Padua is a province in the Veneto region of Italy. It is home to some of the masterpieces from the Medieval and Renaissance art and architecture period and the towns of Cittadella and Montagnana are famous for their well-preserved Medieval city walls. There are also many ancient and historic villas in the countryside. The hills offer a relaxing naturalistic site often covered with woods, while the eastern slopes offer ancient spa sites, such as Terme Euganee, Abano Terme, Montegrotto Terme, Galzignano Terme and Battaglia Terme. There is a small part of the Venetian Lagoon lying inside the province, the Valle Millecampi (“one-thousand-fields valley”) that includes naturalistic routes for cycling or horse-riding.
The University of Padua was founded in 1222 and was one of the most prominent universities in early modern Europe. It is among the earliest universities of the world and the second oldest in Italy. In 2010 the university had approximately 65,000 students and in 2013 was ranked “best university” among Italian institutions of higher education with more than 40,000 students.
From the fifteenth to the eighteenth century, the university was renowned for its research, particularly in the areas of medicine, astronomy, philosophy and law. During this time, the university adopted the Latin motto: Universa universis patavina libertas (Paduan Freedom is Universal for Everyone). Nevertheless, the university had a turbulent history, and there was no teaching in 1237–61, 1509–17 and 1848–50.
The Botanical Garden of Padova, established by the university in 1545, was one of the oldest gardens of its kind in the world (after the Hanging Gardens of Babylon). In addition to the garden, the university also manages nine museums, including a History of Physics Museum.
The University began teaching medicine from the day it was founded and played a leading role in the identification and treatment of diseases and ailments, specializing in autopsies and the inner workings of the body. The university houses the oldest surviving permanent anatomical theatre in Europe, dating from 1595.
Since 1595, Padua’s famous anatomical theater drew artists and scientists studying the human body during public dissections. Anatomist Andreas Vesalius held the chair of Surgery and Anatomy and in 1543 published his anatomical discoveries in De Humani Corporis Fabrica. The book triggered great public interest in dissections and caused many other European cities to establish anatomical theatres.
The university became one of the universities of the Kingdom of Italy in 1873 and, ever since, has been one of the most prestigious in the country for its contributions to scientific and scholarly research. In the field of mathematics alone, its professors have included such figures, as Gregorio Ricci Curbastro, Giuseppe Veronese, Francesco Severi and Tullio Levi Civita. On 25 June 1678, Elena Lucrezia Cornaro Piscopia, a Venetian noblewoman and mathematician, became the first woman to be awarded a Doctor of Philosophy degree.
Padua’s cuisine has its simple roots in the vegetable garden, the farmyard and the vineyard, Farmyard products include: the well-known Paduan hen, Polverara hen, goose, guinea-hen and capon.
All varieties of chicory are cultivated in the countryside of Padua and include the Variegated Castelfranco, Early and Late Red Treviso, Red Chioggia or Red Verona varieties, are always present in the cooking proposals of the restaurants of Padua. Their soft and slightly bitter taste is particularly appetising in risotto dishes.
Padua is a producer of both the white and of the green species of asparagus. Boiled eggs and asparagus or risotto with asparagus are part of the springtime cuisine.
Like the rest of the Veneto region, Padua is a land of well-known vineyards. DOC wines are produced in five areas of the province.Wines events and exhibitions are usually organized for spring and autumn.
Since Pre-Roman times olive trees have been cultivated in the Euganean Hills. The Extra Virgin Olive Oil produced in the area is under the protection of the Association of the Regional Park of the Euganean Hills. The color of the oil is typically golden green, obtained by using cold-pressing techniques and bottling after careful decanting without filtering.
Montagnana is renowned for its ham, a tradition rooted in the rural population, called, prosciutto crudo dolce di Montagnana, by the locals. The sweet taste, the tenderness, the pink color and the unmistakable smell guarantee the identity of this product, so much so, that these properties were granted by the Protected Designation of Origin (DOP) seal and are now safeguarded by the Consortium of the Prosciutto Veneto Berico Euganeo, based in Montagnana. On the third Sunday of May, Montagnana organizes Piacere Montagnana, the festival of sweet ham.
In summer Padua produces its excellent cheeses in the northern grazing areas and among them are Grana Padano, Montasio and Asiago.
The cooking traditions of Padua are passed on to the generations that follow with only slight changes to adjust to more modern tastes and likes, while preserving the old recipes.
Tramezzini are very common in Padua. They are stuffed triangular sandwiches made of chewy white bread and usually served with a glass of Prosecco.
- 1 can mushrooms
- 1/4 cup cream cheese
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley
- 1 1/2 teaspoons lemon juice
- Slices of Prosciutto crudo dolce di Montagnana
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 8 slices bread
Remove the crust from the bread.
Chop the mushrooms.
In a bowl, stir together the mushrooms, cream cheese, parsley, lemon juice and pepper until creamy. Spread a layer of mushrooms on each slice of bread.
Top four pieces of bread with some ham. Turn the other four slices upside down on top of the other one. Press and cut diagonally.
Risotto con gli Asparagi
- 5-6 cups homemade or purchased low sodium broth
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons butter, divided
- 1/2 onion, chopped
- 1 lb asparagus
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 cups rice: Carnaroli, Vialone Nano or Arborio
- 1/3 cup dry white wine
- 1/4 cup heavy cream
- 3/4 cup Grana Padano grated cheese, divided
- Freshly ground black pepper
Pour the broth into a pot and heat. Keep at a simmer.
Trim and discard the tough woody stems of the asparagus (usually about an inch). Slice the spears crosswise into 1/4 inch pieces. Leave the tips intact.
Place 1 tablespoon of butter and the extra-virgin olive oil into a heavy-bottomed 5-quart pot.
Add the onions and cook over med-high heat for a couple of minutes, until transparent.
Add the sliced asparagus (reserve the tips for later use) and salt.
Cook, stirring occasionally, for about 8-10 minutes, until the asparagus are soft and slightly golden in color.
Add the rice and “toast”, stirring constantly, for a couple of minutes, until the rice acquires a light golden color.
Add the white wine and stir for one minute, letting it evaporate. Add a couple of ladles of hot broth to the rice and lower the heat to medium. Add the asparagus tips.
Stir every 30 seconds or so. Keep adding broth, ladle by ladle, as soon as the liquid is absorbed, slightly covering the rice each time, until the rice is cooked.
You will need approximately 5 cups of broth, but it depends on the rice variety, so be prepared to add more or less.
Cooking time for the rice will be 14 to 18 minutes, depending on the rice variety used. The final consistency of the risotto should be creamy.
Turn off the heat and add 1 tablespoon of butter, 1/2 cup cheese and heavy cream.
Rest for one minute and serve with freshly ground black pepper and the reserved cheese.
Paduan Chicken Cacciatore
Authentic Chicken Cacciatore doesn’t use tomatoes. It was a traditional Italian dish that hunters could easily make in the field if they needed to cook a meal.
- 1 Padua chicken
- Salt and pepper
- Olive oil
- 1 large onion, sliced
- 3 cloves garlic, crushed
- 20 mushrooms, sliced
- 1/2 cup Prosciutto crudo dolce di Montagnana, diced
- 1 rosemary sprig
- 1 sage branch
- 1 thyme sprig
- Dash red wine vinegar
- Chianti red wine
- Chopped parsley for garnish
Cut the chicken up into smaller pieces.
Season well with salt and pepper.
Brown in a hot skillet with some olive oil. Remove the chicken pieces from the pan and set aside.
Add the onion, garlic and mushrooms to the pan and brown gently. Add the diced prosciutto and place the chicken back in the pan.
Add the herbs and vinegar and allow it to evaporate.
Add enough red wine to cover the chicken. Simmer over low heat until the chicken is tender and falls off the bone.
Serve with either polenta or slices of bread and with steamed or roasted vegetables on the side. Garnish with chopped parsley.