Padova

Happy Wednesday everyone! No recipe this week -- today's post focuses on our recent weekend trip to Padova, a wonderful little city up north in the Veneto region in Italy (about half an hour by train from Venice). With its porticoes, it reminded me of a smaller, calmer version of Bologna, and it goes without saying that it was a whole lot calmer than Rome. We took 0 public transportation during our stay, navigating the city on foot (no waiting for the bus, train, or cramming ourselves on to the metro!) the air and city seemed a little cleaner, and everything a little less noisy. As much as I love the Eternal City, its always good to get away every once in a while.

So, why were we in Padova?! It just so happens that it is the newish home of our friend Christina, a fellow expat who we met in Rome back in 2014. Christina has had a busy few years -- she left her job as an art teacher at St. George's in Rome to move to Mexico City where she'd found another teaching job, met her now fiancè Carlos (aka Charlie) and then found another job at the English International School in Padova. Christina has about the sunniest personality of anyone I've ever met, is a total optimist, and has a killer style (bright pink lipstick, a super colorful wardrobe, and polka dot sunglasses, for example). It was wonderful to see her again after three years. Here she is! 
Our weekend was pretty laid back -- lots of sitting and catching up in various sunny piazzas -- but we did manage to do a few post-worthy things! We visited St. Anthony's Basilica (Basilica Pontificia di Sant'Antonio di Padova) whose construction began in 1232, a year or so after St. Anthony's death, and was finished in 1310 (now that's dedication!) The basilica is one of the eight international shrines recognized by the Holy See, and also houses the relics of St. Anthony (the remains of his tongue). You'll find a lot of relics in Rome as well -- the Vatican, for example, has the bones of St. Peter, the finger of St. Thomas is kept at the Santa Croce church, and the body of St Cecilia can be found at St Cecilia's church in Trastevere.


After our trip to the basilica, we went on to visit the University of Padova. The University was founded in 1222 (and to think my college was founded in just 1843, lame) and boasts Galileo Galilei himself as one of their lecturers. The University reminded me a bit of the University of Bologna -- a few photos below!
 
On to the food highlights of the trip! We had dinner at Pizzeria del Duomo (Via S. Gregorio Barbarigo 18) on our first night. The pizzas were great -- my sister opted for a Margherita pizza, and I got a parmigiana, or a pizza with eggplant -- plus the pizzeria also offered the option of a whole wheat pizza crust, not something you see in your usual Italian pizzeria (it was delicious). The real winner however was the crostino Christina ordered, which was actually nothing like the typical crostino, or rather, slices of bread topped with other ingredients. Instead, the Pizzeria's take on the crostino is a little clay bowl, filled with layers of cheese, bread, eggplant, and salame, baked with tomato sauce and basil. It arrived to the table sizzling deliciously. Video here
The next morning, we headed to Caffè Pedrocchi for breakfast. Caffè Pedrocchi is located in the heart of the city, in Piazza Cavour, and was opened all the way back in 1831, by Antonio Pedrocchi. Given its close proximity to the University of Padova, Padrocchi became a place where many artists, students, academics, and intellectuals gathered, and was known as the cafè senza porte (without doors) as it was open day and night from its opening in 1831 up until 1916 (the current hours of the cafè are 8am to 10pm). Pedrocchi also became the site of the 1848 riots against the Habsburg monarchy that controlled Padova at the time (on one wall of the cafe you can still see a preserved bullet hole from a bullet fired by an Austrian soldier). The cafe also has an impressive list of customers -- Stendahl, George Sand, Gabriele D'annunzio, and later Dario Fo were just among the few famous writers who frequented Pedrocchi. We didn't see any renowned authors at Pedrocchi, but we did spot this magnificent French bulldog out front, which was even better.
Nowadays, Pedrocchi seems to be a place where tourists and locals alike gather, serving excellent coffee, pastries, and desserts, including their specialty, the caffè padovano, or rather, coffee made with mint and cocoa powder. The cafè still seems to have a special place for the students of Padova -- students who have earned an exam grade of 30 con lode (the highest possible grade on an exam) are offered a free coffee and a free aperitif. The cappuccini, cornetti (called brioche in this part of Italy) and freshly squeezed orange juice we ordered were all good, but not so much for our wallets -- breakfast for 3 turned out to be a whopping 24 euros. Be prepared to spend more than your usual 2 euros on breakfast, and know that you are mostly paying for the Pedrocchi experience!
Piazza della Frutta and the area around it had a wonderful open air market, featuring some stars of Spring (hello, asparagus! hello artichokes!) We also saw quite a few colombe around -- colomba is an Italian Easter cake, sort of like the Easter version of panettone.



No trip up north would be complete without a spritz or two! The Spritz, if you're not familiar, is a drink typical of the Triveneto region, made with prosecco, a bit of seltzer water, and a bitter, either Aperol or Campari, which gives the drink its nice orange color. It was the perfect accompaniment to a sunny day in the piazza with a few stuzzichini (snacks!) from the bar and as a way to close out the evening after dinner. Below: the spritz, ready for her close up, and Allie and Christina, very happy about their spritzes.
 
We were also excited to grab brunch at a little place called Caffeine (French Toast and Croque Monsieur highly recommended) with Marta, a friend from our days in Bologna. Marta was kind enough to take the early train from her town in Veneto to come to Padova to see us -- we hadn't seen each other in 3 years so there was lots to catch up on! (Thanks for coming to see us Marta! Reunion in Bologna soon?!)
And that about concluded our trip to Padova! We were sorry to leave but will be back up that way in July for Charlie and Christina's wedding (!!!) In the meantime -- here are some more photos of the city to transport you from your office to the city itself, if only for a minute or two.






























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