According to the legend, Padua was founded in 1185 B.C. by the mythical warrior Antenor, who, having escaped from the fall of Troy, led the allied people of Eneti or Veneti from Paphlagonia (northern Turkey) along Dalmatia to the mouth of the River Brenta. They settled down in the area already inhabited by the Euganei (the surrounding volcanic hills took the name of “Euganean Hills” from them). The Veneti founded the village of Padus (a greek word meaning ‘marsh’) in a land rich in canals and small branches of the two bigger rivers, Brenta and Bacchiglione, which still cross the town. Thanks to this position on the middle of a confluence of communication ways it became soon a big commercial and manufacturing centre, renowned for horse breeding and production of wool.
The University of Padua was founded in 1222. It was a free and “democratic” University, the only in Europe to be ruled by students and to accept Jewish students as well as the first she-student in the world. In fact its motto was and remains “Universa Universis Patavina Libertas”.
In 1545 was founded the Botanical Garden of Padova, the oldest existing university botanical garden in the world. The Senate of the Venetian Republic approved its foundation for the cultivation of medicinal plants. Thanks to its great contribution to the development of many modern scientific disciplines, notably botany, medicine, chemistry, ecology, and pharmacy, it was inscribed in the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1997.
In 1797 Napoleon and its troops occupied Padua but after the Treaty of Campoformio the city was ceded to Austria. Then followed a very unstable period with continuous changes of power between the two invaders until 1815 when it became part of the newly formed Kingdom of Lombard-Veneto, part of the Austrian Empire.
Rising against the Habsburgic invaders, many students, intellectuals and professors of the University of Padua, who used to meet at Caffé Pedrocchi, on 8th February 1848 started a revolt which lasted only a few months but spurred Italian patriots and monarchy to start working to create the Kingdom of Italy and oppose the Austrian Empire. Thus, in 1866 Vittorio Emanuele II entered Padua and annexed it. From the Military Headquarters in town, General La Marmora sent Garibaldi the famous message to leave Tirol, to which Garibaldi replied with the famous one word telegram: “I obey!”
Padua had a very important role to play in World War I, both at the beginning, because the Supreme Command was moved here and at the end, because the armistice between Austria, Germany and Italy was signed on 3 November 1918 at Villa Giusti, on the outskirts of the town.
In the years immediately following the War, the city of Padua developed outside its historical boundaries and its population grew. New buildings were built in the typical fascist architectural style at the place of some Medieval poor houses.
Following Italy’s defeat in the Second World War, Padua became part of the Social Republic. It was bombed several times by Allied aircrafts and one of them destroyed one of the treasures of the Renaissance, the Ovetari Chapel frescoes by Mantegna, in the Eremitani Church.
The Scrovegni Chapel was saved by Paduans who completely covered it with sacks filled up with sand.
After the War, the city followed the rapid development of the Veneto Region, overturning its fame of poorest Region in northern Italy into the richest and most active area characterized by its small family businesses, who became the backbone of the local economy.