We stopped at Padova for a pleasant day-trip, midway on our move from Venice to Verona.
Yes, beautiful Padova. World renowned enough that many coworkers urged me to visit, yet somehow underrated enough not to be overrun by tourists. The walled medieval city still boasts Italy's largest square, its second oldest university, arguably its most influential piece of medieval artwork, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Like most visitors we headed straight for Giotto's 700-year-old masterpiece inside the Scrovegni Chapel. Reservation was an absolute must as visitors were released into a climate controlled chamber every half hour in small groups. Protecting one of the greatest examples of pre-Renaissance artwork was serious business, and photographs are strictly forbidden. The above picture of Roman mosaics was from the Museo Civico next door where we waited for our turn to enter the chapel.
For its relatively compact historic centre, Padova features a large number of unmistakeable landmarks such as the Palazzo della Ragione, one of the largest halls in the world surviving from the Middle Ages. With the PadovaCard in hand (pre-ordered online as we reserved our timeslot at Scrovegni) most of the attractions in town, as well as unlimited use of public transportation, were all covered. This was immensely useful as the tram line connected the train station with every major sight within the city walls.
Sandwiching the Palazzo are the town's two main squares, Piazza della Frutta and Piazza delle Erbe, which turn into open-air markets every morning for vendors of fresh local vegetables, handicrafts and cheap clothing from Eastern Europe.
Underneath Palazzo della Ragione is a medieval arcade of butchers and fishmongers which probably hasn't changed much over the past 700 years. We weren't intent on buying any local produce until we became sidetracked by the display window of a little Salumeria.
Parma, San Daniele or Montagnana: you simply can't go wrong with the selection in a good Prosciutteria. At this point of the journey I still knew nothing of the flavor of top quality Montagnana, and we decided on some Parma instead.
"Un etto per favore!" was the most useful Italian phrase I learned on this trip. This was 100g of mouthwatering goodness for an impromptu picnic at Prato della Valle, arguably the most photographed symbol of Padova.
5 minutes of tram ride and we reached the Prato, a handsome elliptical piazza of greenery encircled by a double ring of statues and a canal filled with carps. We sat down by the water and enjoyed our lovely Prosciutto under the shade, leaving the fierce midday sun to the sunbathing local students in their last week of summer vacation.
Well hidden in the university blocks to the east of Prato is one of Italy's less visited UNESCO World Heritage Sites, the oldest academic botanical garden in the world. To this date the Orto Botanico remains a research facility of the University of Padova and still features a palm tree from the 1500's.
We wrapped up our day-trip with a visit to the 13th Century Basilica di Sant'Antonio and its striking Byzantine domes, then picked up our luggage at the train station for the next leg of our journey. Without a doubt Padova has to be the best day-trip from Venice, above Burano and the lagoon islands in my opinion.
With so many attractions to see in so little time, we grabbed a quick bite from Padova's own indigenous fast food joint, the popular Panineria Dalla Zita at the centre of town just off Piazza della Frutta. Everyone seemed to know about this place, and during our half-hour visit the queue for Panini never stopped.
The entire wall was smothered with square stickies offering more Panini flavors than you could imagine, from Mortadella to Anchovies to Tandoori Chicken. With practically everything priced at 4 Euros or less, choices were tough.
Sandwiches here weren't as incredibly cheap as those at Bacareto Da Lele in Venice, but the toppings were of good quality and even the Piccolo size was rather large. We ordered three in total, including the pictured Porchetta, Lardo and Peperoni combination nicknamed "Steve."
My favorite was the "Popolo e Nobilta" with Mortadella, Crema Tartufo and Pomodoro ... I had to get my daily dose of Mortadella somewhere! Three sandwiches and a couple glasses of the house Friulano (not as good as the bottle served at Bacareto Da Lele, but at 1.5 Euros nobody should complain) later, this filling and authentically Padovani lunch came to 7 Euros per person.
Bill for Two Persons
|Piccolo Panino "Steve"||3.5 Euros|
|Piccolo Panino "Popolo e Nobilta"||3.5 Euros|
|Piccolo Panino "Lappone"||4 Euros|
|Glass of Friulano x 2||3 Euros|
|TOTAL||14 Euros (CAD$19.6)|
Once again the Trenitalia website was wrong (surprise surprise). There IS a luggage deposit inside Padova's train station right beside Binario 1, which is a lifesaver for anyone passing through on a day-trip like ours. At the time of writing the office closes at 18:00 or so, so make sure you check the closing time and return to pick up your bags.