Thursday, 11 October, 2018
We had decided that on our way back from Venice, we could go to Padova (Padua). It’s a fairly short commute from Venice and on the route back, anyway.
While doing a bit of research about whether we should choose Padova or Verona, I found out some pretty interesting facts about the city no one really knows all that much about (outside of Italy).
It’s a small city with under a quarter of a million people. Padova claims to be the oldest city in northern Italy (1183) and still has a lot of its medieval walls. Its university was founded in 1222 and had as a lecturer, Galileo. While Verona is the setting for Romeo and Juliet, Padova boasts The Taming of the Shrew. (How much time did Shakespeare spend in this region, or was it just a place name that captured his attention? It’s not known but it’s likely he would never have left England.) Padova hosts the second (after Bologna) univeristy. Founded in 1222, Galileo Galilei was a lecturer there and Copernicus studied medicine (the university was one of the best-known centres of medical education in Europe).
When Padova was liberated from German occupation in 1945, Padova went from being one of the poorest places in Italy to becoming one of the richest and most active in modern Italy. It’s now considered part of the Venetian area, along with Treviso,
We took a train that was just like the Go train in Toronto – a fast and comfortable ride. Padova’s station, for such a small place, is really large with 11 platforms, none of which were quiet. It’s not clear to me why it’s so large but from here you can travel to Nice, Paris, Geneva, Lausanne, Bern, Basel, Zürich, Schaffhausen, Innsbruck, Munich and Vienna. Impressive!
I was a bit surprised that the city looked very modern and commercial as we left the station. I was expecting something more charming. The charming happened as we walked along, though. I confess that I was pretty tired in the few hours we were there. We had walked all around the university area in the morning before leaving Venice, and I was seriously out of energy, with my legs feeling a lot of pain. In fact, if I had been left to sit on a bench for the entire time, I’d not have minded. But I would have missed seeing what I did. I took photos but my heart wasn’t in it as much. I was ready for the couch and Netflix back in Torino.
Tired of disappointing Italian offerings, we spotted a Chinese restaurant on our way to the University. It was packed with Chinese people – likely students? What did we have to lose? We had an extraordinarily botched up conversation with the lackadaisical young server. Three different things were delivered by mistake, including a large beer instead of the green tea we’d asked for. This wasn’t going well!
The university was a lovely old complex of buildings. As we walked through the main one, I thought of John telling me to breathe in the molecules – in this case of Galileo and Copernicus!
From the university we wandered through some very old porticoed streets. I had no idea where we were headed, and was just glad to still be upright – one foot in front of the other at this point.
In many ways, Padova was reminding me of Bologna without all the red! More of a city but still with so many porticoes and students everywhere.
From this quiet area we headed towards the Old Town – the one place I really wanted to see while I was here. But on the way we went past the Palazzo della Ragione (the medieval Palace of Justice) This was one of the things I’d wanted to see and dates from the 13th century. It’s extremely difficult to photograph because it’s really large. With more time and more energy I’d have tried for a panorama but instead…
And right behind this elegant building was the Old Town and Jewish ghetto. At this point I lost the will to do much other than take photos and sit on a step wishing I had more time and new legs. There were places I’d wanted to see but maybe another time and maybe only online. I’d missed the largest piazza in Italy – the Prato della Valle, a 90,000 square meter elliptical square. It’s described ass a large space with a green island at the center , surrounded by a small canal bordered by two rings of statues, 78 in all! Ah well.
And the ghetto was gorgeous, a real contrast to the Venetian one.
And then it was time to head for the station. Another long (or so it seemed to me) journey, all the while thinking I could just board that ‘unique’ tram.
The station was still lively and we grabbed some food at the Despar inside the building. Nothing too elaborate this time – a ham, cheese and tomato foccacia sandwich, some water, and some chocolate. Done.
Much confusion on the train and which platform to use, since as we arrived at the displayed platform, all indications were that the train was travelling only to Milan. it turned out that this was a delayed train with ours following it quite quickly. Relief reigned and we settled in for the journey ‘home.’ And home was what Torino was feeling like.
Lastly, there was a lot of wall art in Padova so I’ll choose some at random, ending with what seemed to be a dominant fish theme. I’d like to come back here and see everything properly. Whether that ever happens, who knows…