Each day as I research my guidebook, I check each fact in the chapter and fill the pages with my pencil scratchings. Anything substantial to add to the book I write into my Moleskine notebook. Back at the hotel, while it’s still fresh and I can decipher my scribbles, I enter all the changes into my laptop file.
Here’s an example of the major changes (other than tiny fixes marked directly into the guidebook) that I came home with after a busy day in Padua yesterday. Now, before I catch my train to Verona, I massage these ideas into the Padua chapter for the 2011 edition.
I deleted all the hotels near the station (as that area has grown seedy, and I’m excited about the ease with which travelers can get oriented using simply the town’s single tram, which makes it easy to get into the center). And my two top-end restaurants are deleted (one too pretentious — I ate there upon arrival; and the other going out of business next year — unable to survive “the crisis”). Therefore, I have several new hotels and restaurants to add for 2011. Here are my rough notes:
Baptistery — mind-blowing art fills the dome: working for private family so politically correct to not threaten or offend the family’s allies, especially the Church. Giotto was bolder, supported by Scrovegni family and Franciscans. Baptistery, while done later, is conservative, Giotto’s Scrovegni was progressive.
Piazza dei Signori, clock c. 1400 on former palace of ruling family, lion with unfurled wings is aggressive, reminded locals of Venetian determination to assert control. Today can be seen as Veneto’s independent spirit against Rome. Italy’s north (Veneto and Lombardia) is tired of subsidizing the south.
Clothing market 8-1 daily In produce market: very seasonal selection…one glance and locals can know the month, feel the passion for real food here. Merchants give recipe advice to shoppers. Wonderful presentation.
Don’t miss the indoor stalls adjacent the outdoor market. H-shaped shop arcades = sensual experience.
Free audio tour from TI (loaner MP3) or download (at www.turismopadova.it), at all TI. Five well-done routes. I-PADova.
In university: Off fascist courtyard, Fascist art stairway, curiosity is OK within reason, decor celebrates knowledge, art, and science, frescos from 1930s. Pasticceria Racca, exquisite selection of chocolates and treats in back with coffee and tiny seats, kitty corner Piazza Cavour from Cafe Pedrocchi at Via Calvi 8.
Enoteca Santa Lucia provides a modern alternative for a drink or meal. With a New York jazz bar sense of style they serve fine wine by the glass with generous free tapas around the bar or with seating on the square or modern Mediterranean meals in the cellar with mod decor (€10 pastas, €20 secondi, Piazza Cavour at the corner of via Calvi, tel. 049.655.545, closed Sunday).
Ristorante da Giorgio is a respected fixture in town for dressy white-tablecloth dining and good international cuisine with a passion for bean soup, fish soup, cod, and squid and a respect for vegetarians (€12 pastas, €25 secondi, meals from 12:00 and from 19:30, closed Sun, Via d. Manin 8, tel. 049.836.0973, reservations at night are smart).
Think like buses don’t exist. Use Tram — there’s only one, see tracks anywhere in town… you know it’s the tram, direction Pontevigodarzere or Cap Sud. Stops that matter: Stazione FS (train station), Eremitani (Scrovegni chapel), Ponti Romani (old center, market square, university), Tito Livio (Ghetto, old center, Hotel Majestic Toscanelli), Santo (Basilica of Saint Anthony and neighborhood hotels).
Upon arrival: Leave station, 30 meters right at foot of bridge is tram stop (shady characters at night around here). Ticket from stand in front of station or machines at stops (€1.10 for 75 minutes, trams come every 8 minutes).
In Basilica of Saint Anthony: Marble reliefs around tomb busy with pilgrims (beef up descriptions).
Series made through the 1500s. Renaissance architectural 3-D and realism.
1. above Padua cityscape circa 1500, open door illustrates real math of new ability to show perspective. Notice intricate frames, celebrations of life.
2. notice musculature, emotion, determination in faces of loved ones, wound of dead woman.
3. Above is palace of justice with no change in 500 years.
Saint Anthony resurrects young man.
4. by Sansovino, Basilica exterior above, girl dies, see faces: mom distraught, grandma has seen it all. Unfairness of life, young woman dead.
5. fisherman holds net sadly having retrieved drowned boy, mom looks to Anthony who blessed and revived boy.
Across from #5 is the actual tome, it reads “Corpus S. Antonii,” prayer letters dropped behind black iron grill, thoughtful lighting.
6. The miracle of the miser’s heart.
7. Anthony holds the foot 0f a young man who confessed to kicking his mother.
8. Anthony as a child tosses the glass which breaks the marble floor but not the glass, representing his strong faith even as a child (v.v. St. Francis — ruffian as a teen).
9. Dad accuses wife of cheating and wife asks Anthony to identify baby’s father. Anthony asks child who speaks and says assuring all that husband is his real dad and mother was not messing around.
Between 8 and 9 enter room, Above relics is Glorification of St Anthony, a cloud of angels and putti celebrate his presence in heaven, jubilation all around, a joyful explosion of babies to left and right of baroque fantasy.
Osteria L’Anfora is a classic place serving classic dishes in a rustic fun-loving space. The ruffian decor and its woodiness, and the fact that it’s a popular hangout for a pre-meal drink, can distract from the fact that they take food seriously and serve it at good prices (€8 pastas, €12 secondi, €2 cover, closed Sunday, Via dei Soncin 13, tel. 049.656.629, no reservations taken).
Bar dei Osei is a very simple sandwich bar with some of the best seats in town in the Fruit Market Square. While locals love their delicate tramezzini (white bread sandwiches with crusts cut off, €1.80), I’d choose their grilled porchetta–roasted pork–sandwiches. The 2-foot long mother lode waits on the counter for you to say how big a slice you’d like. Wines are listed on the board (Piazza della Fruitta 1, tel. 049.875.9606, 7:00-21:00, closed Sun). With fast, cheap meal and drink in hand, grab a seat and enjoy the market scene.
Hotel Belludi 37 is a slick, borderline pretentious place renting 15 modern rooms shoehorned into an old building. Decor is dark, woody, fresh, and stylish (S-€57, Sb-€80, D-€90, Db-€120, bigger Db-€135, ask for 10% Rick Steves discount, air-con, Wi-Fi, free mini-bar, prices include optional €7 breakfast, a block from the Santo tram stop, via Luca Belludi 37, tel. 049.665.633, fax 049.658.685, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.belludi37.it).
Albergo Verdi is a modern little place crammed into an old building at the edge of the old town not near the tram. While public spaces are very tight, the 14 rooms are modern and spacious (Db-€90-€100, extra person €30, air-con, elevator, a couple blocks behind Piazza Duomo at via Dondi dall’Orologio 7, tel. 049.836.4163, www.albergoverdipadova.it, email@example.com).
Around here you don’t say he or she has a big nose, you say “naso importante.”