What it is and where it is
The heart of it all is the sixteenth-century gate. Thanks to her, Portello street and the opposite bank of the Piovego Canal are united into a single environment. It is no accident, therefore, that the gate's official name, Porta Ognissanti, has been replaced in the minds of all Paduans by the name Porta Portello. The wide street is divided longitudinally: one part is dedicated to traffic, the other, repaved, integrated with fountains and open at the foot of the inner facade of the door, is pedestrian and is configured as an elegant living room and dynamic crossroads of university students.
Why it is special
Passing through the gate we admire its frescoes, look out over the bridge and enjoy the view of the Piovego, the old burchielli dock with its steps that still caresses the canal's waters, and the tree-covered, cool and picturesque Piovego waterfront and naviglio, which little by little takes us to more modern parts of the city. We have, however, left behind the most spectacular part of the whole. We wouldn't want to miss it, would we?
Not to be missed
It must have been the main access for merchants and travelers coming from or going to Venice. That's why the exterior facade of Porta Portello dazzles with the whiteness of the Istrian stone that covers it articulating an elegant decorative architecture. Four pairs of columns rest on volutes emerging from the water. Above the columns, an architrave surmounted by four trachyte cannonballs and a small tympanum supporting the roof and the turret with clock located above it. As if to say: know by now, you are entering an elegant and dynamic city.
A bit of history
During the 1500s, under Venetian rule, the old medieval core of the city of Padua was deemed outdated. The urban settlement had, in fact, expanded beyond its boundaries. Thus it was that the Serenissima promoted the construction of a second city wall, much larger than the original one, served by 7 gates and defended by 19 bastions. Porta Ognissanti was built in 1518 and inaugurated a year later. The most recent interventions to restore the area were between 1993, which saw the staircase re-emerge from the layer of earth that had covered it, and 2014 with the new paving of the street and its pedestrian area.
At the very end of the bridge, there is a small wayside shrine dedicated to Our Lady of the Boatmen. For centuries it has protected sailors on their voyages. It was built in the 18th century, but the cult was active even earlier. Not surprisingly, an effigy of Our Lady is also found on a side wall of the steps leading down to the water.