Milan attracts a lot of tourists, like the Lake of Como, but not many people know about Pavia. It is around 45 kilometers far from Milan and it deserves a visit. When you are in Italy you can choose among many beautiful places, but if you are in Lombardy I suggest you spend a day in Pavia, a small but really lovely town. A beautiful castle, an important and ancient university building and many other pearls you can see. The connections between Milan and Pavia are quite good, but surely the fastest is by car on the highway. Let’s see together what you can do in a day.
I like a lot the town, but I have been there the last time many years ago. Finally, I had the chance to visit it again, exploring it better. For me, it was like to rediscover it. I want to give you some advice on what you can do in a day in Pavia. If you want to go around the city to explore the main attraction and the less known places, walk. This is the best way to enjoy the town. Around you, there will be a lot of people, especially in the weekend, because locals, also thanks to the presence of the university, like to go out for a walk and a coffee in the center.
A day in Pavia: the castle
As a starting point for your visit, I suggest you choose the castle. Castello Visconteo host the city museum inside rooms with frescoes and it has also a space for temporary exhibitions. They started to build it in 1360 and it wasn’t a fortress, but an entertainment palace, where the Visconti family was spending the “free time” outside Milan. Anyway, you can see the features of a proper castle, ready to protect who live inside from any attacks. From outside and from inside you can easily see the main elements of a typical fortress.
There corner towers, the moat, the drawbridges. It is enough, however, to take a look at the numerous and beautiful windows on the facades and, above all, to go inside to understand that in the castle, rather than defend oneself, people used to party. You can see the structure in my pictures. Taken walking around it and in the park full of beautiful flowers and trees in front of the fortress. This is the first stage of a day in Pavia. If you enter the castle you will remain delighted by the art collections, including the archeology.
A day in Pavia: Piazza della Vittoria
In the heart of the town as a living room appears the Vittoria Square, surrounded by ancient and prestigious buildings that made the history. A day in Pavia requires a stop in one of the cafes of the square. Especially in the warm season, you can seat outside and join the view. In Piazza della Vittoria all the activities were carried out from small businesses to legal proceedings, including capital execution. The building that most stands out is that of the Broletto, which dominates the south side of the square, where meetings were held and justice was administered.
Behind the Broletto the immense dome of the Cathedral appears, where we are now heading. Before entering the church, take a look at the equestrian statue of the Regisole which is right there in front. This is not the original – which was torn down after the French revolution as a symbol of the monarchy – nor does it resemble us, in particular, the little dog holding the horse’s hoof is missing. Your day in Pavia will continue with other nice examples of ancient architecture.
A day in Pavia: the Duomo
In Italy, churches are everywhere, but despite your religion, I suggest you have a look of the Duomo. A day in Pavia will be even too short, but surely this place must be on your list. The Cathedral of Pavia is dedicated to Santo Stefano Martire and Santa Maria Assunta. It rises in the place where, during the Roman period, there was probably a temple dedicated to Cybele that was destroyed to make room for two early Christian churches and thus end pagan worship. These two churches were in turn destroyed to build two Romanesque churches and, finally, in the 1400s the people of Pavia obtained the authorization to also demolish these and start the works of a church that must have been as sumptuous as the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul.
Although it remained unfinished, it can be seen from the facade, the church is decidedly imposing and its octagonal dome in 92-meter high masonry contributes to this (it is one of the largest in Italy in terms of height and width). The interior is also majestic and very bright. I point out the curious wooden pulpit, with the 12 sculpted apostles who support it. If you like this type of architecture, in a day in Pavia you will have the chance to see different churches: Chiesa di San Pietro in Ciel d’Oro, Chiesa di Santa Maria del Carmine, Chiesa di San Teodoro, and Basilica di San Michele Maggiore.
The town has one of the most ancient universities in the world and one of the most prestigious in the country. I don’t want to tell you about the faculties, but about the architecture. Yes, this is the reason why in a day in Pavia this place has to be visited. You can find the building walking on Strada Nuova, where you can see Arnaboldi Dome, an imposing dome in iron and glass, more than 32 meters high.
The University of Pavia, in which characters like Alessandro Volta, Carlo Rubbia, Vincenzo Monti, Carlo Cattaneo have passed – like students or as teachers -, Ugo Foscolo and Carlo Goldoni. The structure is very large and composed of numerous courtyards overlooked by the various rooms. A labyrinth in which it is easy and pleasant to get lost. Crossing the university you arrive at the square. From there you can admire three of the five remaining medieval towers of the city. Many of them are now part of the adjacent buildings. In the centuries, architects incorporated them in the new constructions.
You will spend a good part of your day in Pavia inside the courtyards. This visit will surely satisfy you because of art and architecture. Unfortunately, some parts are not so well kept and they need restoration, but everything is beautiful there. In the fresco present in San Teodoro, there are 36 of towers, including bell towers. Although it seems that there were much more in the city. Their function was a representation. The result of a sort of competition between powerful families and those who had it longer.
The last stage of a day in Pavia Going towards the river. Connecting the two banks of the Ticino is the characteristic Ponte Coperto. It is a bridge with five equal arches, completely covered with two portals at the ends. In the center, there is a small religious chapel. Once you cross the bridge you arrive in Borgo Ticino, the Pavia district on the right bank of the Ticino. In that neighborhood, you can see colorful houses overlooking the river. On the facades, people indicated the levels of past floods.
Stroll along via Milazzo, arriving almost to the end: at number 193 you will find a surprise. Coming from the center, immediately after the bridge is the statue of “La lavandera del Burg“. It is a bronze monument depicting a laundress. In homage to the many women who in past centuries went to wash the clothes of citizens in river Ticino. You will enjoy a day in Pavia. You can also sleep in the town, there are very nice hotels.
There is also a pearl just outside the town, but I will write about it in a proper post. Check all the updates in destinations category of the site.