Snowy day in Prato della Valle
My first visit to Padova was in February 2006 when I was on an extended visit to Venice. As it was a spur-of-the moment decision to hop aboard the train and travel the thirty minutes required to get there, I had no idea what to expect, nor what sights I should be investigating when I arrived.
Travelling alone, I find, gives one a great sense of freedom and adventure; too much planning can kill an expedition if it doesn’t measure up to expectation and people often want to see different things and have incompatible energy levels. So I headed to Padova with no expectations and no plans whatsoever. My Veneto guide book contained a rather skimpy map of Padova, quite different from the lavish maps provided in that same book for getting around Venice, the queen of cities. But, at least I had some idea of my bearings; always a great help!
Alighting at Padova railway station I began to walk in the general direction of the city centre, according to my barely adequate map. A long, broad street greeted me as I walked briskly for about ten minutes to reach the central market area for a look around.
My first impression was of abundance; filled with appetising smells and bright colours, the market was huge. It filled Piazza delle Erbe and Piazza della Frutta, two squares positioned on either side of a massive indoor market lined with food emporiums of every description. I spotted a bottle of Irish Whiskey – Tullamore Dew, to be exact – and even the Irish Independent was on sale, which made me wonder if we Irish had laid some claim to this beautiful city. Because, beautiful it certainly was.
I am ashamed to say that on that, my first, visit to Padova I did no sight-seeing whatsoever and merely wandered around, with my ridiculously inadequate map, absorbing the general feel of the city. Back at the market, I watched the locals fill their little wheelie-bags with fresh fruit, vegetables, cheeses and meats and was greatly taken by the general atmosphere of relaxation and good humour that seemed to pervade these ancient squares. I can’t remember now where I had lunch, but I know it was good. And I felt good too.
When, in 2012, I came to Padova once more, it was to purchase a new home close by in the Euganean Hills. To have Padova on my doorstep was a very alluring prospect and I promptly set about visiting some of the major sights: the ornate basilica and tomb of Saint Anthony with its huge, sad notice boards full of petitions; The Scrovegni Chapel with the unparalleled Giotto frescoes, rich, colourful and seven hundred years old; historic Caffe Pedrocchi, one of the oldest coffee shops in Europe with its lovely Art Deco bar, where you can still purchase an espresso at a normal price, and the Anatomic Theatre where your imagination can run riot picturing the men in masks, with noses full of fragrant herbs, standing on the circular platform in the dark listening to music playing in the background, watching an autopsy below, lit with candles, that could go on for days at a stretch.
I have now been living here for less than a year and have only just begun to scratch the surface under which many wonderful treasures wait to be explored. Just last week, I paid my first visit to La Scoletta del Santo and the Oratory of St. George. Walking into La Scoletta del Santo was a gasp-inducing moment for me. A profusion of fantastic frescoes by Tiziano – and others – was truly breath-taking and I must return as soon as possible.
So many more wonderful sights to see and treasures to unearth in this my favourite city of them all, where I always feel relaxed and completely at home. And I have even bought my very own wheelie-bag and regularly find myself elbow to elbow in the market with the fast-talking, gesticulating Italian housewives in competition for the sweetest, softest piece of cooked ham!
This blog has also been guest-published on http://santatatiana.blogspot.it/2014/01/padova-love-affair.html a lovely blog about Russia and Italy. You can follow Tatiana on Twitter @SanTatiana
You can follow me on Twitter too: @OrnaOR and my career biography is on http://www.ornaoreilly.com/about.php