Life in Italy is very good. We’re about one-third of the way through our 30-day stay in Padua and have continued our favorite Milan routines here. We’ve already done two major day trips that I’ll write about in future posts, but for now, here are some of the things we love about Padua.
Embracing Old Town Vibes
Our Airbnb is on the edge of the old town near Padua’s duomo church. Old in Padua means really, really old. Wikipedia says it was founded in 1183 BC by a Trojan prince. The old town buildings aren’t nearly that old, but many date back to when the city was rebuilt in 1174 (again, according to Wikipedia). It is essentially a college town (we love those!) and the University of Padua was established in 1222. Galileo was a lecturer here for 18 years and we’re looking forward to spending some time visiting some of the places where he lived and taught.
Our apartment building is very old too, though it’s hard to say how old. We’re on the second and top floor so we have a cool vaulted ceiling with exposed beams. Our host has furnished the apartment with eclectic old furniture and interesting art and it all feels very European. We’re close to one of the main piazzas, Piazza dei Signori, which is hopping with people pretty much every night. The old city is full of tiny winding streets and is really charming. We love it.
Becoming Grocery-Store Gourmets
In Milan we discovered an abundance of fresh pasta, premade sauces, interesting antipasti, and local produce at our city supermarket. Our grocery store here in Padua (a Eurospar) is just as well-stocked. It makes cooking at home very easy and special and extremely affordable.
We’ve tried different fresh raviolis and tortelloni (fun fact: in Italy, tortellini is stuffed with meat and tortelloni is stuffed with cheese and/or vegetables, so we’re choosing tortelloni to be vegetarian) and gnocchi and noodles. I bought a lovely jarred pesto and tomato sauces we’ve jazzed up with mushrooms or fresh basil. And the different breads at the supermarket bakery are so good! We plan to branch out and try some of the little bakeries, pastarias, and foccarias downtown at some point too, but for now, we’re getting very high quality food at the grocery store.
On Sunday, we bought a great spread to have for a picnic at the park next to the canal. Fresh warm bread, assorted olives and veggies in olive oil, gorgonzola, pecorino, fig jam, breadsticks, and plums. It was fabulous.
We’re also learning a lot about Italian food. What we have at Italian restaurants at home does not nearly cover the variety found here. We did a balsamic vinegar tasting on one of our day trips (more on that in a post to come) and are learning about all sorts of new pastas that we’re finding in the grocery store. I think there’s an art to pairing the right pasta with the right sauce and I’m determined to figure it out!
Oh, and of course we picked up some Italian wine and limoncello at the grocery store too. And dark chocolate for Chad.
Walking Along Our Naviglio
Who knew that canals (navigli) in Italy extend far beyond Venice? Certainly not me. We have a great naviglio not far from our house with a path along it that is our route to the supermarket. We’ve also ventured out to other navigli, some of which have had extensive walking/biking paths developed alongside. Apparently you can bike all the way to Venice (about 20 miles from here) along our southern naviglio.
The old town of Padua is encircled by navigli and we’ve been doing our best to explore them all. It really makes for a lovely daily walk.
Learning to Like Campari and Love Aperitivi
A Northern Italian tradition I love and Chad at least tolerates is having aperitivi (snacks) with a pre-dinner drink (called aperitivo; aperitivi is the plural of an aperitivo, but it all means before dinner).
It is really fun to see what various bars and cafes serve with their early evening drinks (usually beginning around 6 p.m. but sometimes a bit earlier). Some do it buffet style, which we’re avoiding during COVID. I think we already experienced the aperitivi master at the first bar we tried in Milan, but we’ve already had some good experiences here. Many places include nuts or olives or both, and the other day, we were each given some pizza with our drinks! I have always loved snacks, especially bar snacks (parts of Mexico do this really well too), so this is definitely a tradition I am embracing.
The most frequent cocktail ordered as an aperitivo is the Aperol spritz (invented in Venice) but Chad and I find it a bit flavorless. Most cocktail menus also have a few drinks featuring campari, a bitter local liquor. Chad has really taken to Campari cocktails and we’ve tried a few versions including the Americano (Campari-sweet vermouth-soda), the Sbagliato (Campari-sweet vermouth-prosecco), and the Milano-Torino (which was our hands down favorite but not everyone does it; it is Campari with Martini rosso vermouth). And of course, the negroni is the most prevalent and is essentially a Milano-Torino with gin added. Chad finally had one of those on yesterday’s day trip and didn’t care for it. But he is looking forward to trying a boulevarier, which is with bourbon instead of gin.
We’ve tried a few wines out as well. The local favorite is Lambrusco, a sparkling red, and this region is well-known for prosecco too, which I finally ordered yesterday. We’ve also tried some nice regional whites: soave, lugana, and calvarino. You’re probably starting to see why we like Italy so much!
We’re happy to have much more time in Padua to try more food, more drinks, and do more day trips to other fun cities. And there’s quite a lot to see and do in Padua itself – it is a popular day trip for tourists staying in Venice. We’ve been waiting to get a little deeper into September to start visiting some of our local sites. More on that soon!