Once the station and the imposing Minerva statue have been left behind, one can enter corso Cavour and walk on towards the historic centre of the town.

Keeping one's eyes wide open on the historic and artistic wealth that can be spotted in each street of Pavia is at least as important as getting to where the sought monument stands. Buildings, churces and monuments are woven into an urban pattern that is fascinating, which represents the true beauty of the town. Along the route, squares, quaint views, entrances of buildings, courtyards and special colours appear continously.

Palazzo Bottigella, from the 15th century, has a magnificent decoration on the redbrick facade. Walking along corso Cavour towards the centre, the palace is on the right-hand side, in front of the Law Courts (Palazzo di Giustizia.

Piazza della Vittoria is a long rectangle with porticoes along the two long sides. It is the heart of Pavia and it is situated at the end of Corso Cavour, where the street becomes part of the square itself. On the left-hand side of the piazza, Santa Maria Gualtieri, one of the oldest churches of the town, has recently undergone comprehensive restoration. On the right, the southern side of the piazza is the Broletto, the Town Hall; it dates back to the 12th century but the facade, with its little loggia, is from the 16th.

Piazza del Duomo is connected to Piazza della Vittoria by means of the narrow via Omodeo, at the top of which the Romanesque Civic Tower stood from about 1060 to its collapse on March 17th,1989. The piazza is dominated by the front of the Duomo, which, together with the dome, dates back to the end of the last centytury, whereas the cathedral itself was begun in 1488. It is held that personalities such as Bramante and Leonardo had a hand in the construction of it. The imposing dome is the third largest in Italy (after S.Pietro in Rome and S.Maria del Fiore in Florence). On the opposite side of the piazza are the beautiful porticoes of the Bishop's residence (Vescovado) and the nearby edifices.

S.Teodoro, with its redbrick front (which is typical in Lombardy) was founded in the 8th century and rebuilt in the 12th. The way to this church - which lies almost hidden by other buildings and the tangle of the surrounding streets - is truly charming. One can go downhill from Piazza del Duomo towards the river along via Cossa, reaching via Cardano to keep walking on a little (always keeping an attentive eye on the beautiful medieval edifices). The cobbled street slopes down to the side of the church. Inside is an important fresco (from the 16th century) of Pavia viewed from the river.

The area around Porta Calcinara is at the end of the way that leads down to the river. Just walk down the narrow via Terenzio (starting from the front of S.Teodoro). Turning left at the top of this street, in via Porta Pertusi, in the right-hand side is the so-called Casa degli Eustachi , a private residence from the late Gothic period. Walking straight ahead, on the same street, one reaches the beginning of Strada Nuova, near the river.

The Coverd Bridge , was rebuilt after the Second World War. It is an almost identical copy of the earlier one from the 14th century (remains of the old bridge can still be seen on both river-banks, a little upstream).

Strada Nuova , the most important pedestrian street of the town, was originally one of the two main axes of the Roman castrum from which the plan of the town was rigidly structured. It was "straightened up" in the 14th century by the Visconti family, hence its name "New Street".

Walking up this lively street one arrives at the University , founded in the 14th century (but a tradition in law studies thrived already in the 11th). The building was enlarged in the 18th and 19th century and the facade is from the late 18th century. Inside, several courtyards are shaped as square cloisters but the pattern always offers variations which characterize each single courtyard.

Walking up to the top of Strada Nuova, one comes within sight of the Visconti Castle (14th century) , which dates back to the 14th century. At the time of the Milanese signoria, it was praised as one of the finest residences in Europe, also due to the immense park which lay north, towards Milan. Although the Castle has been seriously damaged throughout the centuries, its size and appearance are still quite impressive. Inside are the City Museums.

S.Pietro in Ciel d'Oro was founded in the 8th century (during the domination of the Longobards) but rebuilt during the 12th. Mentioned by Dante and Petrarca, this church is one of Pavia's treasures and the inside preserves the famous Arca, the marble coffin of Saint Augustine, beautifully sculptured. The church can be reached from Castle walking westward, along viale Matteotti, and turning right into via Liutprando.

The Chiesa del Carmine, from the late 14th century, looks on to the nice square that bears the same name. Walking from viale Matteotti towards the centre, through Piazza Petrarca, it can be reached turning right into via Roma. This church, in redbrick and Gothic style, is the largest in Pavia. Inside, together with many frescoes and paintings there is a special brightness, the quality of the light coming from the wonderful stained-glass windows.

Let us go back towards Strada Nuova walking along via Roma: you will find yourself in front of the main entrance of the University. Entering it and walking straight through you will reach Piazza Leonardo da Vinci, with its three old Towers (they dates back to the 11th century). On the right-hand side is the Assembly Hall; on the left is the old S.Matteo Hospital which is now part of the University.

The Collegio Ghislieri, founded in the 16th century, is one of the most prestigious student residences in Pavia. Walk on from Piazza Leonardo da Vinci and turn left into via D.Sacchi, then right into via C.Goldoni (on the corner is S.Francesco, a church which dates back to the late 13th century). Piazza Collegio Ghislieri is there and the Collegio itself forms one of the long sides of the piazza. Turning from the square into via San Martino, one can see the oldest student residence of Pavia: the Collegio Castiglioni Brugnatelli, at present for girls only, was founded in 1429.

From here one can walk southward, down towards the river, taking any of the streets (they are all quite noteworthy). Once in corso Garibaldi, you will have to turn right, then left again, to find the beautiful church of San Michele , a masterpiece in pure Romanesque style, founded in the 6th century but rebuilt in the 12th. Bright and delicate, the sandstone shows a precious and imaginative symbolic decoration on the exterior, whereas the interior is simple and solemn.

The austere and massive building of Collegio Borromeo is found walking eastward on Corso Garibaldi and turning right into via P.Massacra. This is another most prestigious student residence in Pavia, founded in the 16th century by San Carlo Borromeo.

Once the tour of the town is over, it is worth while to give some time to a walk along the riverside (especialy on a warm late afternoon) and around Borgo Ticino, beyond the Coverd Bridge , where a completely different atmosphere can be found: one of a small rural village. Here too one can walk along the river, lulled by the vague but persisting impression of being somewhere where history seems to have stood still.

One last stop.

Eight kilometres north of Pavia, on the way to Milan, will lead you to the Certosa of Pavia , a masterpiece of the Lombard Renaissance. It was founded by Gian Galeazzo Visconti was meant as a monument and mausoleum for his family. Started in 1396, the building of the monastery complex continued throughout the 15th century but for a few works went on to the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries. The grandeur of the Certosa , which marked the extreme limit of the fabulous Park of the Pavia Castle, seems to have come from this very long lapse of time. But time cannot explain this masterpiece, nor the others. However, before giving rise to questions, these beauties are there to be enjoyed personally by the visitor.

Translation by Silvia Thompson Copyright Torchio de'Ricci 1990, print in Italy

Pagina a cura di Roberto Cecco