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!

One day in Verona – or vandalism in the name of love

Moving forward with our story, we took a train from Mantua which took us to our next destination: Verona. This was a longer trip; after spending two and a half hours in the cold train, we arrived in the city of Romeo and Juliet.

At Verona train station, again, a cloudy cold day was spreading its evil arms around us. On top of the grayish ambiance, an annoying rain was “making” my day. After twenty minutes of unpleasant walk we arrived at the hotel. A fast check-in helped my small feet feel warm and dry again 🙂 .

We started our visit at a slow pace, walking under the cover of a fragile umbrella, toward the old town. As we walked on its tight lanes, the smell of old wet buildings overwhelmed us. Soon my warm cold feet became once more cold and soaked. The many flocks of tourists which jammed the main squares made the air hard to breathe and the beautiful architecture impossible to admire. The nervous footsteps touching the wet pavement created a strange sound effect. It was something very curious about that city.

Taken by a strong current of tourists, we found ourselves in the middle of Piazza Bra. Verona Arena was rising with its majestic columns in one of the cold corners of the square. Getting closer, we were able to admire the wide stone arches, which, with hundreds of years experience still host large scale events like opera performances and concerts.

We turned on the left side street – Via Giuseppe Mazzini – and we admired the shops invaded by tourists. Lots of balconies filled with small palm trees and flowers were guiding our walk. All of a sudden the annoying rain stopped. Yay! It was high time to visit the house of the world’s notorious love queen, Juliet Capulet. And yes, in case you wonder, fictional characters do seem to have houses of their own 🙂 . At the end of Mazzini street, we turned right and after few steps, there it was!

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A once upon a time superb 14th century brick house greeted us. At present, Juliet’s house is vandalized in the name of love by the thousands of tourists which prove their love on the fragile walls. At the entrance, not even the house sign has not been spared by the passionate lovers. Stickers, all the letters of the alphabet surrounded by hearts,  and even nasty words are stretched all over the edifice. Well, if this didn’t help you to get a first impression, there’s more to come: as you pass the long corridor the mayhem gets unleashed. Plaster boards (thanks God it’s not the walls this time!) attached to the right and left walls are maimed daily under hundreds of layers of marker. All the names in the world, of all the countries in the world lie there angry, as they get covered over and over again by other heavy layers of pure love. If you try to get closer to those walls – and I do not recommend it – you might get pushed, hit, or even cursed with great passion by the in love vandals which are waiting for their turn to print their declaration. The heavy fighting is for the almost absent free corners on the top of the wall. And trust me, people do get creative and climb the walls, so they could leave, at least till the next brave visitor arrives, a proof of their unprecedented love.

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If you’re lucky and manage to escape alive the horror of the love corridor, I wish you lots of luck and patience with the inner courtyard. But more then that, I hope you have a long strong neck, to make it possible for you to see Juliet’s infamous balcony. Why infamous? Because that beautiful darn balcony had put her into so much trouble! 🙂

Sitting on my toes, I was able to admire for a second the courtyard. There was no hope for us to visit and be able to take a picture impersonating beautiful Juliet sobbing for love. The zombie lovers were getting hungrier for love as they were fighting for a perfect sugar picture. We decided to leave, until we would get intoxicated with the crazy love substance which was floating all around, and would probably turn us into heart-shaped-gremlins 🙂 .

As we were abandoning the courtyard, I heard a desperate cry for help. It was Juliet’s house, asking us not to visit anymore, as she is sinking slowly under the heavy weight of love messages and letters which were written or left even in the places where no one should dare to get.

Feeling sad for the helpless building we continued our visit with Piazza Delle Erbe. Amazing buildings were surrounding  the spacious square. Behind it, as a brave knight, Torre Lamberti was rising.

After walking a bit on the crowded streets, we crossed the bridge over river Adige. On the other side of the river, you can find another another beautiful site, the Ancient Roman Theater of Verona.

Tired, after walking on gorgeous streets and climbing many stairs we began a slow procession toward our temporary home. On the way back, we visited the old walls of Castelvecchio, which I dare say, were quite impressive.

Please visit Verona. But visit the beautiful city as you would visit your favorite grandmother. Do it quiet, gentle and with lots of care, without causing any discomfort, as you’d like to have her in this world for as long as possible.

Now prepare your bags, as our next stop in Padua will be! 🙂