It was a bright sunny Sunday in
Vicenza as we headed to Padova. It was a 5-minute walk to
the train station, a 16-minute ride to Padova and a 15-minute
walk from the train station to the Hotel Plaza, Corso
Milano 40. This hotel is located on the northern end of
the city center in a boring modern part of the city. It
turned out to be a charm less business hotel with an
indifferent staff and ratty blankets. Our goal for the
day was to find a suitable replacement.
After depositing our luggage we
headed east to La Cova, Via P.F. Calvi 20 - Piazza Cavour, for a
late lunch. This popular contemporary ristorante-pizzeria
was quite busy; luckily there was an available table for
two. We shared an insalata Greca and a pizza with
mozzarella, rucola and grana. The crust and tomato sauce
were very good. Folks around us were having real food
which all looked and smelled quite wonderful. Our caffè
macchiati were served with excellent home made biscuits.
It's a fun place with good food and moderate prices.
We chatted with an artist seated at
the next table who told us about the Boldini exhibit at
the Pallazzo Zabarella, via Zabarella 14. She had seen it
prior to lunch and said it was spectacular and not to be
Via Zabarella was nearby and it was
a short walk to the Pallazzo Zabarella Museum. Giovanni
Boldini was one of the most important Italian painters of
La Belle Époque. The collection consisted of 120 pieces
from major museums around the world and will be on
display until May 29, 2005. We joined the throngs of
viewers enraptured by these marvelous works - portraits,
cityscapes, horses, ranging from intricate detail to free-flowing,
all with brilliant use of color. Boldini was a remarkable
strolled thru the three Piazzas - Signori, della Frutta
and della Erbe - that comprise the heart of the old city.
Leaving della Erbe to the south we entered the old Ghetto
district where we found a haven of old-world warmth and
charm. Arched porticos line the narrow stone streets of
homes and businesses. In the restoration, old columns
were used to maintain the ancient architectural plan. It
is a fairly good size area which was originally
designated by four doorways that were locked at night to
confine the inhabitants. The Ghetto was home to 3
Synagogues, one is still active.
Today the neighborhood is alive
with wonderful shops, bakeries, cafes and restaurants. In
the early evening university students congregate for the
ritual operal, white wine and ginger ale, a specialty of
Padova. Its a lively area, well-kept, where the
ongoing renovations are preserving the historical
In the middle of all this was Hotel
Majestic Toscanelli, on Via dell'Arco 2, an attractive
yellow building with potted trees and shrubs adorning its
canopied entry. We knew right away it was meant to be.
The eclectic array of period furnishings, marble floors
and area rugs in the lobby reflect the 18th century
origins of the building; charm and coziness, just what we
were seeking. This family-run hotel in a traffic-free
zone in the center of the old city is a gem. We met the
owner, Mario Morosi, who is always on hand to greet old
and new guests. We made arrangements to check in the next
Mario suggested we try Ristoranti
Vecchia Padova, Via C.Battisti 37, where he frequently
has lunch. It is an attractive restaurant where the large
space is cleverly arranged to accommodate a cafeteria/pizza
lunch section and an evening dining room. The overall
design is of dark wood decorated with hanging copper pots,
old musical instruments, decorative plates and wine
We were seated in a large
comfortable booth and were soon enjoying the house red
wine. Once our waiter calmed down from the fact that we
arrived ten minutes before the official opening time, he
performed in a helpful and friendly manner. We shared two
excellent pastas, pennete all arrabiata and tagliatelle
con zucca e porcini. Linda had a gorgeous fresh salad of
bresaola, noci, grana a scaglie, mozzarelline and
pomodorini. I had a very good filetto di manzo and we
shared delicious zuppa inglese for dessert. The extensive
menu includes standard, local and regional dishes at
moderate prices. Mario was right, it's good value.
Back at the Hotel Plaza, luckily we
had pushed our beds together so when the heat went off
during the night we were able to share body warmth.
The breakfast buffet was excellent
and immediately afterwards we hurried off to our new home,
Toscanelli. The Giotto
suite we had reserved was at the end of the corridor with
nice views of the Ghetto from the windows and bedroom
balcony. The period furnishings were attractive and
comfortable. The sitting room had a convertible sofa,
desk, 3 chairs, a table and a reproduction Giotto fresco
on one wall. The king bed (with soft linens) was welcome
as was the generous-size bathroom with double sinks,
stall shower, whirlpool tub, quality towels, bathrobes,
and slippers. A nice touch in the sitting room was an
assortment of herbal teas and a hot water heater. All the
comforts of home.
Walking through the city we were
struck by the beauty of the river and canal scenes we
came across. Since early times waterways were a preferred
way of travel as they were considered to be more
comfortable and safe than unreliable roads subjected to
climate hazards and bandits. Besides natural waterways a
web of canals was excavated in the Venetian region and
all Venetian towns were linked to the Venetian lagoon and
the sea for trade purposes. Many villas and castles were
built along these waterways.
Padova has always been a great
"water town" having developed an extensive
river and canal navigation system. Today it is possible
to take picturesque boat trips along the waterways
ranging from two hours to full days. You can journey
along the Padova inland waterways: see the Venetian
villas that line the Brenta Canal, view the Euganean
Riviera along the Battaglia Canal from Monselice to
Battaglia or Padova, navigate the Pontelongo Canal to
Chioggia and Venice or journey along the Bacchiglione
River from Padova to Selvazzano or Creola.
The Prato della Valle, the second
largest square in Europe, is the site for fairs and
amusement. It is monumental in appearance. A large oval
island of green is divided by four pathways, intersecting
in the center, leading to four bridges crossing a canal
surrounding the island. There are 78 statues of famous men along the
canal. Facing the square is the huge eight domed Basilica
S. Giustina built in the 16th century.
The busy Piazza Del Santo is home
to Basilica Sant'Antonio which was started immediately
after the death of the Saint in 1231 and completed at the
beginning of the following century. It's an imposing
eight domed Romanesque Gothic structure with spires of
eastern inspiration. Pilgrims come from all over the
world to visit the tomb of St. Anthony. The beautiful
interior is highlighted by the sculpted high alter of
Donatello and the frescoes of Altichiero.
Not far away at Via del Santo 113
is the marvelous Antica Trattoria dei
Paccagnella. The owners of
this intimate, casual trattoria are Cesare e Raffaele
Tombolato. Cesare hosts the front while chef Raffaele
makes her magic in the cucina. Besides the basic menu
there are daily specials reflecting the best of the
seasonal products available. The kitchen is quite able
and willing to accommodate special needs or wishes. They
also belong to a select group of restaurants, L'Associazione
Ristorantori Padovani, which is committed to promoting
the cuisine of the area. The offerings are intriguing and
very fairly priced. We asked Cesare to choose our menu
giving consideration to my slightly unsettled stomach.
We started with an assortment of
brilliant appetizers; thinly sliced duck breast served
with crostini and orange butter, julienne of chicken with
radicchio and balsamic laced with pine nuts and cooked
salami with grilled radicchio and polenta. All were
superbly prepared and presented.
We had fresh bigoli two ways, one with
nothing but wonderful olive oil and the other with
succulent chicken sauce. Our mains were cinghiale with
herbs, endive and polenta and entrecote di manzo. Both
meats were done perfectly medium rare and were
deliciously tender. Cesare should have been a doctor, my
stomach problem was gone.
Because we skipped dessert at
dinner, we had hearty appetites for the Majestic
Toscanelli's excellent buffet breakfast, which featured
eggs at least three ways, hot meats, pastries and a
quality selection of all the basic stuff. The breakfast
room is up a flight of stairs from the lobby on the
mezzanine balcony with window views of the quaint
neighborhood and down to the lobby and American Bar which
is very conducive to relaxing and enjoying a beverage,
snack or a light evening meal.
We caught the 11:32 train to arrive
in Monselice at 11:50. Just south of Padova this cute
town has some interesting sights and a very good
ristorante. A bit of culture and a wonderful lunch are
enough reason to take a 36 minute, round trip, train ride.
It's a 10 minute walk from the
train station, across the Canale Bisatto, to the main
square, Piazza Mazzini, which is dominated by the Civic
Tower and the adjoining remains of the ancient city walls.
The canal from Padova to Este was used by noblemen to
collect taxes along the route.
Built into the ancient wall is the
Ristorante LaTorre, Tel: 0429-73752, reservations
recommended. We decided to have lunch to have energy for
sightseeing. The owner is a smooth, affable fellow who
has a loyal following of locals and visitors. It's all
family with his wife and son ably assisting. The menu
offers many splendid choices with emphasis on the
products of the season. The prices are fair considering
the quality of the experience.
We started with a tasting appetizer
including pumpkin flowers, lightly fried, a delicate
mushroom omelet and thinly-sliced raw artichoke in
marvelous olive oil decorated with slices of Parmigiano.
This was an awesome combination. We then shared tender,
tasty involtini di Vitello filled with radicchio and
cheese and sided with white polenta. A fresh fruit cup
for me and Linda celebrated Carnivale with a frittura
filled with cream. It's worth the trip to Monselice if
even just for a meal at LaTorre.
Across the way from Piazza Mazzini
is Via Santuario which leads steadily up Rocca a
Monselice to the main sights. The major attraction is the
Castle of Monselice. The Cini family purchased the
decaying structure and in 1935 started a radical
restoration for the purpose of creating a place that
accurately reflected the past, a living museum. To this
end, each room was enriched with authentic furnishings of
the middle ages. There is an amazing weapons collection
that alone is worth a visit. The great hall features four
wonderful tapestries from Brussels and stunning
fireplaces are found in the adjacent rooms. The interior
evokes the feeling that the ancient dwellers will
suddenly appear, perhaps in the oldest room, the kitchen,
and offer to make dinner in the glorious old fireplace.
There is also a small Baroque church and a very pleasant
Venetian courtyard with a central stone well.
Further up the road is the Villa
Nani Mocenigo with its spectacular flight of stairs lined
by statues linking the levels of the terraced garden. The
boundary wall is topped by dwarfs that suggest the name
of the noble family.
At the upper part of the Rocca is
the holy area of Jubilee Sanctuary of the Seven Churches.
Six small churches are aligned along the way with the
seventh, St. George, at the top. These seven churches,
bearing the names of the churches in Rome, offered the
privilege of a full pardon to visiting pilgrims, by
special grant of Pope Paul V in 1605.
This holy city in miniature was
built by the Duodo family at the beginning of the 16th
century. Villa Duodo at the top of the road and is used
today by the University of Padova.
Back in the Ghetto we had dinner at
Osteria dei Fabbri at 13 Via dei Fabbri. Housed in an ancient
building, it's a casual, friendly scene with community
tables. The house offered Prosecco as an aperitivo. The
tables were dressed with bottles of various oils,
vinegars and baskets of bread and bread sticks. We had
pasta and mixed salad. The bigoli with a duck ragu and
pappardelle with cinghiale sauce were average at best.
The mixed salad was very good, but the oil and balsamic
on the table were not so great. The prices were moderate,
but the preparation of the food did not represent good
The historical center and heart of
Padova is located around Palazzo della Ragione, which
separates Piazza delle Erbe and Piazza delle Frutta. This
morning covered stalls filled with wonderful produce and
fruit were wall-to-wall in Piazza delle Erbe, while
Piazza delle Frutta offered just a few stands selling
produce but many selling clothing.
The ground floor of the Palazzo
della Ragione has been a covered market for almost 800
years. All the wonderful fresh products of the region are
available here; meats, fish, vegetables, cheeses, olive
oil, etc., supplementing the products in the open squares.
The area was jammed with happy shoppers.
The Palazzo della Ragione is enormous. The
upper floor is one vast hall 81m long and 27m wide. The
walls are covered by 217 linear meters of a gorgeous
astrological cycle of frescoes. At the far end stands a
gigantic wooden horse which originally was built for a
Other municipal buildings around
the squares on either side of Palazzo della Ragione are
Palazzo degli Anziani with the Torre Degli Anziani,
Palazzo dei Consiglio and behind them the Palazzo dei
Podesta, the present Town Hall. Most striking about the
Podesta is a lovely hanging courtyard on the first floor,
reached via two handsome symmetrical staircases.
The nearby Piazza dei Signori is
surrounded by attractive buildings. On the west side the
Palazzo dei Capitanio's Torre dell'Orologio has an
astronomical clock dating back to 1344.
The Caffe Pedrocchi is famous as a
meeting place for university students and faculty and was
the scene of a student uprising in 1848. It is long and
narrow with a comfy elegance. There are various colored
rooms. In the green room there is no obligation to order,
a good place to just rest your feet; many senior men sat
conversing and reading their newspapers.
The Civic Museums of
Padova, incorporating the
Archeological Museum, the Art Museum and the Scrovegni
Chapel are the "Must Sees" of Padova. We
started in the Scrovegni Chapel, for which is necessary
to make advance reservations and to be on time. A
tremendous effort was successfully undertaken to restore
and conserve the frescoes to their present state.
Visitors must wait in a special air conditioned room for
15 minutes to reduce pollution (an instructive video is
shown during that time) before entering the Chapel so
that the condition of Giotto's masterpieces will not be
jeopardized. It is worth the wait.
Thirty-six frescoes entirely cover
the walls and ceiling of the Chapel narrating episodes in
the lives of Mary and Christ. The vaulted ceiling is a
soft blue star-filled sky. Giotto's use of soft colors,
depth and dimension bring the ancient paintings to life
depicting the human emotions and feelings. It's an art
The collections in the
Archeological and Art Museums are rich in content and
depth. There are precious archeological finds from the
Paleovenetian, Roman, Etruscan and Paleochristian periods,
rare coin collections and famous works of art from the 14th
to l9th century, including the Crucifix by Giotto, and
the Armed Angels by Guarieto.
The museum is huge and the exhibits
are well presented and easy to navigate. It would have
been easy to spend a full day.
The Palazzo Bo consists of a large
group of buildings and is the main seat of the University
which was founded in 1222. The attractive 16th century
courtyard by Andrea Moroni leads to the Great Hall, rich
with coats of arms and decorations and an elaborate
The Room of Forty is home to
Galileo's chair. He taught here from 1592-1610 and is
considered to be the university's greatest teacher. The
wood panel podium, from which he lectured, is quite
imposing at over 8 feet high.
The medical school's Anatomy
Theatre, by G. Fabrici d'Acquapendente, built in 1594, is
the oldest in the world. It is a high, circular structure
with various levels affording views to the bottom, where
the operations took place. Constructed solely of wood it
is truly a work of art. It was used until the end of the
19th century. The Final Exam Room is where students are
questioned before earning graduation.
As we left the building we found
ourselves in the middle of the traditional hazing
ceremonies for the new graduates. Many of them were
removing their clothes under which were bathing suits or
shorts and standing on platforms to be deluged by all
kinds of liquids and sprays.
The temperature was pretty cool but
each had a bottle of wine that they were drinking and
obviously feeling no pain. Their tormentors had written
hilarious and risqué scripts on large white sheets of
paper that they had to present.
Osteria dal Capo at Via degli
Obizzi 2 was a few minutes from our hotel. It is small
and popular, deservedly, so make a reservation Tel: 049-663105.
The owners are a charming couple and the staff young,
energetic and delightful. There is no printed menu. The
owner (wife) recited the list of the day. With her
limited English, our menu Italian and the
help of a sweet English-speaking waitress we made our
Pasta-fagioli was done with pureed
beans and thin egg noodles and turned out to be the
ultimate comfort starter. Linda had ravioli filled with
radicchio and topped with fried onions, walnuts and
smoked ricotta, an outstanding marriage.
The traditional tagliata
preparation with arugula, grana and balsamic was enhanced
with a bed of mushrooms, fantastic. My osso buco was of
the finest veal, simply prepared to appreciate the
natural flavor of the meat and served with polenta,
outstanding. All the desserts are done in-house and the
apple pie was a tribute to the pastry chef. It's a fun
place with an accomplished kitchen all at very reasonable
We left Padova feeling very
fulfilled from all we had seen and learned. On to Parma
for ham and cheese and a lot more culture.
Rivarotta di Pasiano
Vicenza | Padova
Parma | Lucca | Firenze
Lucignano | Spello
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