March 23, 2014, Lombardia, News, Notes, Pavia, Tourist Attractions & Destinations

What to do in Pavia

That Pavia 35 km south of Milan has not yet been swallowed by its cosmopolitan neighbour is a bit of wonder.  But Pavia, which for a brief period of a hundred years was the capital of the Lombard Kingdom, has retained a strong identity of its own. Here are our suggestions of what to do in Pavia.

Maybe it was the autumn colours, but at first sight the landscape around Pavia looked like a 17th century Dutch painting. Flat and wet with a grey mist rising over the plains and among the sparse naked trees. The city itself was also rather anonymous with broad boulevards and predominantly modern housing, but we decided to give it a try and stayed overnight at a hotel near the station.

Pavia is home to an ancient University, and it is supposed to possess ‘a vast amount of artistic and cultural treasures’, so there was something to discover.

What to do in Pavia

Important churches and museums
Pavia’s main sights include no less than 7 important churches, but like many other travelers in Italy we had reached the point, where the idea of visiting another church becomes slightly sickening. Sometimes the architectural, historical and artistic riches of the country seem intolerable, and I for one need to sit by a lake side and feed ducks or go window shopping in chain store to revive my sense of adventure.

In other words – we did not enter any of the churches and therefore missed the relics of S. Augustine of Hippo that have been traded to a crypt in S. Pietro in Ciel d’Oro. As the patron saint of brewers, printers, theologians and sore eyes, he is quite a cult figure due to his conversion from a former life of loose living, which according to Catholic Online included parties, entertainment, and worldly ambitions.

We did get to see most of the churches from the outside though, and they were predominantly red brick.

Walking the pilgrim route
It was easier to compensate for the unholy mood by following the pilgrim route. The original Via Francigena was designed as a secure passage way from the Kingdom of Pavia to Rome. Later it was extended to Cantebury in England, and it became one of Europe’s main pilgrim routes, and as such it has experienced a recent surge in popularity. It still goes straight through the main shopping streets of Pavia, making is quite easy to combine spiritual experiences with more worldly pleasures.

What to do in Pavia

Hang around the covered bridge
Signs to Via Francigena can be seen all around the unusual covered bridge in the centre of the city, and the bridge itself is an interesting place to hang around. Pavia is located where the Po and the Ticino rivers meet, and the bridge has been there since Roman times. The current Ponte Coperto was built after the previous bridge had been demolished during WWII, and like its predecessor it holds a small chapel in the centre. A structure, that was cherished by Albert Einstein who spent a year in Pavia and is commemorated with a quote on the bridge.

What to do in Pavia

Ingenious shopping
Being close to Milan you would have thought that some of the fashion shops had rubbed off on Pavia, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. There are the usual chain stores you can find in any city all over Europe and also a few specialty shops selling Christmas decorations or artisan beer. It was the pastry shops, however, that really made me drool.

What to do in Pavia

Statues with a twist
The last thing I noticed about Pavia was their statues. In front of the cathedral there’s a looted antique equestrian monument called Regisole, which is ritually vandalized with yellow paint once a year, as a sure sign of a student fraternity and their sense of humour.

A strong Minerva with the traditional spear, shield and helmet stands as a policeman guiding the traffic in a busy roundabout. This Roman goddess of wisdom, art, trade and defense is considered a symbol of the city, along with another important female statue ie. the Lavendaia sul Ticino who keeps washing clothes in the river in the traditional fashion.

Finally there is the national monument dedicated to the city by the Cairoli family. The 7 brother in the family were all deeply involved in the Risorgimento and the unity of Italy, three of them formed part of Garibaldi’s Spedizione dei Mille and four died in battle as the sculpture vividly illustrates.

In other words, there are plenty of adventures and discoveries to be made in Pavia. Even when you seek to avoid the so-called main sights.

More on what to do in Pavia

The Charterhouse of Pavia

The gothic cathedral of Milan

Milan for men

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15 Comments

March 23, 2014 12:06 pm

What to do in Pavia | Italia Mia | Scoop.it

[…] That Pavia 35 km south of Milan has not yet been swallowed by its cosmopolitan neighbour is a bit of wonder. But Pavia, which for a brief period of a hundred years was the capital of the Lombard Kingdom, has retained a strong identity of its own. Here are our suggestions of what to do in Pavia.  […]

March 23, 2014 6:39 pm

Sophie

Reminded me a bit about the Danube that first photo…

Glad to know there are interesting alternatives to busy Milan, and so near.

March 24 2014 20:31 pm

admin

You must have seen other parts of Danube than the ones I've visited. (Shouldn't be too difficult btw)

March 24, 2014 7:43 am

Muza-chan

Beautiful city…

March 24 2014 20:32 pm

admin

Thank you.

March 25, 2014 4:37 pm

Leigh

I’m okay with finding nothing but pastry shops. That’s the beauty of walking around a city is you can indulge without feeling guilty.

March 28 2014 16:55 pm

admin

Yes. As long as you're satisfied with window shopping.

March 26, 2014 6:02 am

Mike

This may sound corny to you but with the travel bloggers I follow (yourself included) I love to pull up Bing Maps and find the places in your post on the satellite map as I just did with Pavia. I can see everything is sooooo greeen around the city. And I see there is a street with Lodi in the name – the same name of my home town from childhood! I’m soooo like you in that I will seek quiet and tranquility by a lake or river and feed ducks or just take in the view and breath in and out slowly :)

March 28 2014 17:01 pm

admin

It doesn't sound at all corny to me Mike. In fact I've just looked up Reno and Lodi in the US to see where abouts you do your writing.

March 26, 2014 5:18 pm

Agata

Pavia is an amazing place! And so easily reached from Milan by train. And there is also Certosa di Pavia nearby – a pearl of sacral architecture! So beautiful! I had a guided tour twice and loved it every time! THX for reminding me about this special place!

March 28 2014 17:02 pm

admin

My pleasure:)

March 30, 2014 10:23 pm

Mary @ Green Global Travel

Looks like a very interesting city. Very beautiful. Thank for sharing.

April 02 2014 18:24 pm

admin

I think it is lovely.

March 31, 2014 7:52 am

Mary {The World Is A Book}

I’ve never heard of Pavia before but what an interesting city. I’m glad t has retained some of its old world charm and small town feel. It looks beautiful You had me at pastry shops too :)

April 02 2014 18:26 pm

admin

Yes. A sugared window display can really make me stick.

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