10 Reasons to Visit the Orto Botanico of Padua
10 Reasons to Visit the Ancient Botanical Gardens of Padua
The Orto Botanico of Padua
At the weekend, I had the beautiful idea to go and visit the Botanical Gardens in the city of Padova, one of the biggest cities in the Veneto Region.
So, on a very hot Sunday morning in June, I set off with a friend to visit one of the most beautiful gardens in Italy and probably of the world!
And here are 10 reasons why you should visit the Orto Botanico of Padova too!
Reason 1: An Ancient Botanical Garden since 1545
First of all, this is the oldest botanical garden in the world.
The Orto Botanico of Padua is the reason why all the other botanical gardens in the world were born. Founded as a medicinal vegetable garden of the city in 1545, it soon became famous worlwide, thanks to its collection of rare flowers and plants and for its beautiful settings.
Beautiful, lush, full of incredibly rare vegetation, a garden of simple medicinal plants, born to enclose exotic and rare plants with special therapeutic qualities.
The Garden was born so that the University Padova‘s students could learn to recognize the “simple herbs” more easily and was immediately surrounded by high walls to protect its “precious” plants, which came from Asia, Africa, and America.
The garden was established by the Senate of the Venetian Republic, also to remedy the great uncertainty about the identification of the plants used in the various therapies; in fact it often happened to make mistakes or run into real fraud with serious damage to health.
Thanks to the creation of a public vegetable garden, students were able to recognize the true medicinal plants with ease and certainty.
With more than 500 years of activity, the Padua garden is the testimony of the fruitful exchange between different cultures and different branches of scientific knowledge.
It is structured as a square, inserted in a circle, divided into quarters, crossed by geometric patterns that change continuously: its very particular structure has remained unchanged for almost half a millennium and is imbued with geographical, astrological and perhaps esoteric meanings.
Every quarter takes its name from the imposing ancient tree that dominates it:
a Ginkgo, a Magnolia, a Tamerice, an Albizia. Outside the quarters, the walk continues between the Mediterranean scrub, the aquatic plant tanks, the alpine rock, the poisonous and medicinal plants, the orange trees, and the orchids greenhouse.
Reason 2: This is a UNESCO World Heritage Site
The Padua Garden, born as a medicinal vegetable garden, has contributed to centuries of medicine and history. Its preciousness, its beauty and the richness of its collection of plants and flowers have made it a rightful entry among the UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Thanks to the adventurous travels of the prefects, but also to the commercial relations of Venice, that went as far as the Far East, the Orto Botanico di Padova was the first receptacle of rare and exotic plants. Thus they appeared in Padua, for the first time in the Old Continent: the sunflower, the potato, the sesame, the agave, the lilac, the freesia and many others.
In 1997 the Botanical Garden was inscribed on the UNESCO list of cultural heritage because: “The Botanical Garden of Padua is the origin of all the botanical gardens of the world and represents the cradle of science, scientific exchanges and understanding of the relationship between nature and culture. “
Reason 3: So many plants never seen before
While maintaining the original structure, the vegetable garden has been enriched over the years with an increasing number of plants coming from every corner of the world: today there are about 6000.
In 2014 a very extensive Biodiversity Garden has been included within the Orto Botanico of Padua.
It is a futuristic structure that houses more than 1,300 species of plants from all over the world, which thrive despite the enormous differences in climate on the planet.
Here the visitor makes a journey through the vegetation of the Earth, inside technologically advanced greenhouses. Inside, the species, that are part of the popularization project, live in environments that recreate the climatic conditions of the different areas of our planet. In these environments the plants also describe their relationship with man consolidated over the centuries, used for: nurturing, healing, building.
A journey into the nature of the whole Earth, enclosed in a single casket.
Reason 4: The greatest poets and scientists were inspired by it
Not everyone knows this: the Garden has inspired the greatest poets and writers of history. First of all, Goethe, who adored Italy, and in the ancient Garden of Padua discovered and described the Palm of Saint Peter. That plant gave him an important insight into the evolution of the plants, and since then everyone calls that species Palm of Goethe.
Reason 5: It inspired all the other gardens in the world!
The Botanical Garden of Padua has inspired and influenced the creation of all the other gardens in the world. The structures, the organization and everything else in gardens worldwide often seem to imitate those of the historic garden of the famous city.
Reason 6: It is an invaluable source for science!
In the past, botany did not exist. In a period of obscurantism, where people lived in beliefs and superstitions, the Garden was born to make things clear in a world of magicians and sorcerers. The study of plants and flowers, their characteristics and properties, was born over time, and needed a place where one could exercise. And so the Botanical Garden of Padua was created.
The plants are placed above all outdoors and marked with labels that bear the scientific name of the species, as well as the initial of the author who first studied it, the family, the place of origin and the year of entry into the garden.
In recent times, a collection of poisonous plants has been set up having above all a didactic purpose and present, on the tag, the degree of toxicity.
Reason 7: People steal the plants all the time!
The Garden is so rich, so full of exceptional flowers, that it is often the victim of theft. So much so, that a real wall was created to protect it.
Reason 8: It is a museum
Since 1835, the Botanical Garden of Padua has also housed one of the most supplied natural libraries in the world. Students go there to study, to read, or even just to browse. The collection of ancient and recent books, manuscripts and herbariums makes it a unique museum in the world.
Reason 9: There is always some new plant!
The Garden is not just a collection of plants and flowers from the past. Every year new plants, new species and new guests come from all over the world. In short, the Italian saying “visto una volta, visto per sempre” does not apply here: “Seen once, seen forever”; in fact, it’s worth going back to it from time to time, if you can, and finding out what’s new.
Reason 10: It divided in 5 different areas
There are 5 botanical areas to choose from, in practice 5 different thematic areas, which divide the plants according to their habitats and provenance.
What are they?
• Mediterranean scrub
• Alpine rockery
• Thermal springs and fresh water
• Succulent plants
• Tropical orchids greenhouse
The botanical garden of Padua is a small Italian masterpiece that is worth visiting at least once in a lifetime. It will take you at least a couple of hours to visit it, make sure to bring water bottles with you, if it is a hot day!
This is marvelous national park, among the most precious of the entire planet, which has an incredible variety of plants and trees of all species.
Do not miss a visit if you are in Padova!
Information and opening hours: Orto Botanico di Padova
Here is a photogallery of the Orto Botanico of Padua
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