12. Padua, Italy
(Actual Trip Date: September 19, 2010)
Coming to Italy, we were excited about seeing Venice and Rome! The major and most famous cities of the Italian world. I don’t think any of us were really expecting anything about Padua, the little city about an hour away from Venice nestled in sandy and tan-colored buildings. But by the end of our two nights, I walked away thinking Padua was a little treasure lost and founded among the big glamor of Italy. It ranked in my top three favorite cities I toured while being in Italy.
My only nerdy moment in Padua was when we toured University of Padua and came upon the women statue of Elena Lucrezia Cornaro Piscopiamemorializing the first woman graduate in the world who earned a degree in philosophy. My friends and I chuckled in glee since only about a week ago, we had lectured on the same thing to earn brownie points.
When I thought of Padua initially, I thought about Venice since my only plans of being in Padua was to participate in the Complications discussion with my classmates and then head for a fun day trip to Venice. I never thought there would be anything for me to do in Padua, but what I found was unexpected beauty for any bookworm like me.
No, there aren’t that many great sites and monuments and cathedrals to ‘oh’ and ‘ah’ at. Running canals don’t run through this town like Venice and it doesn’t hold fascinating ruins like Rome or breathtaking beaches dotting the coastline like Cinque Terre. What about this town that sold it for me was the Prato della Valle.
An open pathway leads there and when the sun is out and the rays are warm upon your skin, the water in the circling fountain glitters and glows. At least that’s how it was when I was there. Lively fruit markets live to the side of the garden with friendly vendors bearing boxes of variegated colors of shapely fruits, juicy from the picking. The light green grass neatly cut blanketed the grounds beyond the miniature canal that runs around. Royal white bridges bear the connection between the cobblestone roads and the garden running into another beaming fountain laying at the center, proudly spraying jets of water droplets to cascade a cooling sensation into the already gorgeous weathered air.
It was one of those moments where I wanted to drop everything I had in the world, whip out my journal, find the nearest bench or softest patch of grass, plop myself onto it, and write away. It took a while for my brain to process that I already had plans that day to go to Venice. I almost threw them out of the window. Almost.
(I didn’t because I knew in the back of my mind I probably wasn’t going to get another chance to go to Venice)
While chilling near the Prato della Valle for a while, we caved in and decided to buy the largest peaches I have ever seen in my life in the nearby fruit market. It ended up being one of the best things I ate in Italy, and it was just a mere piece of fruit. That was grown in heaven! Juicy and ever so naturally sweet, we didn’t even care that we hadn’t washed the outside of the fruit as we gobbled the fruit (ovary) down so fast (ha, I’m such a biology nerd). Ever since I’ve been in Europe, I can never get my fruit cravings stemmed. The fruit in the cafeteria and the fruit gelato just don’t cut it for me, but that peach certainly did. Being so spoiled in my house back in America with always a pile of fruit, whether it be Asian or simple bananas, I always had my fruit fill.
Another reason why Padua landed in my top three favorite Italian cities? Well, I had the best pizza in Italy there. Yummy cheese, potato wedges, chunks of meat, and an abundance of mushrooms tossed together on crispy crust and heavenly tomato sauce.
Decadent. Delicious. Mouth-watering.
Who knew Padua would be such a jewel?