A short walk in Padua

We woke up early in the morning to leave our beautiful Verona. After a nice breakfast we checked-out and started thinking on the big plans we had for that day: traveling to Padua, spending few hours and then… yes, the cherry on top and the final destination of our train trip: Venice and its gorgeous islands.

The train ride lasted around 40 minutes and the fare was around 7 euros. If you plan to travel to more destinations in Italy, I strongly recommend taking the train – they’re many, fast and more than affordable.

As we arrived at Padua’s train station I was impressed by the relaxed attitude and youth of its inhabitants. In one of the station’s halls, many talented youngsters display their talents by playing the piano, which gives you the opportunity to assist to a free unconventional show. In case you do not already know, Padua is one of the main student centers in Italy, where even Galileo Galilei was a lecturer.

We started our promenade on Corso del Popolo street, trying to enjoy the small city as much as possible in the few hours dedicated to its visit. As we were walking through amazing buildings and piazzas, a chic city started to grow.

Our first stop was at Padua University – Palazzo del Bo’. The weight of its inner courtyard was guarded by tall strong columns. Amazing statues and frescoes tell many stories of wisdom.

We continued our walk with the Jewish Getto. I could see, just like magic, how the life of its inhabitants was looking like many years ago. Flocks of noisy and cheeky kids running and playing around the slim columns. Long bearded men selling their handmade products on the tight alleys. Women hanging clothes to dry by their large windows. The music of life echoing between the old buildings. In present, everything was surrounded by peace and quiet.

Our next stop was Piazza della Frutta, which made Padua look very alive, in contrast to the mysterious quietness of the Jewish Ghetto. The rough voices of the merchants trying to advertise their fresh fruits and veggies gave the small piazza a joyful atmosphere.

Attracted by the strong scent of velvet tomatoes, many locals and tourists were queuing for a slice of the farmer’s hard work. Behind this vivid scene, something else was happening. A gorgeous medieval building was rising – Palazzo della Ragione and its beautiful market.

Behind the majesty of Palazzo della Ragione lies obedient Piazza delle Erbe. Another amazing place where you can take a short rest and admire the quiet life of the beautiful locals. Small, but elegant balconies decorate the surrounding buildings, sometimes embracing the presence of their owners, which watch curious at the many tourists.

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Piazza dei Signori – was a true delight! The superb architecture is enchanting  your eyes and the old pharmacies and stores give you a glimpse of how amazing was the life of its past inhabitants. Tall arches knighted with colorful frescoes give you the shade you long for in a sunny summer day.

But what is a town without a place for worship? Of course, as many other Italian cities, Padua does not lack the presence of the House of God. Duomo di Padova is one of the many cathedrals which give beauty and spirituality to this wonderful city. Unfortunately, we were running out of time, so we were not able to visit the gorgeous cathedral and its baptistery.

On a fast pace, we began our journey to our last stop – the amazing Prato della Valle – the largest square in Italy and one of the largest in Europe (it measures around 90 000 square meters). Il Prato – how it is spoiled by the locals – is a gorgeous piazza witch hosts a green island at its center l’Isola Memmia – embraced by a shy canal bordered by two rings of statues. Nowadays around 78 stone figures watch over the stunning square.

Unhappy to leave the graceful town of Padua, we started our walk back to train station. Again we were overwhelmed by the beauty of the architecture and the serenity of the locals. To be honest, this was one of the most beautiful cities I have visited until now in Italy. It’s less touristy, locals cheer you warmly and it has many points of interest. And its strongest asset – it looked so young!

As we were waiting impatient for our train to Venice, I was able to enjoy few more minutes of the local spirit. The air was warm and clean, everybody was smiling. As our train was approaching the station, a talented student was playing one of my favorite piano pieces – Yruma’s “River flows in you”. The song was played so majestically by the raw fingers of the pianist, that the arriving train was not able to cover it up. The train stopped, and with mixed feelings we got on the train. My ears were still playing the wonderful piano tunes…

The soft melody was brutally interrupted by the thick voice of the conductor announcing the next station: Venezia Santa Lucia!

The hidden stage from Mantua

We woke up early in the morning on our 9th day on the road. We already had visited Zurich, Lugano, Lake Como (the beautiful towns of Menaggio, Bellagio, Varenna and Tremezzo), Milan, Turin and Cremona. A long day was waiting for us: going to Mantua and spending few hours, then heading toward the city of love birdsVerona 🙂 .

The train station in Cremona is quite small, but is frequently passed by trains which stop in Mantua. Traveling by train in Italy is quite cheap. If I remember correctly, a ticket to our destination was around 6 euros, and the trip would last around 50 minutes.

As we arrived in Mantua, a cold grey weather welcomed us. From the train station, you can easily walk to the small, but full of history town. Due to the nasty weather, the old city seemed unfriendly, but as we walked toward its core, we were able to discover its shy beauty.

We had a lovely walk on the narrow pedestrian streets. Suddenly, medieval tall buildings began to rise. As we were getting closer to Piazza Sordello, we were able to admire the imposing walls of Palazzo Ducale di Mantova. Close to the palace, Mantua Cathedral was keeping its warm doors open for us.

The white interior walls were decorated with the famous Carrara marble. Its long and elegant columns imposed us a respectful silence. As we were raising our sights to the sumptuous ceiling, the wide windows made the fine details glow in natural light. We got closer to the shrine, and the sky started falling on us, as it was raining with armies of angels coming from the tall dome frescoes. To be honest, in my eyes, this was one of the most beautiful  cathedrals I have visited until now.

As we were leaving the cathedral, the weather got colder. We had one more important stop – and that was in the wonderful world of theater.  On our way, we had the impression, that the old town of Mantua was build on arches and columns, as all its beautiful buildings were watching us, suspended from high above. Soon we reached our destination – Teatro Bibiena (also known as Teatro Scientifico, Teatro Accademico or Teatrino della Accademia Filarmonica).

As we entered the hall, just like magic, we were transferred into a new world. I was surprised to see seats even on the stage. The whole room was giving me the impression that you can be seen from every corner or angle. A diffuse light protected each seat and the weight of the balconies which was hosting the boxes was overwhelming. In a hidden corner, a stone spiral staircase was allowing us to experience a complete view of the entire room. Suddenly, as I was resting on a red velvet bench, I heard the gentle music of an overture. Smooth violins and cellos started whispering. I could see with the eyes of my mind, the heavy curtains opening, leaving a cloud of light dust behind them and with that revealing the main characters of the drama. All, like living ghosts, were saying with great talent, their best lines. A sudden thunder of applause opened my eyes woke me up to reality. This theater was not built by human hands!

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When leaving the curious theater, a tender rain started. It was high time to leave to the train station. We had a second chance to admire the old city of Mantua. Even if it had an urgent need of restoration, a particular beauty was floating all around.

Next stop: Verona! 🙂

 

 

 

 

Tu-tu-Turin

We left Milan after three hours (if curious about what happened there – just click here) – with a clear destination in our minds – Turin! Even if it does not seem much, we felt very tired – thanks to our heavy backpacks and the beauty which we were able to admire :P. After taking the train from Milano Centrale station, a heavy rain started. At least this time – I told myself – we were lucky enough not to get wet.

The trip lasted around one hour. As I was not able to see much on the train’s dusty window, due to the summer rain, I decided to play some card games with my hubby. Terrible decision! I lost all of them :(. When we arrived at the train station, the welcoming face of our host greeted us. It was my hubby’s cousin b-day, so that evening we went to a nice pizzeria to celebrate. Lovely time spent with great company!

The next day, our cute host F., took us on a city tour. She is a great organizer, and lucky us, is also one of the few people which do know much of the history of the city in which they spend most of their lives. So we took the car and started our journey from the small town of San Mauro, trough narrow roads with pretty houses around. The curvy road was taking us closer and closer to the sky.

Soon, we arrived at one of the places with the most breathtaking views I have seen in my life! And that my friends is called Superga hill, the host of Basilica of Superga. After having enough rain at Lake Como, the sunny day was a true blessing. And how can a beautiful sunny day be celebrated without a stunning scenery? From up there you are able to see how majestically is river Po crawling between the graceful streets of Turin. The spire of Mole Antonelliana, Turin’s landmark, can be admired how it tries to scrape the sky at its height of 167.5 meters. The old town of Turin, with its elegant aristocratic buildings and piazzas, was looking like a delicate tulle tutu.

The Basilica of Superga is also dressed to impress in baroque-styled clothing. Its intimidating tall columns and the tall arch are the resting place of the members of the well-known House of Savoy. But this beautiful place hides a sad story behind its walls – the air disaster which led, in 1949, to the loss of the famous football team Grande Torino.

The sun was still warm and shiny, so we continued our visit to the quarters of the Royal Palace of Turin. Hidden from the shadow of elegant Turin, the palace and  its surroundings are a true beauty. The mixed architecture of the palace, guarded by pieces of contemporary art, displays itself shameless before your eyes. The vast green gardens offers your sight the best alpine panorama.

This was an amazing full day. As it was our 7th day on the road, I could feel my heels pumping out tiredness. The remaining of the day was spent on relaxation and good company. The next day, together with our cool hosts, we hit the road towards Cremona.

Now stay tuned, more to come! 🙂

 

 

 

Three hours in Milan

We left Lake Como on a terrible weather. As I wrote on my post regarding our arrival to Menaggio (you can take a peek here), our accommodation was somehow on the top of the mountain 🙂 . So try to imagine this – rain, cold wind, heavy backpacks, no umbrellas or raincoats, and the two of us having an unwanted hike on the slippery, narrow, sidewalk-less streets. In spite of all these roadblocks we were able to make it, wet and cold, but alive to the bus station.

Menaggio – Milan is quite a short trip. You can take a bus to Como town, and from there  the comic character-named trains “Frecciabianca” (that would be  “White Arrow”) or “Frecciargento” (“Silver Arrow”) to beautiful Milan. As it was not the first time we visited the chic city, we decided to stop only for few hours, on our way to Turin (where were waiting for us my hubby’s cool cousin and beautiful wife and we planning to stay for two days).

Coming back to my story – wet and cold, we were very happy to get on the bus. In less than an hour, we were in Como train station. We hopped on the White Arrow and, in a blink we were in glamorous Milan. As we had our heavy backpacks with us, we decided just to take a small tour around the old town city center.

If you are expecting red limestone roofs, with colorful little buildings, as you might have seen all over Italy, get ready to be in a good way “disappointed”. Milan is cosmopolitan and sexy as a model :P.

My advice is do some research before your arrival, as some attractions which you might want to visit, as Da Vinci’s “Last Supper” might need an advance booking. We spent 3 hours, and we were able to see the Dome, La Scala Opera, Vittorio Emanuele  Gallery, the Dome Square and Cinque Vie historical district – all in walking distance.

 

What to say more about Milan? Its inhabitants look smart and friendly, and its streets are clean and well organized. I can say I was enthusiastic to visit for the second time an old friend, and, if the future will ever bring old Milan in my way, I would be more than happy to have a nice chat again.

Now let’s hurry up o the train station. Next stop: Turin! 🙂

Coming soon: Cremona, Mantua, Verona, Padua and Venice!