Day 4: Venice to Padua
Our last morning in Venice, we had breakfast (including a double espresso soy latte), did a repack, then went out to say our final good-bye to Venice. A walk to San Marco through now familiar streets. We were headed to a cafe overlooking the Grand Canal, just past the Doge’s Palace, where we had espresso on our honeymoon. It was almost 11, so it was busy and not quite the peaceful spot we remembered. However, we had an espresso and sat in the moment.
Both Todd and I brought our journals, so that we could sit in cafes and write in them. The only thing I’ve managed to write is this blog. Part of the difficulty is not having comfy spaces in our hotel to sit, the other part is Covid reality (though maybe 10% of people are masking), the other part is wanting to be outside and not in full sun in comfortable chairs. The other part for me is that it’s much easier to photograph and move/walk, than to sit down, order a drink, and be still.
We bought some paninis for lunch (took some hunting for a vegan one), then picked up our bags. The vaparetto stop is close to our hotel, so soon we were on a boat, heading to the train station. A quick half hour train ride, and we hopped off in Padua.
Why Padua? We had five nights at the start of our trip to do our own thing before heading south, so when we chose Venice, we had to decide what next. Since our train south to Vasto leaves out of Bologna, either we go there or Padua, which is on the way. Padua seemed a good option as a smaller town (300K college town), and I’ve always wanted to see the Scrovegni Chapel.
When we arrived in the train station, where we should have been able to pick up our 48 hour pass, we were told that we had to go to the chapel to pick it up. A fifteen minute walk away with bags, having gone the wrong direction thanks to incorrect info, we arrive at the entrance a bit sweaty, tired, and annoyed. But we get the tickets and can now ride the tram for free. We head across the street and wait for a tram. 10 minutes later, we are in our gaudy as hell hotel room (I’m sure this art appeals to many, but not us), horizontal and airing out.
It’s warm and humid, nearly the same situation we were in six years ago. Mostly the temps have been decent, but our clothes are definitely for cooler weather, not
75F. So hopefully it gets cooler soon so we can wear half the clothes we brought!
Needing food, we head into the pedestrian center, finding a historic 191 year old cafe that shows a tofu salad and a quinoa pesto! Protein! Yes! We sit down to order and are told we can only order small bites. The restaurant part of the menu doesn’t open for a half hour (7pm). So we order small bites and bide our time. Then, we get excited to order food, and are waiter tells us they aren’t going to do the restaurant tonight. Annoyed, but realizing all we can do is throw up your hands and say “it’s Italy!”
We think we find a vegan restaurant, but it turns out to be more of a food stall for you to take items home to cook. I pull out my Rick Steves photocopied pages and find a
place a block away. Tables for multiple restaurants adorn the middle of the piazza, and we get to enjoy the vibe of the city. A six year old is celebrating her birthday, and kids play and laugh, the large #6 and fairy castle balloons being dragged across the piazza by the birthday girl and her tormenting brothers/cousins/friends. It’s a perfect weather night, the building facades are beautiful, and the food delicious. I have rigatoni in red sauce with eggplant, with marinated artichokes for an appetizer. Todd has stuffed olives breaded and fried as an app, and salmon and veggies as a main. Too full, we don’t hunt down dessert (poor excuse), but head to the hotel to crash.
Day 5: Padua
I must have told Todd a half dozen times that we had to be at the Scrovegni chapel at 9:45am for our 10am tour, and we were there early. I mean, they are really serious about timing and being late and having to pay again, so let’s make sure we are early.
There’s an interesting sculpture garden around the chapel, and we pass interesting pieces, along with Roman ruins. Sitting outside the chapel at 9:45am, we are ushered in with the group. They only let 25 people in every 15 minutes, and they are serious. An entry lobby was erected to help stabilize air pressure and keep the air purified, preserving the frescoes (they hope) from future decay. The video was informative and narratively dramatic (so serious), and then we were let in.
It’s a small space, and you are given 15 minutes to take it all in. So many images, so many themes, so many narratives! It’s amazing that this has survived (mostly) for 700 years. There is so much to restore, and much of it probably has been, though you can’t tell what colors are bright because of restoration and what have just survived on its own. Regardless, wow. The expected scenes of the life of Mary and Jesus, but also reminders of what you shouldn’t do (ie vices) and the end result (being tortured by Lucifer and demons).
And after 15 minutes, we are ushered out for the next group, a full one, to come in. I overhear a man ask if he can go back in, and he’s told he’ll have to buy another ticket. An: they’re serious!
A brief walk through the museum, and we decide to exit and save our steps for other sights. We decide to head to the Palazzo della Ragione, included in our Padua card, and which we had admired last night. We stop in a cafe in the Piazza della Erbe and have great little sandwiches for lunch. It’s market day and all the piazzas are full of food, flower, and clothing vendors. It’s great people watching.
The Palazzo della Ragione is a football field size large hall, originally built in the 1300s, then partially destroyed by fire and rebuilt in the 1400s. Its hundreds of frescoes show the various professions and their tools of the trade. It also houses a large horse built in 1466 to commemorate a joust. It’s a spectacular hall, as imposing inside as it looks outside. The porticos on either side look out into the squares, as market day is still in full swing. It’s a beautiful place to photograph, and I take many.
Todd heads back to the hotel, and I take an hour to do a photo shoot of the piazzas and buildings. So many things to notice, and I keep my feet busy. The market stalls get packed up, and soon the restaurants will start putting out their tables and chairs for afternoon drinks and dinner service. I find a gelateria with vegan options, and I eat my chocolate/hazelnut and pistachio in the same square where we ate last night. I feel mildly guilty that I’m eating gelato and Todd’s not, but I figure we’ll get some more later. I make my way to the tram stop and pass by some cool University of Padua buildings, highlighting their 800 year anniversary.
Back at the hotel, I take a load off, and we ponder what to do in the afternoon. It’s only 2pmish, so the day is young. Do we go for a short walk for gelato? Without question. Todd has to help orientate me because I was going to take us in the wrong direction.
I am thrilled when we enter into the Prato della Valle, as I’d seen pictures of this lovely circular park with statues and a little moat of water. We bought our chocolate and strawberry gelatos (and I confessed to my earlier purchase once Todd was happily eating his), and sat in the park on the pretty blue sky day. One has to love a good city park.
We meandered back to the Basilica near our hotel, and while Todd had a cafe snack, I did a walk through the church. Since the tomb of St. Anthony is here, it’s set up for pilgrims. I walked through the church and its many chapels. It must be packed at certain times of the year (apparently 6.5 million people visit every year), but today just a few small groups toured the quiet church. I did not visit the reliquary with its body parts on display. I did walk past St Anthony’s tomb as there wasn’t a line and witnessed the boards with hundreds of small photos of people pegged on them. Since St Anthony is the saint of lost things/people, I assume these are people lost in some way. Whether through death or disappearance or something else.
So, on our second/last night in Padua, we decided on a place called Kai Sushi for dinner. We were the first ones there, and it remained relatively quiet while we were there, allowing us to eat mask free. The food was delicious and vegan dishes were mostly clearly marked (something with oyster sauce or egg is not vegan). There were no vegan noodle dishes, but all the sushi and apps were enough: miso soup, edamame, veggie tempura, fried spring rolls, avocado maki, avo/cuc/radish maki, avocado sesame salad. Todd got some fishy sushi, of course, and I always feel slightly sad for him that I can’t partake in a full sushi dinner with him.
Full and needing to go back to the hotel to repack our exploded bags, we bid a farewell to Padua.
Day 6: Padua to Vasto
Today was another full travel day. Our 10am train would take us to Bologna, for an hour layover before catching the next train to Vasto. Things went relatively smoothly, catching the tram, buying snacks at the station, catching the second train. Everything mostly on time and efficient.
The second train is a 4.5 hour journey, mostly down along the east coast, so about an hour into the ride, we have delightful views of the Adriatic. Palm trees, vacation homes and hotels, people wind surfing, and water as far as the eyes can see. We opted for first class seats since it was such a long trip, and the car is mostly empty. Worth the extra 20E just to have extra leg space and a quiet car.
In about a half hour, we will arrive in Vasto, where Dad and Margaret will be waiting to show us their new home. We will have a few days with them, then we will all go down to Trani and Bari!