InterRail #10: Picturesque Padua and Vibrant Vicenza
It was soon time to say goodbye to Rome and climb aboard another train to continue our travels. Our journey would take us north to Padua, via Bologna and Florence. Our train left Termini station at 0750, and once again, our compartment was packed out with school groups which did not allow for any shut-eye or relaxing. Thankfully the students left the train when we reached Florence and a calmer, more civilised atmosphere followed. At just gone 1100 we arrived in Padua and after orientating ourselves we were soon on the tram and off in the direction of the old town, where our hotel was located.
We had already discussed our afternoon plans and decided to make the most of our InterRail tickets, taking the opportunity to visit nearby Vicenza, just a half an hour away by regional train. At 1256 we boarded the train and soon arrived in Vicenza and walked up the rather gran Viale Roma to the Giardini Salvi and the entrance to the old town.
We entered via the Torrione di Porta Castello and strolled along the Corso Andreo Palladio, keeping an eye on the cyclists who seemingly paid no attention or thought to those on foot! On both sides of the main street were shaded streets, with pretty houses whose balconies were draped with washing or decorated with flowers, or piazzas with the typical blend of bars, restaurants, cafes and gelaterias.
Eventually we stumbled across the grandest of piazzas, Piazza del Signori with the huge Basilica Palladiana on one side and the Loggia del Capitano occupying one of the opposite corners.
We continued on from here as far as the Piazza Matteoti where we turned around and headed back into the town. There was quite a slope to the road so halfway up we stopped at a welcoming looking Gelateria to sample some of the ice cream which had looked so appealing on the way down. We were not disappointed!
From there we returned to the Piazza del Signori which was slightly quieter than before and then strolled through the streets that we had missed on our way into the town. We then left via the city gate, which we had entered earlier, and from there we made our way back to the station.
Back in Padua, after a pit-stop in the hotel, we decided to do a little more exploring and walked down from our hotel to the huge Basilica di Sant’Antonio di Padova. The magnificient and somewhat imposing Basilica is a well visited pilgrimage site, due to the fact that it was built a year after St.Anthony’s death (the saint of finding things or lost people) and is said to house some of his relics. The Basilica also contains several important images of the Madonna including the statue, Madonna Mora.
From the Basilica we continued our walk up to the Orto Botanico (supposedly the oldest botanical gardens in Europe) and the Prato della Valle. Unfortunately the botanical gardens were closed but the Prato della Valle proved to be something of a pleasant surprise, an enormous open space in the shape of an oval, with grass at the centre. The central area of grass was surrounded by a moat with tens of mounted statues along the perimeter and was accessed by four bridges at the four compass points. Definitely an impressive park for the locals and students to relax in.
The day was soon drawing to a close and it was time to think about something to eat. We feasted ourselves on pizzas and felt very content as we made the short walk back to the hotel.
The following day, we set off bright and early for a day trip to Venice, only a half an hour train ride away (more on Venice coming soon). After a wonderful day exploring the magical city with its maze like streets, romantic waterways and picturesque buildings we jumped back on the train to Padua, setting out to see a bit more of what our inviting host-city had to offer. We found ourselves exploring the historical centre of this unexpectedly charming city, with its dense network of arcaded streets and large piazzas scattered with cafes and pleasant buildings.
After a long day of much excitement, it was once more time to fuel ourselves up by feasting on pizzas and italian gelato before an early night in preparation for the next early morning!
Next stop: Verona