Padua can also claim full rights to being a “water city”. Legend has it, in fact, that it was founded by Antenor within a double bend of the river Medoacus (which in time became known as the Brenta). Thus it occupied a good site for trade; the ready access to river water was also essential for the rites of purification associated with its necropolis.
A key date in the history of the ancient foundation was 302 B.C.: in that year, Livy tells us, the Spartan general Cleonymus was defeated by the ancient Veneti in a battle on the banks of the Medoacus.
Later, the most important river for the settlement was the Bacchiglione, with Padua and Vicenza long at daggers drawn over control of this watercourse. And when under threat Padua enjoyed a special advantage: the presence of not just one river but a series of rivers provided the city with a natural system of defence – which is why the first city walls here were not built until the twelfth century.
In more recent times, the city’s waterways had less glorious associations – for example, the rampant malaria and frequent flooding of the nineteenth century. The city’s oldest inhabitants still remember the covering over of so many of the watercourses that ran through the city during the mid-1950s. But there is still the remarkable oasis of peace at the foot of the Specola tower – a place that for years has been a canvas upon which nature has worked its spontaneous magic.
So, you are spoilt for choice: one route through the city, one which follows the course of the Riviera del Brenta, and another that runs along the Riviera Euganea. All three itineraries enable you to enjoy the best of Padua and its surroundings.
The first takes in the main section of the Bacchiglione and the Naviglio Interno [Inner-city canal] in the stretch between Porta Portello and Porte Contarine.
The second takes you along a part of the river Brenta that is lined by Veneto Villas: Villa Pisani and Dolo are a necessary stopping-points here.
The third runs in a straight course of 17 kilometres along the age-old Battaglia Canal. This gives you a chance to see other villas and to visit the spa resorts of Abano, Galzignano and Battaglia (where there is a fine Shipping Museum). All in all, three ways of combining an enjoyment of landscape with exploration of the area’s cultural heritage.