I have a couple hours until my flight leaves so here’s my final Venice installment.
My big plan for Tuesday was a day trip to Padua and then relaxing before hanging out with the Fish gang. Unfortunately, there were still those museums that I wasn’t able to see on Monday so I had to fit them in on Tuesday. I ended up catching the 9am train to Padua and getting back to Venice around 3:30, which wasn’t quite enough time to do everything I wanted but it was enough to whet my appetite.
Padua (or Padova) is a university town about 30 minutes, by train, from Venice. The university was established in 1222, which is right up my alley, and I actually met a former student on the train when I was on my way to Venice last Friday. She told me all the things I should do… none of which I had time to do. Oh well. So here is what I did.
First, I went to the Scrovegni Chapel. This chapel is famous for it’s internal decoration which was done by Giotto in around 1305. For those not into medieval art, Giotto is considered the first Renaissance painter and is super famous. Anyway, the chapel is interesting because it is completely climate controlled, so you have to make an appointment (I made mine about a week in advance) then at your allotted time they usher you into a glass room in which you sit for about 15-20 minutes while your climate is fixed, finally they usher you into the chapel where you have about 15-20 minutes to view the art (watched over by a very dour guard).
The art is amazing and you really have to focus on one thing to look at because it can be overwhelming trying to see everything in the short amount of time. Again, I didn’t take any pictures but you can google them. The ceiling is all blue covered in gold stars. The wall of the main door shows giant image of the Last Judgement, which I thought was fascinating. I enjoy the contrast of those who are saved and those who are not. I also think medieval/renaissance images of the devil are interesting. This one was particularly graphic and had a lot of things to look at. The other images tell the story of Mary’s life and Jesus’s life. And finally at the bottom we have representations of vices and virtues, in which I am also interested as a gender historian. My favorite was Anger. She was renting her chest with her long hair flowing. For whatever reason it caught my attention.
Here are some images from outside the chapel, including the wall surrounding the park.
Then I went across the street to the Palazzo Zuckerman which houses both the Museum of Applied and Decorative Arts but also the collection of Nicola Bottacin, a wealthy merchant who donated all his art works and coins to the city of Padova in 1865.
Again, no pictures, but this museum was pretty interesting. They had a large selection of lace, jewelry, fabric, costumes, ceramics, wood, etc., all highly decorated using various methods. What was most interesting to me, however, was the coin collection on the 2nd floor. When I saw “coin collection” I mean tens of thousands of coins (of which they only displayed a fraction) from pre-Alexander the Great, with some from him, through the modern era. The museum did an amazing job presenting the history of these coins, which is basically the history of Western Civilization. I had no idea that coins could tell stories like that.
Finally, I hopped on a tram to the Basilica of Saint Anthony. This basilica is one of the most important pilgrimage sights in Christianity and I actually grew up right across the street from a church called St. Anthony of Padua when I lived in Hightstown.
This church was more impressive to me than San Marco, for some reason. Perhaps it was all the carvings or perhaps it was the devotion of the pilgrims. St. Anthony is off to the left in a white marble alcove, which almost seems to be glowing. The devout walk through and touch the altar saying silent prayers or kneel in front, completely oblivious to the world around them. I didn’t stay in that part long, not wanting to disturb anyone.
They also have a reliquary room that was closed when I went, but which holds St. Anthony’s tongue, lower jaw, vocal chords, his original coffin, his tunic, and a piece of the true cross. This alcove is also interesting because of the carvings on the ceiling. It shows St. Anthony ascending to Heaven with all these cherubs cavorting around him playing music and dancing. It was neat.
The Basilica is attached to a cloister, which I didn’t go in but which had some nice courtyards, so here is a picture of them.
Just a quick story about the importance of modest dressing in Italian churches. It was a VERY hot and humid day in Padua when I was there so, of course, I wore a tanktop and longish skirt, however because I knew the rules I brought an overshirt with me to get into the basilica. As I was going in this couple was refused entrance because of the woman’s dress (again, obsession with shoulders and knees). These people were shocked, they sounded American by their accent, and tried to argue with the guard. They mentioned something about the heat and that it made no sense for someone to be covered up when it was this hot. The guard saw me taking my shirt out of my backpack and pointed to me and said, next time do that. They weren’t allowed in. So remember, if you want to get into famous, Italian churches, bring an over-shirt. This was not the first or last time I saw someone get turned away from a church.
Finally I walked a bit to the Prato della Valle square, which is apparently the largest square in Italy, and had a sandwich. Amusingly (to me anyway) the person I ordered my sandwich from didn’t speak English but he spoke French, so I ordered my food in French. Who knew my French would come in handy in Italy! On my way to the square, there are numerous kiosks selling religious trinkets, one of which was a hologram image of John Paul II, which would change depending on where you were standing. It was probably one of the most ridiculous things I’ve ever seen!
Finally, I hopped back on the tram and caught the 3pm (ish) train back to Venice.
Back in Venice, I ended up only seeing one of the museums that I hoped to see on Monday, the Palazzo Mocenigo, which houses the textile and costume museum. I was only allowed to take pictures in the main room, which didn’t have any dresses, but the clothing they had was amazing! I think men should dress in colors like that again, I think everyday male clothing is so boring (in the US anyway). I will start a movement to bring back colorful knee breeches!!!
The palace is right off of a Valparetto stop so I hopped on the number 1 boat and took a nice slow tour of the Grand Canal, this time during the day. Luckily I had my Rick Steves book with me so I learned all sorts of things. Have I mentioned that I LOVE Rick Steves? From now on I’m always buying one of his books before I go to a place! Here are some pictures of my tour.
I got back to my room and relaxed for a bit, showered and changed for dinner. I decided that as it was my last night I was going to be an adult and actually buy myself a nice dinner with wine and everything. I had no plan but I knew I was going to go to the Fish afterward to hang out on my last night. So as I was walking I saw this little hole-in-the-wall place with a couple eating outside. As I was looking at the menu a waiter said, “If you want, you can have the last garden seat.” That sounded great to me so I took it. Boy am I glad I did! The “garden” was really a stone courtyard, not much to look at but it was private. I had a pasta with seafood, which was probably the best mean I’ve had on this trip. The pasta was cooked perfectly, it was in a light tomato sauce, and it was covered with fresh shellfish. Unbelievably delicious!!! I had a nice glass of wine and an expensive bottle of water, and in total my bill was about 23 euros. The waiter was overly nice, which wierded me out a bit, but overall it was amazing. I don’t remember the name of the place, but the courtyard was called “Corte del Pozzo Roverso,” so if you’re interested you can map it. Here are some pictures.
Everything took a bit longer than I was expecting so I booked it to the Fish and met everyone at their first stop. As this is my last post about these guys, let me give you a brief cast of characters who work at the place.
Jacob – adorable gay man from California. He’s the main person I dealt with as he was currently managing the San Marco property where I was staying. He makes a mean tiramisu and is SUPER nice! He also tans on the balcony every day.
Hans – an attractive and charming man from Australia. He’s the second person I got to know pretty well. He is planning on moving to New York to become an actor, if I remember correctly he did some acting in Perth and wants to expand his market. He had a new girl every night and watching him work his moves was fascinating. Luckily he was VERY nice and didn’t take himself too seriously, which made him endearing.
Daniel – From Manchester and very nice. We talked a bit my last night in Venice and he was super nice. He was wearing a Dirty Dancing 25th anniversary shirt.
Peter – Not sure where he was from and we didn’t talk much.
Sophie – From Leeds and the only woman in the group. She was friends with Daniel from home (he moved to Leeds at one point). I didn’t hang out with her much but she was super nice. I wish I had been able to spend time with her.
So I met them at their first stop and we ended up at a bar by the Rialto with really cheap, and not great, spritzes. We got our drinks and went to a pier in the Grand Canal and just chilled. Nothing much happened, we just chatted and watched the boats go by. Overall, it was an excellent day.