inside Museo Eremitani. This turned out be very convenient for me as I also wanted to visit Padua’s archaeology museum and so it was a bonus to get the two structures in the one area. The only problem was that when I went into the museum to buy my ticket, I met up again with all the same school children on excursion to the same places as me!

The image below shows the four buildings that make up this significant site in Padua. I could see the Capella degli Scrovegni over the fence when I approached through the Torrione dell’Arena. This image is an interesting one in that it shows that the Chapel intrudes over the original line of the walls of the Arena. In Feb 6 1300 CE, a wealthy banker Enrico Scrovegni bought the whole area where the Roman arena had once stood. The original amphitheatre had been built in 70 CE for the viewing of gladiator games. Over the Middle Ages the arena was demolished and its stones and marble were used in the construction of other buildings.

Image above courtesy ‘’

There had been a palace built at the back of the future chapel owned by Scrovegni. Apparently the reputation of the pagan games was still part of the living memory of the site and his decision to add a chapel in front of his palazzo next to the old arena was meant to create a new site of Christian rites. Below left is an old painting that has been preserved over the centuries that shows the old Scrovegni Palace and the area where the new chapel was consecrated in 1303.

The reason the Capella degli Scrovegni is so famous is only partly due to it being built over the edge of a Roman Arena. The greatest painter of the time, Giotto, was hired to paint the internal walls of the chapel between 1303-1305CE and one of the information signs near the chapel uses the phrase… “transforming the chapel into a treasure box!” The cross to the left was also executed by Giotto for the Chapel but today it is held in the Eremitani Museum.

I only had time to visit one of either the Chapel or the Museum and on the day, I chose the Museum. This may have been an error as the image below from one of the information signs outside the Chapel shows what I missed of Giotto’s work. Giotto also painted the internal walls of the Cathedral of St Francis of Assisi which I had seen on a visit to that famous town so I had no excuse for what I missed out on.

The excavation of the Roman Arena in modern times occurred between 1880 and the turn of the century. Due to it being used as a source of building materials, there is not a great deal left apart from the load bearing walls and a series of arches. In recent times the arena has undergone a cleaning and restoration process. Excavations have also occurred and floors and foundations have been revealed that have been buried for many centuries. On the lawns that surround the arena today, the neighbouring museum has installed various sculptures for public viewing.

Visitors to the Capella degli Scrovegni purchase tickets for a set length of time in the chapel and then cross the lawns past the sculptures to wait at the door for the start of their visiting period.

The Civic Museums of Padua

There are four different Museums that are housed in the cloisters of the former monastery of the hermit friars…the Archaeological Museum, the Museum of medieval and modern art, the Museum of Applied Arts and the Museum of the Risorgimento.

My main area of interest was the Roman displays in the archaeological museum. After leaving the entry area of the museum, the visitor heads out into the first cloister of the old monastery where there are displays of Roman columns and pedestals that have been discovered from around Padova.

Once you enter the museum rooms there are some wonderful exhibits from the pre-Roman era found in graves dating from the 8th to the 3rd century BCE.

There are also two rooms that display Egyptian artifacts recovered by the Egyptian Explorer Giovanni Battista Belzoni.

The rooms devoted to mosaics and statues recovered from Roman villas are also very interesting.

Given that I had missed the Parco dell Arena on my first visit to Padua, It was with great relief that I strolled around the parklands and the Museum of Archaeology attached to the complex. I was now able to leave Padua with the feeling that I had completed a reasonable coverage of all the wonderful sights that this lovely Veneto city had to offer.

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