04 March 2009


So the opportunity arose to take a quick trip down to Padova for the weekend -- it happens to be my spring break week, so there was no need to rush back to Ružomberok and I'm always game for both an adventure and some time in Italy.

I was pretty much tagging along, and so on Saturday morning I was free to go to Padova and do whatever. In my initial thought-planning stage, I was thinking Scrovegni chapel, duomo -- in general, a day of culture. But alas. I got there and immediately realized that it was Saturday, which is market day in Italy. So I spent the day walking through the city, walking around the markets, getting some good deals but mostly browsing and lusting after some quite exceptional clothes in both market stalls and shops.

But lest I get ahead of myself, I will here note that just getting to the center of Padova was an adventure. We had gotten in late Friday night, so obviously it was dark and I was also too tired to pay too much attention to where we were turning. Saturday morning, after a leisurely rest, I began asking the people in the frazione where we were staying where the bus stop was. This being Italy, everyone had different answers, none of which were particularly correct. So finally, I found the roundabout with a sign pointing to Padova and embarked on a 2.3 mile (3.7 km) walk to a bus stop. This was quite pleasant in the pleasant Italian air, on a quiet Saturday morning, and on the way I passed a quaint 12th century church.

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Besides walking around the markets (and oohhhhhh the food markets. Something I miss here in Slovakia -- they must exist, I just don't know when or where -- but nothing like the Italians), the highlight was an Italian lunch just the way I like it: ala carte from a tavola calda, eaten outside. This one was quite exceptional, and there was so much more I wanted to try but my stomach capacity and budget couldn't really afford it. From left to right: a polenta 'sandwich' with mushrooms and cheese; mixed greens ahhh spinach ahhh Italy (there were cauliflower in there, which - note to Mum - I ate, and enjoyed, but don't expect me to eat them at home); and beans which were horrifically disappointing, unfortunately.

I ate this lunch right in front of the Basilica of Saint Anthony. After lunch, I went inside, for many reasons, one of which having been that even though I'd been in Padova since, the last time I was in the Basilica was in 1990. One of my great remembrances of that trip in Padova was the reliquarium, the focal point of which is Saint Anthony's tongue.

For a four year old, such a thing made quite an impression. Note to parents of four year olds: such situations are also a great opportunity to explain incorruptibility:
"Look little Maria, that's Saint Anthony's tongue!"
"Um, why isn't it all disintigrated?"
Unfortunately this time I couldn't get up closer because the reliquario was closed for lunch, but the first impression has lasted these (gasp!) almost twenty years and it was nice to be back.

Another nice thing that exists in Italy that doesn't exist in the same form in Slovakia and is something that I miss is high-quality, sometimes excellent social commentary, artistic and philosophical graffiti:
"We won't pay for the [economic] crisis"

"Democracy comes from below... Let's make it rise up!"
"When there isn't democracy, do it yourself"

"Good day stars in the heavens!! The sun greets you!!"

The above were actually done on huge sheets of paper that were attached to the front of the Political Science faculty of the University of Padova. Alas, some sign of moderation -- they weren't able to write directly on the wall.

Below, haute couture bee-keeping outfit:

Here's the only really annoying thing about northern Italy (accepting that I am partial to the South/areas ruled by the Bourbons immediately before 1860): They're wealthy. Like, the crisis has yet to hit. They're still dressing exceptionally well, eating exceptionally well, and buying. Even baristas wear Gucci shoes, seriously. So what is it with the squat toilets?

Maybe this is one of those regional cultural things, like how we around Pittsburgh are among the only places in the county to use caskets that open up full-length. But seriously, the squat toilets are a bit ridic for such a prosperous region. Go south of Bologna or north to Austria and Switzerland, and you'll never see a squat toilet. But between Torino and Venice, watch out.


K Krett said...

I love the food pictures.

Maria said...

Thanks, Kim!
The polenta was truly magical.