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Rivarotta di Pasiano
Vicenza | Padova
Parma | Lucca | Firenze
Lucignano | Spello
Bevagna | Spoleto | Roma

Padova | Monselice

It was a bright sunny Sunday in Vicenza as we headed to Padova. It was a 5-minute walk to the train station, a 16-minute ride to Padova and a 15-minute walk from the train station to the Hotel Plaza, Corso Milano 40. This hotel is located on the northern end of the city center in a boring modern part of the city. It turned out to be a charm less business hotel with an indifferent staff and ratty blankets. Our goal for the day was to find a suitable replacement.

After depositing our luggage we headed east to La Cova, Via P.F. Calvi 20 - Piazza Cavour, for a late lunch. This popular contemporary ristorante-pizzeria was quite busy; luckily there was an available table for two. We shared an insalata Greca and a pizza with mozzarella, rucola and grana. The crust and tomato sauce were very good. Folks around us were having real food which all looked and smelled quite wonderful. Our caffè macchiati were served with excellent home made biscuits. It's a fun place with good food and moderate prices.

We chatted with an artist seated at the next table who told us about the Boldini exhibit at the Pallazzo Zabarella, via Zabarella 14. She had seen it prior to lunch and said it was spectacular and not to be missed.

Via Zabarella was nearby and it was a short walk to the Pallazzo Zabarella Museum. Giovanni Boldini was one of the most important Italian painters of La Belle Époque. The collection consisted of 120 pieces from major museums around the world and will be on display until May 29, 2005. We joined the throngs of viewers enraptured by these marvelous works - portraits, cityscapes, horses, ranging from intricate detail to free-flowing, all with brilliant use of color. Boldini was a remarkable talent.

Padova - GhettoWe strolled thru the three Piazzas - Signori, della Frutta and della Erbe - that comprise the heart of the old city. Leaving della Erbe to the south we entered the old Ghetto district where we found a haven of old-world warmth and charm. Arched porticos line the narrow stone streets of homes and businesses. In the restoration, old columns were used to maintain the ancient architectural plan. It is a fairly good size area which was originally designated by four doorways that were locked at night to confine the inhabitants. The Ghetto was home to 3 Synagogues, one is still active.
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Today the neighborhood is alive with wonderful shops, bakeries, cafes and restaurants. In the early evening university students congregate for the ritual operal, white wine and ginger ale, a specialty of Padova. It’s a lively area, well-kept, where the ongoing renovations are preserving the historical architectural ambiance.

In the middle of all this was Hotel Majestic Toscanelli, on Via dell'Arco 2, an attractive yellow building with potted trees and shrubs adorning its canopied entry. We knew right away it was meant to be. The eclectic array of period furnishings, marble floors and area rugs in the lobby reflect the 18th century origins of the building; charm and coziness, just what we were seeking. This family-run hotel in a traffic-free zone in the center of the old city is a gem. We met the owner, Mario Morosi, who is always on hand to greet old and new guests. We made arrangements to check in the next day.

Mario suggested we try Ristoranti Vecchia Padova, Via C.Battisti 37, where he frequently has lunch. It is an attractive restaurant where the large space is cleverly arranged to accommodate a cafeteria/pizza lunch section and an evening dining room. The overall design is of dark wood decorated with hanging copper pots, old musical instruments, decorative plates and wine displays.

We were seated in a large comfortable booth and were soon enjoying the house red wine. Once our waiter calmed down from the fact that we arrived ten minutes before the official opening time, he performed in a helpful and friendly manner. We shared two excellent pastas, pennete all arrabiata and tagliatelle con zucca e porcini. Linda had a gorgeous fresh salad of bresaola, noci, grana a scaglie, mozzarelline and pomodorini. I had a very good filetto di manzo and we shared delicious zuppa inglese for dessert. The extensive menu includes standard, local and regional dishes at moderate prices. Mario was right, it's good value.

Back at the Hotel Plaza, luckily we had pushed our beds together so when the heat went off during the night we were able to share body warmth.

The breakfast buffet was excellent and immediately afterwards we hurried off to our new home, Hotel Majestic Toscanelli. The Giotto suite we had reserved was at the end of the corridor with nice views of the Ghetto from the windows and bedroom balcony. The period furnishings were attractive and comfortable. The sitting room had a convertible sofa, desk, 3 chairs, a table and a reproduction Giotto fresco on one wall. The king bed (with soft linens) was welcome as was the generous-size bathroom with double sinks, stall shower, whirlpool tub, quality towels, bathrobes, and slippers. A nice touch in the sitting room was an assortment of herbal teas and a hot water heater. All the comforts of home. Padova - Waterway
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Walking through the city we were struck by the beauty of the river and canal scenes we came across. Since early times waterways were a preferred way of travel as they were considered to be more comfortable and safe than unreliable roads subjected to climate hazards and bandits. Besides natural waterways a web of canals was excavated in the Venetian region and all Venetian towns were linked to the Venetian lagoon and the sea for trade purposes. Many villas and castles were built along these waterways.

Padova has always been a great "water town" having developed an extensive river and canal navigation system. Today it is possible to take picturesque boat trips along the waterways ranging from two hours to full days. You can journey along the Padova inland waterways: see the Venetian villas that line the Brenta Canal, view the Euganean Riviera along the Battaglia Canal from Monselice to Battaglia or Padova, navigate the Pontelongo Canal to Chioggia and Venice or journey along the Bacchiglione River from Padova to Selvazzano or Creola.

The Prato della Valle, the second largest square in Europe, is the site for fairs and amusement. It is monumental in appearance. A large oval island of green is divided by four pathways, intersecting in the center, leading to four bridges crossing a canal surrounding the island. Padova - Basilica Sant'AntonioThere are 78 statues of famous men along the canal. Facing the square is the huge eight domed Basilica S. Giustina built in the 16th century.
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The busy Piazza Del Santo is home to Basilica Sant'Antonio which was started immediately after the death of the Saint in 1231 and completed at the beginning of the following century. It's an imposing eight domed Romanesque Gothic structure with spires of eastern inspiration. Pilgrims come from all over the world to visit the tomb of St. Anthony. The beautiful interior is highlighted by the sculpted high alter of Donatello and the frescoes of Altichiero.

Not far away at Via del Santo 113 is the marvelous Antica Trattoria dei Paccagnella. The owners of this intimate, casual trattoria are Cesare e Raffaele Tombolato. Cesare hosts the front while chef Raffaele makes her magic in the cucina. Besides the basic menu there are daily specials reflecting the best of the seasonal products available. The kitchen is quite able and willing to accommodate special needs or wishes. They also belong to a select group of restaurants, L'Associazione Ristorantori Padovani, which is committed to promoting the cuisine of the area. The offerings are intriguing and very fairly priced. We asked Cesare to choose our menu giving consideration to my slightly unsettled stomach.

We started with an assortment of brilliant appetizers; thinly sliced duck breast served with crostini and orange butter, julienne of chicken with radicchio and balsamic laced with pine nuts and cooked salami with grilled radicchio and polenta. All were superbly prepared and presented.

Padova - Paccagnella (cinghiale)We had fresh bigoli two ways, one with nothing but wonderful olive oil and the other with succulent chicken sauce. Our mains were cinghiale with herbs, endive and polenta and entrecote di manzo. Both meats were done perfectly medium rare and were deliciously tender. Cesare should have been a doctor, my stomach problem was gone.

Because we skipped dessert at dinner, we had hearty appetites for the Majestic Toscanelli's excellent buffet breakfast, which featured eggs at least three ways, hot meats, pastries and a quality selection of all the basic stuff. The breakfast room is up a flight of stairs from the lobby on the mezzanine balcony with window views of the quaint neighborhood and down to the lobby and American Bar which is very conducive to relaxing and enjoying a beverage, snack or a light evening meal.
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We caught the 11:32 train to arrive in Monselice at 11:50. Just south of Padova this cute town has some interesting sights and a very good ristorante. A bit of culture and a wonderful lunch are enough reason to take a 36 minute, round trip, train ride.

It's a 10 minute walk from the train station, across the Canale Bisatto, to the main square, Piazza Mazzini, which is dominated by the Civic Tower and the adjoining remains of the ancient city walls. The canal from Padova to Este was used by noblemen to collect taxes along the route.

Built into the ancient wall is the Ristorante LaTorre, Tel: 0429-73752, reservations recommended. We decided to have lunch to have energy for sightseeing. The owner is a smooth, affable fellow who has a loyal following of locals and visitors. It's all family with his wife and son ably assisting. The menu offers many splendid choices with emphasis on the products of the season. The prices are fair considering the quality of the experience.

We started with a tasting appetizer including pumpkin flowers, lightly fried, a delicate mushroom omelet and thinly-sliced raw artichoke in marvelous olive oil decorated with slices of Parmigiano. This was an awesome combination. We then shared tender, tasty involtini di Vitello filled with radicchio and cheese and sided with white polenta. A fresh fruit cup for me and Linda celebrated Carnivale with a frittura filled with cream. It's worth the trip to Monselice if even just for a meal at LaTorre. Monselica - Castle

Across the way from Piazza Mazzini is Via Santuario which leads steadily up Rocca a Monselice to the main sights. The major attraction is the Castle of Monselice. The Cini family purchased the decaying structure and in 1935 started a radical restoration for the purpose of creating a place that accurately reflected the past, a living museum. To this end, each room was enriched with authentic furnishings of the middle ages. There is an amazing weapons collection that alone is worth a visit. The great hall features four wonderful tapestries from Brussels and stunning fireplaces are found in the adjacent rooms. The interior evokes the feeling that the ancient dwellers will suddenly appear, perhaps in the oldest room, the kitchen, and offer to make dinner in the glorious old fireplace. There is also a small Baroque church and a very pleasant Venetian courtyard with a central stone well.
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Further up the road is the Villa Nani Mocenigo with its spectacular flight of stairs lined by statues linking the levels of the terraced garden. The boundary wall is topped by dwarfs that suggest the name of the noble family. Monselice - Sanctuary of the 7 churches

At the upper part of the Rocca is the holy area of Jubilee Sanctuary of the Seven Churches. Six small churches are aligned along the way with the seventh, St. George, at the top. These seven churches, bearing the names of the churches in Rome, offered the privilege of a full pardon to visiting pilgrims, by special grant of Pope Paul V in 1605.

This holy city in miniature was built by the Duodo family at the beginning of the 16th century. Villa Duodo at the top of the road and is used today by the University of Padova.
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Back in the Ghetto we had dinner at Osteria dei Fabbri at 13 Via dei Fabbri. Housed in an ancient building, it's a casual, friendly scene with community tables. The house offered Prosecco as an aperitivo. The tables were dressed with bottles of various oils, vinegars and baskets of bread and bread sticks. We had pasta and mixed salad. The bigoli with a duck ragu and pappardelle with cinghiale sauce were average at best. The mixed salad was very good, but the oil and balsamic on the table were not so great. The prices were moderate, but the preparation of the food did not represent good value.

The historical center and heart of Padova is located around Palazzo della Ragione, which separates Piazza delle Erbe and Piazza delle Frutta. This morning covered stalls filled with wonderful produce and fruit were wall-to-wall in Piazza delle Erbe, while Piazza delle Frutta offered just a few stands selling produce but many selling clothing.

The ground floor of the Palazzo della Ragione has been a covered market for almost 800 years. All the wonderful fresh products of the region are available here; meats, fish, vegetables, cheeses, olive oil, etc., supplementing the products in the open squares. The area was jammed with happy shoppers.

Padova - Palazzo della RagioneThe Palazzo della Ragione is enormous. The upper floor is one vast hall 81m long and 27m wide. The walls are covered by 217 linear meters of a gorgeous astrological cycle of frescoes. At the far end stands a gigantic wooden horse which originally was built for a public tournament.

Other municipal buildings around the squares on either side of Palazzo della Ragione are Palazzo degli Anziani with the Torre Degli Anziani, Palazzo dei Consiglio and behind them the Palazzo dei Podesta, the present Town Hall. Most striking about the Podesta is a lovely hanging courtyard on the first floor, reached via two handsome symmetrical staircases.
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The nearby Piazza dei Signori is surrounded by attractive buildings. On the west side the Palazzo dei Capitanio's Torre dell'Orologio has an astronomical clock dating back to 1344.

The Caffe Pedrocchi is famous as a meeting place for university students and faculty and was the scene of a student uprising in 1848. It is long and narrow with a comfy elegance. There are various colored rooms. In the green room there is no obligation to order, a good place to just rest your feet; many senior men sat conversing and reading their newspapers.

The Civic Museums of Padova, incorporating the Archeological Museum, the Art Museum and the Scrovegni Chapel are the "Must Sees" of Padova. We started in the Scrovegni Chapel; it is necessary to make advance reservations and to be on time. A tremendous effort was successfully undertaken to restore and conserve the frescoes to their present state. Visitors must wait in a special air conditioned room for 15 minutes to reduce pollution (an instructive video is shown during that time) before entering the Chapel so that the condition of Giotto's masterpieces will not be jeopardized. It is worth the wait.

Thirty-six frescoes entirely cover the walls and ceiling of the Chapel narrating episodes in the lives of Mary and Christ. The vaulted ceiling is a soft blue star-filled sky. Giotto's use of soft colors, depth and dimension bring the ancient paintings to life depicting the human emotions and feelings. It's an art adventure. Padova - Hebrew Gravestones - Archeological Museum
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The collections in the Archeological and Art Museums are rich in content and depth. There are precious archeological finds from the Paleovenetian, Roman, Etruscan and Paleochristian periods, rare coin collections and famous works of art from the 14th to l9th century, including the Crucifix by Giotto, and the Armed Angels by Guarieto.

The museum is huge and the exhibits are well presented and easy to navigate. It would have been easy to spend a full day.

The Palazzo Bo consists of a large group of buildings and is the main seat of the University which was founded in 1222. The attractive 16th century courtyard by Andrea Moroni leads to the Great Hall, rich with coats of arms and decorations and an elaborate painted ceiling.

The Room of Forty is home to Galileo's chair. He taught here from 1592-1610 and is considered to be the university's greatest teacher. The wood panel podium, from which he lectured, is quite imposing at over 8 feet high.

The medical school's Anatomy Theatre, by G. Fabrici d'Acquapendente, built in 1594, is the oldest in the world. It is a high, circular structure with various levels affording views to the bottom, where the operations took place. Constructed solely of wood it is truly a work of art. It was used until the end of the 19th century. The Final Exam Room is where students are questioned before earning graduation. Padova - Graduate hazing (Medical University)
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As we left the building we found ourselves in the middle of the traditional hazing ceremonies for the new graduates. Many of them were removing their clothes under which were bathing suits or shorts and standing on platforms to be deluged by all kinds of liquids and sprays.

The temperature was pretty cool but each had a bottle of wine that they were drinking and obviously feeling no pain. Their tormentors had written hilarious and risqué scripts on large white sheets of paper that they had to present.

Osteria dal Capo at Via degli Obizzi 2 was a few minutes from our hotel. It is small and popular, deservedly, so make a reservation Tel: 049-663105. The owners are a charming couple and the staff young, energetic and delightful. There is no printed menu. The owner (wife) recited the list of the day. With her limited English, our “menu Italian” and the help of a sweet English-speaking waitress we made our selections.

Pasta-fagioli was done with pureed beans and thin egg noodles and turned out to be the ultimate comfort starter. Linda had ravioli filled with radicchio and topped with fried onions, walnuts and smoked ricotta, an outstanding marriage.

The traditional tagliata preparation with arugula, grana and balsamic was enhanced with a bed of mushrooms, fantastic. My osso buco was of the finest veal, simply prepared to appreciate the natural flavor of the meat and served with polenta, outstanding. All the desserts are done in-house and the apple pie was a tribute to the pastry chef. It's a fun place with an accomplished kitchen all at very reasonable prices.

We left Padova feeling very fulfilled from all we had seen and learned. On to Parma for ham and cheese and a lot more culture.

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Rivarotta di Pasiano
Vicenza | Padova
Parma | Lucca | Firenze
Lucignano | Spello
Bevagna | Spoleto | Roma

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