Everyone who visits Padova will want to see the Giotto frescoes in the Scrovegni Chapel.
The chapel itself is quite plain. It is set in a pretty garden guarded by a statue of Garibaldi.
The frescoes are very popular and the number of people visiting at any one time is strictly controlled (25 at a time). The chapel is temperature controlled to help preserve the frescoes. It is unlikely that you would just be able to turn up and expect to get in on the same day, and you cannot book ahead for the same day.
So, you must book ahead. It says on their website that you can telephone to book a ticket…good luck with that. I phoned and got the recorded message and then was asked to wait for an attendant. The recorded message played several times and then they hung up. I tried several times with the same result.
I decided to book online. First you must join a ticketing service which asks your life history. Once this is done it is possible to book your €13 ticket.
You must pick up said ticket at least one hour in advance. The kindly gentleman at the desk asked if I would like to go in early but 2 bus loads of schools children had just arrived so I declined.
While I was waiting I stepped into a room filled with heavy glass cases containing ancient artefacts. A woman ran at me like a rabid dog, screaming about my handbag. It seems they are not allowed. I apologised and tried to leave the room, but she snapped at my heels all the way to the door screeching all the while. A bit of overkill I thought.
I checked my handbag at the cloak room and waited my turn for the chapel. Finally our group was ushered into the anteroom where we sat for 15 minutes watching a film about the frescoes before we were allowed into the chapel.
Just as well it is worth all the fuss. Banker Enrico Scrovigni built his palazzo amidst the remains of a ancient Roman arena. Beside the palazzo he wanted to build a chapel to save the soul of his father, Reginaldo, the usurer mentioned by Dante in The Divine Comedy.
It is possible that Giotto helped to design the chapel, so as to house a complete fresco cycle. Giotto’s fresco scenes are chapters in a coherent, sequential visual narative on the life of Jesus and man’s journey to salvation.
No photos were allowed and I behaved myself. These are photos of photos.
Be prepared to go through a bit of twaddle to get your 15 minutes with the frescoes, but it is worth the pain. It is almost impossible to believe the frescoes were done in the early 1300s. Of course there have been many restorations, the most recent in 2002, but the fact that they exist is incredible.
On the way out I spotted a sign that said no bags allowed in any of the museums…I still think it was overkill.