This is the one uncontested must-see during your stay in Padua, so be prepared for lengthy lines in high season, a wait made even longer by the small numbers of controlled groups (25 people maximum) allowed to enter the chapel at any one time. Scandalously brief 15-minute visits are the limit imposed during peak periods; check when buying your ticket so you can plan accordingly. Another 15 minutes are spent in a separate room beforehand, watching a mandatory but decent documentary on the frescoes, in order to give the air temperature in the chapel a chance to stabilize in between visits. Art lovers armed with binoculars behold the scene in awe -- the recently renovated cycle of vibrant frescoes by Giotto that revolutionized 14th-century painting is considered among the most important art leading up to the Renaissance. While some experts have questioned whether the famed frescoes in Assisi are entirely by Giotto, here there is no equivocation: These are the master's works. Cobalt blue is the dominant color; the illustrations are in that typical easy-to-understand medieval comic-strip format, but here they take on an unprecedented degree of realism and emotion.
This cycle is even larger, more complete, and better preserved than the famed St. Francis frescoes in Assisi. Giotto worked from 1303 to 1306 to completely cover the ceiling and walls with 38 scenes illustrating the lives of the Virgin and of Christ from floor to ceiling. With your back to the front door, the three bands that cover the walls are: top right, Life of Joachim; top left, Life of the Virgin; right center, The Childhood of Christ; left center, Christ's Public Life; right bottom, The Passion of Christ (the third panel of Judas kissing Christ is the best known of the entire cycle); left bottom, Christ's Death and Resurrection. Above the entrance is the fresco of the Last Judgment: Christ, as judge, sits in the center, surrounded by the angels and apostles. Below him, to the right, are the blessed, while to the left, Giotto created a terrible hell in which devils and humans are condemned to eternal punishment.
Note: Each online reservation -- even for holders of the PadovaCard, which allows for free admission -- incurs a 1€ reservation fee. If you want to be assured that you will have more time in the chapel, consider visiting between 7 and 9:30pm on the 11€ "Double Turn" ticket, which allows you 30 minutes in the chapel.