Tuesday, 23 September 2008

coaxed into liking Italy after all.

To steal a Chandler-ism, could Padua BE any different to Venice? There's none of the big famous stuff to see, it's not on the water, it's not 95% beautiful. However, there are also less than a billion tourists, it doesn't smell, the shops sell stuff not rubbish, the food is good, and wait for it, people are actually NICE.

Case in point, the nicest person we came across on our last day in Venice was a lady working at the train station. We actually commented on how nice she was, and she earned this praise by the lofty acts of saying 'thankyou' after we handed over our money, and by smiling professionally as she did it. No more. By contrast, the nicest guy in Padua gave us free plums becuase we only wanted to buy two, not a whole bucket. The rudest person we met in Venice on our last day there bordered on aggression, all becuase I dared to ask if I could exchange a pair of gloves for a more expensive pair. By contrast the rudest person we met in Padua...well...I can't remember one.

Padua is an old city, and it certainly has its pretty bits, but I would not hurry there. However, my top tip for visiting Venice now is to stay in Padua. Sure it'd be cool to wake up next to a canal, but staying in Padua would be a lot cheaper and a LOT pleasanter, and in our case we were staying on the mainland anyway as we literally couldn't find a hotel room actually in Venice proper. The train to Venice from Padua is 20 minutes and they go about every half an hour. It's not rocket surgery, folks.

Anyway, we just visited for the day to get out of horrible Venice. We were deciding between Padua and Verona and in the end chose the former, even though Verona was probably cooler, becuase Padua is closer to Venice, and we figured it would be less touristy which was why we were getting out of Venice in the first place. Heavens to betsy that was a horrible sentence. Sorry. I'm not fixing it though since I've already written it and you've already read it.

We headed straight past Giotto's frescoes (which are apparently the main reason people visit Padua) although we did (literally) stick our heads through the door of the church with the less interesting ones. (The more interesting ones involve a 4 hour wait and an airlock.) We wandered past the old Roman amphitheatre and found ourselves in the city, where a bunch of just graduated medical students were playing the fool.

Padua has some amazing fruit markets which we explored a little, and then headed for lunch in a place the Loney Planet suggested (hurrah!) which had a really delicious bean/pasta soup which I'm going to look up in the big Italian nanna cookbook when I get home. We did a little window shopping and wandered past the Basilica of St Anthony and tried to find the Donatello statue of a cat which proved difficult as it turned out to be a statue of a man on a horse with a name resembling the Italian word for cat. Der. It was nice but very high up and it was a bit sunny to look at properly. We did however find the Piazza in Padua which is the largest in all of Italy - it was really beautiful, with a dual circumference of statues, a moat around the outside and a fountain on the inside. I would've gladly spent the afternoon napping on the lawn there but Ma was not up for that idea unfortunately, and oddly there are no cafes on the square which perhaps I could have coaxed her into. On we went to the botanical gardens which are the oldest in teh world. Unsurprisingly then, they are quite small but laid out really interestingly, having grown from a very formal medical garden. They have a giant palm tree that dates from 1585(!) which inspired Goethe to a poem. After this, we had a little more Grom gelato, thought about braving the post office but decided not to when we saw the line, and then headed back to the train for Venice.

All in all it was one of the underwhelming days that funnily enough seem to be exceedingly the most enjoyable.


Ben said...

The underwhelming days are always the most enjoyable - no expectations, no disappointments. Besides, that market looks amazing. And although that sentence was unwieldy, you had already written it, I had already read it, AND you brought back the phrase 'heavens to betsy'. That more than makes up for anything.

Anonymous said...

Hi Emily :) I just wanted to note that I read your blog far, far more often than I write comments about your adventures, and it occurs to me that it's a little unfair and one way! You put all this effort into writing it, and I get to read it, and find it entertaining (and I really do), and it very often brightens up my day. You are such a good writer, that even when you are finding things decidedly underwhelming, you make them interesting to read about. That's all I wanted to say :) I will like to see you in Adelaide again, if that's where you end up for a while!

m∃ said...

Thanks Cassia - you're very kind. I don't mind knowing exactly who's reading and who's not - in a way sometimes it makes it easier to write with my own voice and not with a particular ear in mind (something I struggle with). But compliments are always welcome! And it is nice to find you've compelled someone else to voice their thoughts or stories, or just that I'm not talking to the wind...

Ben - plenty more nanna phrases where that came from. I sometimes think I'm just 60 years before my time...or after...my favourite drink is also a shandy. Or a pimms.

Heidi said...

I agree with Cassia Em... perhaps you should consider writing for Lonely Planet or something. A very honest and open opinion is sometimes needed in those guidebooks! Padua sounds blissful and interesting away from the touristy-ness of Venice. I particularly like the pic of the ruins... your pics are *very* good. I hope you continue to find bits to delight you... Xxx