Padua: A Northern Italian University Town – Page Two
By Cathie Arquilla
UNESCO has put The Botanic Garden of Padua on their World Heritage List. It dates from 1545 when its purpose was to supply the university with medicinal plants for study, specifically plants known as the simples, which provide remedies without further concoction.
The garden remains a research and teaching institution and is involved in preserving endangered plant species. Romantic statuary decorates the external pathways of the garden, while exotic and familiar plant life from varied environments can be found throughout.
If you were a frustrated botanist
(or a real one), this garden would be your mecca. But you certainly don’t have to have a green thumb to appreciate a living palm that dates back to 1585!
Called the “Goethe Palm,” after the German writer who hypostasized about evolution from studying this old palm, you can find it in a glasshouse along with other plants dating from the mid-1700’s. Imagine what these plants have seen (or heard) in the past several hundred years… and counting!
The Blessing of Mangiare at Belle Parti
No Italian tourism story would be complete without giving space to La Cucina. One lunch in particular was stand out in Padua. Ristorante Belle Parti at 11 Via Belle Parti, was memorable for its sumptuously elegant atmosphere and creative cuisine.
Proprietor, Stefania Martinato, a knock-out northern Italian woman, told us that her restaurant had burned down two years ago and only recently re-opened after a year-long renovation.
The re-opening has been very successful and they are usually fully booked. She explained that while Belle Parti was relatively well known in the Veneto it is still a secret place; their marketing strategy is word-of-mouth.
I commented on the floral arrangements, which were worthy of a renaissance still-life painting and Stefania explained that she arranges them herself! The flowers, subtle mood lighting, large mirrors, pleasing artwork and contemporary furnishings delightfully mixed old with new creating a microcosm of Padua herself!
Lunch began with an attention-grabbing move from our waiter, Marco. He deftly chopped off the top of our Prosecco bottle with a silver sword! Nothing spilled, cracked or crashed and the uncorked bottle top became my souvenir.
The menu created by Chef Mauro Genero was inspired. Two selections are prime examples: Scampi-Variations; crispy, raw, seared and marinated with fine herbs and fennel and Thin Tagliatella with fresh green apples, cappers and anchovies. As for the shrimp (scampi), crispy, was a shrimp rolled in lard, then rolled in a type of shredded wheat and baked.
The result was a flakey, crunchy buttery mouthful of goodness immediately followed by the softer juiciness of a perfectly cooked shrimp, meraviglioso!
The Tagliatella dish was a medley of flavors. The sweet/sour apples combined with the salty cappers and anchovies atop homemade pasta made an all-together surprising pasta dish. And the presentation of these dishes was modern and artfully executed. Lunch was a treat.
I’m not sure where Padua falls on the list of popular destinations in Italy. It is the third largest city in the Veneto region and certainly Il Santo draws a lot of people.
But sometimes, because a place is not a tourist destination, is exactly the reason you want to go there! Padua has the art history, architectural romance, and culture of a big Italian city, but it is a University town with a contemporary urban vibe – rich for exploring, easy to access and suitable for “students” of all ages.
Italian Government Tourist Board Italian Tourism–The best place to start when planning any trip to Italy!
Italian Travel Promotion Council (ITPC) The links at this site provide visitors with “…the best Tour Operators doing business with Italy, committed to giving American travelers the best possible experience…”
Veneto, From Earth to SkyAn excellent source for researching all the Veneto region of Italy has to offer!
Padova Cultura –- A good site to find out what events and exhibitions are happening in Padua.
Must Places to See:
Il Santo Basilica of Saint Anthony– A 13th century masterpiece of Roman and Gothic architecture.
Cappella degli Scrovegni– Considered the most famous monument in Padua, this chapel is entirely frescoed by Giotto, one of the most important Italian gothic painters of the 14th century. Reservations are required. It is located several long blocks from the city center and is across town from Il Santo. Plan for a short taxi ride or a long walk if going “from here to there.”
Orto Botanico The Botanic Garden of Padua– Named a UNESCO world heritage site, this is a lovely place to wander.
Belle Parti Ristorante Sumptuously elegant atmosphere and creative cuisine.
Bar Corte Sconta on Via Dell’Arco This casual tavern like restaurant/bar is a perfect spot to rest up and sample local “Veneto” favorites.
Caffe Pedrocchi Open since 1772 this grand historic café/restaurant is and was a meeting place for intellectuals and artists. Expect to overhear sparkling conversation! The upper floor has rooms decorated in Etruscan, Greek, Roman and Pompeian style. Don’t miss it!
Hotel Majestic Toscanelli–Located in the heart of Padua’s posh Ghetto neighborhood, this four star is a good bet for easy access to all of Padua’s sites.
Hotel NH Mantegna–This large, high-rise, “designed” hotel, has a generous breakfast buffet with views of the Basilica. Easy access to Veneto’s highways is an added plus.
Read more GoNOMAD stories by Cathie Arquilla:
Toronto: Fun for Kids and Parents Alike
Hunting for Morels in Idaho
Read more GoNOMAD stories about Italy
Watch travel videos about Italy
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- Padua: A Northern Italian University Town – Page Two - August 18, 2012