Off exploring website has been down for a few days so posting this a bit late!!I
I spent Thursday in Padua (Padova). I arrived at 9am, dropped my backpack at my accommodation before heading into town. I had booked to visit Capella de Scrovegni in the afternoon but was able to bring my ticket forward. Cappella de Scrovegni is a chapel featuring frescos by Giotto that are said to be comparable to the Sistine chapel. I visited the Sistine in May and I have to say, I enjoyed Scrovegni a lot more!! This chapel we were let in, in a group of just 15-20. Before being allowed into the chapel we had to sit in an atmosphere controlled room for 15mins that forms an air lock between the chapel and the outside world, it had quite extensive damage, has since been restored and I think they are very cautious about any further risk. When I saw the Sistine, it was mostly a stressful experience. The chapel was absolutely rammed with people, shuffling around, talking very quietly. In the Sistine I worried more about pickpockets, and the unpleasantness of being crushed up against people that somewhat affected the view. Scrovegni was beautiful and the silence and comparative space made it easy to actually appreciate the art. The attached Museo was really comprehensive, a large collection of artwork from the 14th-18th centuries. I got gallery fatigue after about an hour though, and headed back out into the (32C) sun.
I mostly spent the afternoon walking, as is my favourite way to explore a new town! Padua is absolutely lovely!! Very very old, with narrow cobbled streets, covered pavements, arches and trams. It reminded me SO MICH of Melbourne, Australia! It is a city of students, artists and intellectuals and this was the vibe... Free wifi throughout, lots of people on bikes and many shops with the word "Eco" in their name. Organic gelaterie, natural restaurants, stuff like that. The old part of the city is bordered by a couple of rivers, which similarly to Venice and Verona are a wonderful turquoise colour. I guess that means they have pale rock or sand on the bed? I went into a truly splendid Basilica (free) and spent a few hours sitting in piazzas and parks. It was a thoroughly enjoyable day.
I stayed in a B&B - I think this is a new experience for me! I generally prefer hotels or hostels because I like the anonymity. A B&B feels more personal somehow. But when looking at my options for this trip, B&Bs were by far the cheapest thing. It costs around €30 per night for a private room... You can't get a private room in a hostel for that cheap. It was essentially a room in this lady's flat. I think she lets out 3 or 4. B&B. I suppose it's a decent income if you don't mind sharing your home with complete strangers - I could never do it!!!!! The room was lovely - spotlessly clean, and the bathroom was great. The breakfast was not an experience for me though... I don't expect a vegan breakfast, I appreciate that this is beyond what most people would provide. I guess partly the difference in cultures of breakfast food but the breakfast was awful!!! She provided Melba toasts, little biscuits and those awful shrink wrapped croissants, with jam and Nutella. That's it. There was cereal on a shelf but I felt like I was in her home and didn't want to ask to have any of it, so I ate my branflakes out of my backpack. Maybe I seemed rude but whatever. I'm not going to eat biscuits and jam for breakfast lol. The worst thing was though, she sat at the table and TALKED TO ME right throughout the time I was eating!!!! It was awful! I hadn't even had coffee yet and I do NOT want to be making small talk at breakfast. I found it quite difficult. It felt like being in her home and having to make conversation to be polite. She did make me some nice Italian coffee though, so I can't complain. I don't mind about the breakfast, I'm happy to provide my own, to cater for my diet, but I very much like to be left alone.
Saturday I came to Verona. I'm staying in an Airbnb here too and the host was PERFECT - showed me the cupboard where the breakfast food was, showed me where I could put my food in the fridge, gave me my key and a map & let me get on with it. I feel a million times more comfortable in this place than I did in the Padua one...
It's really interesting to note the different composition of people in each town/city. Italians, obviously. But after that tourists make up the majority in Venice - LOADS of English, but also all nationalities. Padua / Verona / Mantova all have lots of people of Afro-Carribbean appearance, who speak heavily African-accented Italian - it sounds very odd! It's a noticeable portion of the population. On the train, at least half the people were black & a number of them wearing striking traditional highly colourful clothes. Verona is absolutely rammed with German tourists. It's obviously a popular holiday destination with them. Wikipedia tells me it's twinned with Munich so perhaps that has something to do with it, although I found lots of Germans in Mantua too.
My day in Verona was great. Very very hot (33C). Verona is bigger than Padua.. Its a city with tall buildings (higher than Padua). Still the cobbled streets, busier roads, more tourists. Lots of "high end fashion" - but I'm starting to realise that this is everywhere, because they are the Italian brands! Verona is more like Rome. I climbed up a steep hill, went into the Duomo, sat in some parks and then wrote this sitting in the Verona Arena (Roman Ampitheatre) waiting for open air Carmen to start!! It was wonderful, such an experience to sit outside in the evening heat listening to beautiful music. I arrived over an hour before the opera started and quite by accident got the best possible seat - I was in the "unnumbered section" - basically sit where you want on stone steps within a particular area. I had bought a blow up cushion (needed) and was right at the front of that section, so I could stretch my legs out. I enjoyed my hour watching the Arena fill up. It didn't start til 8.45pm! And they don't cut bits out - the entire thing was over 4 hours long, with three 20minute intervals. Tbh I think 3 was too many. It would have been better to just have two intervals and longer between them, and finish earlier. Definitely an experience I am glad to have done in my life (even if I did slip out before the end - I made it to midnight!!!).
I had a realisation! I came back to Italy because I enjoyed it so much in May and wanted to recreate that experience. I feel happiest of all when I am on holiday, but I've realised what I actually enjoy is exploring new places. So I didn't enjoy Venice as much as I was expecting (because I've been there before) but I loved arriving in Padua and Verona because they are new places. I'm glad I came back to Italy but also glad I'm going to lots of places here I've never been before.. The way to recreate that wonderful "on holiday" feeling is to go somewhere hot that I've never been before and EXPLORE - that's what I love!! Everywhere else I am going this trip is new, apart from Rome, which is so vast that I can recreate the "new city" feeling simply by visiting areas I didn't make it to last time.