Who are the famous Paduans? One immediately thinks of Giotto, but he was Tuscan; Petrarch, but he spent only the last years of his life at Arquà; Galileo Galilei, again Tuscan, though he did teach at the university from 1592 to 1610; St. Anthony, but he was born in Lisbon. And what about Antenor? Official legend has it that he was a Trojan prince; in fact he was a Magyar soldier. So does Padua have no famous sons, just important people who are associated with it for a range of different reasons?
This is clearly not the case. The city was the birthplace of a remarkable number of people famous in all sorts of fields: Elena Lucrezia Cornaro, the world’s first woman to graduate from university; Livy, the author of Ab urbe condita, a bestseller of 2,000 years ago that comprises 142 separate books; Tiziano Aspetti, the sculptor of St. Anthony’s marble tomb; Giovan Battista Belzoni, a very special sort of archaeologist; Angelo Beolco (better known as ‘Il Ruzante’), a famous sixteenth-century playwright; Alberto Biasi, a contemporary artist; Vincenzo Stefano Breda, nineteenth-century owner of major ironworks; Giuseppe Colombo, holder of the NASA Gold Medal; Jacopo Facciolati, author of the largest Latin dictionary ever produced; Giovanni Eremitani, monk, hydraulic engineer and architect (he designed the Palazzo della Ragione); Guariento, a fourteenth-century artist; Andrea Mantegna, a very important fifteenth-century artist; Ippolito Nievo, a nineteenth-century novelist who also fought as one of Garibaldi’s ‘Thousand’; Andrea Palladio, a sixteenth-century architect whose influence has been felt throughout the world; Pietro d’Abano, a controversial fourteenth-century philosopher and alchemist; Alberto Terrani, an actor; Alessandro Varotari, a seventeenth-century painter known as ‘Il Padovanino’.
This is just a part of the list of the famous figures to whom Padua can lay claim.