#17: La Specola
I wrote this note on my iPhone a few months ago:
“Photo project idea. next time I’m in Padua, take a photo of the view of La Specola from each bridge.”
That’s exactly what I did during my short stay there. If only I had more time to work on it, like, say, 14 years, but it’s fine. I’m a late bloomer.
La Specola is a 14th-century tower, formerly part of a medieval castle that was later converted into an astronomical observatory. Now it’s a museum that I first visited on a school trip. A teacher told us Galileo Galilei made some of his astronomical discoveries from up there. I held this belief, and shared it with everyone, up until I researched the fact for this newsletter. Galileo never visited the observatory, as it wasn’t implemented until 1767, some 150 years after he left Padua for Florence. Another shattered myth.
Bridges are one of my favourite things about Padua. Well, that and the river. Let’s start from the farthest one from the tower - Ponte San Benedetto.
Beautiful! On the left, you can see Chiosco Tadi, a cosy place for a spritz. On the right, there’s a catholic school that didn’t want me. Here’s the view on the opposite side of the bridge:
The next bridge is Ponte dei Tadi.
Getting closer to La Specola, but look at the greenery! To my right, there’s a shop called “Fortuna” (Luck) written upside down. I never knew what they sell, but now I have to research it. They’re architects. Remember, I lived in Padua for 14 years.
Further down to my left there’s a “hospital” for plants and flowers. You bring your dying plant and the owner tries to bring it back to life, for free. I took a photo of the place in 2016. One day I saw it printed and attached to the window. It was quite something. Unfortunately, I just learned the owner passed away in January.
Next up is Ponte San Giovanni delle Navi.
To the right, there’s Casa della Dogana, a Romanesque building I got to stay in just before leaving Padua two years ago. Here’s an amazing view from the bedroom window.
And now, Ponte Sant’Agostino. The river makes a lot of noise here.
A short walk alongside Riviera Paleocapa and we get to the final destination. La Specola in all its glory, seen from Ponte Paleocapa.
For years, I would be walking by this bridge and see an artist that was always painting the same view — you guessed it, La Specola. He once asked me what perfume I was wearing.
Another quick Google search led me to this interview. His name is Nelu Pascu, he moved to Padua in 1996 and is originally from Romania.
“I didn’t choose this place, it was the place that chose me. When I was younger, I roamed through all of Padua, from Stanga to Bassanello. I painted all the bridges, painted all the churches. With time, little by little, you stop by one place.”
Wow. This sounds so much like my experience. How did this simple photo project idea turn so emotional? I have to buy one of Nelu’s paintings. Well, maybe not right now.
“What if the Earth was a gallery space, and art dropped down from the sky?”
A bunch of links:
Everything is Emo, a playlist created by Hayley Williams. She tells a short personal story for each song. While I was listening to the playlist it hit me: I’m an emo photographer.
JPEG2000 is my new favourite podcast covering web3, art, and internet culture.
I say this mostly as a reminder to myself, but please be curious about the place you live in before you have to leave it.
Taking photos in Padua, which I know like the back of my hand, was a stark contrast to the way I feel in Sheffield. Still a stranger. There's more walking to do.