Monday morning. I am arriving in Padua by train, directly from Venice airport (via Mestre). I frown while looking through the train window. A bit disappointed in the way Padua is greeting me upon my arrival: one ugly building after another. Graffiti and abandoned factories. I am starting to worry. Have I made the right choice spending 1.5 days in Padua where I also had the chance to visit Verona or Venice? Luckily, I am less and less drawn by touristic highlights. My aim is to travel slowly and just wander around in a city without a hectic schedule of must-see tourist stops. Quoting the well-traveled author Anthony Bourdain: “I skip the obvious tourist destinations. I am far more interested in getting a real and authentic sense of the rhythms and smells and flavors of a place.” Hence my choice to visit Padua (since my stay in Bologna I have fallen in love with medieval Italian cities!)
The train stops at Padua station. Should you ever arrive in Padua by train, don’t let yourself be fooled by the initial ugliness. This is the repulsive architecture you find near train tracks everywhere. Once you hit the town and start walking, any worries you might have melt away like snow in the sun…
I started my trip in the lovely Belludi 37 hotel where I received such a warm welcome unlike any other hotel I have been to recently. The hotel manager introduced me to the city and explained about places to visit and areas to wander around. Of course she offered a real Italian espresso. Renting a bike at the hotel would have been a good idea, but I again decided just to start walking and let serendipity guide me!
I started checking out the famous Basilica St. Anthony, right around the corner of the hotel. It not only looks great, it’s also an important destination for devotees of Saint Anthony of Padua who is buried in a tomb inside the basilica. Like my recent trip to Belo Horizonte (Brazil) I again witnessed the admiration and devotion of someone who is extremely important for those searching for a source of faith and hope.
After this religious stop I continued my walk towards the largest square of Italy: Prato della Valle. On this (extremely) cold Monday in March nothing much was going on here, but I could see the beauty of the place. In spring or summer this square will for sure be a lovely place to wander around!
From the square I made my way into the historic city center. Looking left and right I discovered stunning medieval streets and vistas. Compared to Bologna (which I visited recently), Padua is even more raw and unpolished. It probably is the severe competition from neighboring cities like Venice and Verona that keeps Padua below the radar. But there is no reason for Padua to be ashamed of that. It has its own strength and with a youthful population (Padua has one of the oldest universities dating back to 1222) it has all the potential to become a great destination for a city trip.
Below are just a couple of pictures that I took. Want to see more? Visit the Padua Photography post to enjoy the full selection!