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Report 1968: A Month in Venice

By BJinNM from New Mexico, Fall 2011

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Page 17 of 28: October 20, 2011 Padua, at Last!

photo by BJ Firestone

Hot chocolate at Caffe Pedrocchi

Ah, finally in Padua after our "little" train adventure. We got our Padua cards (a great deal by the way in case anyone is thinking about them), got the Tram and found our hotel with only a few missteps. We were staying overnight at the Belludi 37, a small hotel directly across from St. Anthony's Basilica. The staff there was wonderful, very helpful, and very gracious. We were offered a free upgrade but that room was not ready yet, so we took the assigned one. It was great so we were not sorry.

We left the hotel, walked a short way and had lunch at Ristorante Pizzaria Pago Pago. We split a tuna carpaccio and then split a pizza biancha topped with capers, olives and anchovies. For the sake of being healthy, we split an insalata mista and then a dessert. I had been staring directly at the desserts all during lunch and so had to have the copetta de mascarpone.

It had started to rain so we went back to the hotel and got the umbrellas and went for a walk in the Orto Botanico which is the oldest botanical garden in Europe. There is a palm tree that dates from 1585 still growing there. After walking through it we caught the tram up to the Eremitani Museums where the Scrovegni Chapel is located. We had a couple of hours to explore the museums before our entry time into the Chapel. There are archaeological exhibits of everything from Egyptian relics to Etruscan relics to Roman ones and into more modern times. We enjoyed the museums which were almost empty of people; but, because of our earlier adventure, we each kept thinking we were going to be locked in!

There is a very elaborate multimedia room about the Scrovegni Chapel and after going through that, we walked over to the outside of the Chapel and waited in the pouring rain to be admitted. First you sit in an outer room for 15 minutes to acclimatize and let any dust settle and then you are admitted to the Chapel. Scrovegni built the Chapel in order to try to keep his father and himself from Purgatory and Hell since they were moneylenders. I guess one day he gets in touch with Giotto and says "Hey, I've got all this empty wall space in this new chapel I just built, can you help me fill it up?" Giotto agreed and the result is breath-taking. I had been told by the folks on SlowTrav that we could schedule a double period if we went in the evening so we had 40 minutes to see it instead of the usual 20. Alan and I were the only people in there for the first 20 minutes and then two more people joined us. An empty Scrovegni Chapel with lots of time to study it made up for any trouble we had had with the trains. Stunning!

After our allotted time we went back to the museums where we met Alan's friend Benedetto. He was one of the people Alan played music with last week and is a native of Padua and teaches math at the University. He walked us all around the University area and through the Piazza area. We stopped at an unnamed bar and had a light dinner. Again we had pizza with anchovies. Anchovies on pizza twice in one day is my idea of Heaven but I had to laugh at the waiter who would not call them anchovies but insisted they were "little fish from the South." Perhaps anchovies are not an American favorite so he was trying to cover them up.

Benedetto gave us a wonderful overview of Padua and we thank him so much.

The next day we decided we would go to the Basilica of St. Anthony of Padua in the morning and then pick up our bag and go over to the University in the afternoon and tour the Medical School. The basilica is a huge complex with lovely gardens in the cloister area, a museum, a multimedia demonstration of the life and works of St. Anthony and several gift shops. When we had gone through all of this (except the gift shops, we are not really shoppers), we went into the magnificent basilica. It was crowded with pilgrims and worshipers and was vast, ornate, and gorgeous. I don't know how to better describe it and no pictures are allowed, so you will have to use your imagination.

We stopped by the hotel to pick up our bag and were told that the University tour was not given on Thursday afternoon. Oh no, this was a disappointment since the University of Padua was one of the premier medical schools of the Renaissance and Alan was really looking forward to seeing it. A real reason to return to Padua.

We walked over to the Prato della Valle, which is the largest public square in Italy. It is surrounding by churches and palazzi. We stopped for lunch at Trattoria Al Prato. There is an enclosed outside dining area right on the square with a wonderful view. We split an appetizer of sliced pork underbelly and little puffy things that were like mini-sopapillas. It was supposed to have fresh figs but they are out of season. Then I had taglierini with shrimp and wild fennel and Alan had loin of rabbit with pork chops and greens. We again, to be healthy, split a salad, and then had a pear tart for dessert.

We then walked over to the "three squares" area near the University, walked around there, visited the Palazzo della Ragione where Giotto had done the wall paintings. That burned down so now the walls are covered with other murals by Miretto. We continued through the three piazzas to Caffe Pedrocchi. This cafe was established 1831 and has been in business since then. Although extremely expensive, we sat at a table and each had a cup of their famous hot chocolate. Nice on a rainy afternoon. We then caught the tram to the railway station, got on the correct train, first making sure other people were getting on it also, and got home by 7pm, still too full from lunch to eat dinner. It was a rice krispies sort of night for us.

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