To flee from the cold and sorry weather at the beginning of february, I escaped to Italy and more precisely to Padova. A small city in northern Italy not far from Venice. Since I’m a very gifted planner always considering all my options, I managed to plan my trip such that I was flying home on the morning of the Carneval in Venice… I could’ve kicked myself for that. How likely is it that you will be, by chance, in the area of Venice during Carneval? But no, I didn’t get to see it, I just had to deal with the traffic caused by the Carneval… Go me!
I did, however, spend a very nice week in Padova. The relaxed vibe and the optimism with which people spoke Italian with me made me enjoy it tremendously. I don’t speak Italian, but that never seemed to bother or stop anyone. And with hands and feet and bits of Spanish, we always ended up understanding each other. As all of the northern cities of Italy I have visited so far, Padova has excellent food and no small time was spent on picking out where and what to eat. Of course, Padova also has a reputation for drinks, so we (un?)fortunately had to test ourselves through the list of Aperitifs and Spritz they have on offer.
All of this was done in front of a very picturesque skyline of medieval houses, churches and one of the oldest universities I’ve seen. Padova is the home town of Galileo and they take great pride in it. The university also houses an important astronomy institute and they proudly show their tower for astronomical observations, which is full of fascinating old globes, telescopes and sextants. All very worth seeing. At the top of the tower is the observation room, which has been fittingly decorated with some of the greatest Astronomers from Galileo to Keplero… However, it should be noted that this tower was first built in the 16th century and that, even then, it served as a prison for a while before being reassigned to scientific used. So while Galileo was born here, he did not work here.
The center of the city is dominated by a huge town square with a market hall. During the day the market is in full blow on the square and everything is bustling, in the evening the market is replaced by bars and restaurants serving outside even at that time of the year and only at night will you get a chance to catch the town square and market hall more or less deserted. Unfortunately the market hall itself was closed to visitors due to renovations when I was there, so I went to the churches instead. Padova is home to some of the oldest fresco’s world wide, drawn in the …… They are covering the blue chapel and a lot is done to conserve them. After waiting my turn to enter the chapel I had to wait 15min in an acclimatisation room with air tight doors, so that the humidity and temperature of the air could be raised to the one inside the chapel before being allowed to enter. After that we had 30min to visit the chapel… I was a bit bemused by all the effort put into it, but the frescos were definitely worth it.
Unfortunately cameras had to stay outside, so I have no pictures to show, but the depth and detail of the individual pictures were amazing.. More than once I was tempted to reach out and touch the wall to see if they were painted or sculpted… I refrained though, because I’m sure I would’ve been tackled by an invisible security force hiding in the ceiling or something similar.
But not everything is old in Padova many of the houses have been decorated by a street artist and the man in black and his cat will turn up on many walls and corners. He is present all over the city and, as I like to think, ready to cause mischief.