Pavia, Italy Travel Guide

What to See and Do in Pavia

Pavia, Italy

TripSavvy / Christopher Larson

Pavia, Italy, is a university city with fine Romanesque and medieval buildings and an interesting historic center. Founded by the Romans, the city reached its greatness more than 1,300 years ago when it became the capital of much of the Italian peninsula. Pavia is known as the city of 100 towers but only a few remain intact today. It's well worth a visit and is an easy day trip from Milan, as it's 35 km south of Milan in the region of Lombardy. The city sits on the banks of the Ticino River.

Pavia Transportation

Pavia is on the train line from Milan to Genoa. There is bus service from Pavia to Linate Airport and the nearby Certosa di Pavia as well as cities and towns in Lombardy. The train and bus stations are in the west part of town and linked to the historic center by Corso Cavour. It is easy to walk in Pavia's compact center but there is a local bus service, too.

What to See in Pavia

The tourist information office is at via F Filzi, 2. From the train station it's about 500 meters, take a left on via Trieste and right on via F Filzi.

  • The Castello Visconti, at the northern end of the medieval center, was built in 1360 and used as a residence. The castle park once extended 8km to the Certosa di Pavia. Although only two of its four massive towers remain it is still a very impressive castle. The Civic Museum, Museo del Risorgimento, and an art gallery are housed inside the castle.
  • The cathedral or Duomo has the third largest dome in Italy, but it was only completed in the nineteenth century. Both da Vinci and Donato Bramante contributed to the church's design. It has a very impressive interior. In 1989 its bell tower collapsed, killing four people.
  • The Church of San Michele was rebuilt in the Romanesque style in 1090 after the 7th-century church was destroyed by an earthquake. For centuries, the church was the favored coronation venue of northern Italian monarchs, including Charlemagne and Barbarossa. The exterior includes many interesting sculptures symbolizing the battle between good and evil.
  • Pavia once had 100 medieval towers but only a few remain intact today. There is a good cluster in Piazza di Leonardo di Vinci near the University.
  • The University of Pavia started as a school in the ninth century and became a university in 1361. Christopher Columbus and Alessandro Volta are among its graduates.
  • The Certosa di Pavia, 8km north of the city, is an extravagant religious complex. The monastery is one of the most notable buildings from the Italian Renaissance period. For those wishing to stay in the area, the Hotel Italia is near the Certosa and there's a bus stop in front that runs to Pavia and Milan.
  • Festivals: September is a big festival month in Pavia. The Festa del Ticino, the first week of September, is a big city-wide festival with performances, food, and late hours for shopping. The Settembre Pavese Festival then brings 15 days of folklore and concerts.

Pavia Food Specialties

Pavia's food specialties are zuppa pavese and risotto alla certosina, created by the monks of the Certosa di Pavia. In Pavia, as in much of Lombardy, you will find many risotto (rice) dishes, beef, cheeses, and baked goods. Frogs are also commonly eaten in Pavia, especially in the spring when they are gathered from the rice fields.