Italy 2012, continued
This is all you see from the outside, and of course, no photographs are allowed on the inside (all my photos are from the web). But I’d done my homework, creating a slideshow of the images and titles of each, and had been reviewing them for a few weeks before we left. I’d first heard about Scrovegni Chapel when I was taking Art History at my local community college some twenty-plus years ago. The woman who taught it did not hold a degree in art, but she was well traveled, loved art and museums and was really knowledgeable. She told us all that whatever we did in life, we should not miss seeing Giotto’s frescoes in Scrovegni Chapel. So the seed was planted. We’d tried a couple of other times, on trips to Italy to get here, but either we couldn’t warp the itinerary around it, or else it was closed for renovation. All the stars aligned for this trip.
We walked around the side to see a small glass room with an airlock door. The procedure was that you would enter with a group, sit and watch a video while you acclimated to the chapel’s temperature and humidity levels, then they’d let you out the other side into the chapel. The door would airlock shut, then the outside door would open–for just three minutes–then it would begin again.. We could see the video going on, and the chairs were half-empty: not a crush of tourists today. We stood there, wondering if they’d let us in early, when a whole tour group walked up behind us. The tour guide spoke English to these tourists (Americans?) and asked us if we were on her tour. We explained we were there early. The group in the chairs got up and filed into the chapel. The airlock door opened. I got a crazy idea. (Best not to consult with Dave on these things.)
I leaned over to the tour guide. “Maybe you could ask the guard, that since there is room in your group for us and since our time isn’t until the next opening, that maybe we could stay for two visits?” She scowled. “They won’t allow it.” “But could you please ask?” I said. A miracle occurred. She asked. The first Scrovegni guide/guard said he’d have to check with the second guide/guard. We sat down with the group, wondering if we would be able to stay twice, as they have a strict fifteen-minutes-and-you’re-out policy.
We went in with the group after our acclimatising video had finished, pausing to look enquiringly at the second guide/guard, listening to the few spoken words in Italian. He gave the briefest nod, as if to say, Yes. You may have two times. Dave and I squeezed each other’s hand and filed in.
Scrovegni Chapel is not large, but it is tall, and an average person’s eyes would be about even with the first row of frescoes. There are three rows of frescoes detailing the life of Christ, plus some history of his parents. We tried to verify that particular history–it’s not in the scriptures–but a touching story nonetheless. And at either end are more frescoes, and in between are small paintings of the Allegories and Vices.
The English-speaking tour guide was giving it her go, loudly coughing (along with the rest of the group; they sounded like they belonged in an infirmary) and loudly narrated the cycle of frescoes. Dave and I went quietly to the other end, located the beginning and I narrated for him what I had learned. The older Joaquim took the virgin Anna for his bride, and unfortunately they remained childless. Joaquim fled to the wilderness in grief, feeling like it was his age that contributed , and takes refuge with shepherds, falls asleep.
Giotto was on the cusp of art that made room for the body in paintings, breaking from the tradition of stacking iconic saints up like fence posts in paintings. His colors are rich and dramatic and he makes use of diagonals to draw the eye into the important parts of the fresco. Dave and I work our way through the frescoes, working around the loud tour guide (bless her! bless her!) and her band of hacking tourists, and we work our way through Christ’s birth, his childhood, baptism. A loud chime sounds, the voices raise, and Dave and I move off to the side. The second guard comes in and says something, the tourists file out. He looks at us, nods with a hint of a smile while the next group files in. We continue with this amazing work of art. (There is a slide show of all the images after this post.)
We continued through the Betrayal, the Crucifixion, and when we got to this image, I fell quiet.
The diagonal begins in the upper right, leading the eye to the central figure of Jesus, cradled in his mother Mary’s arms. John the Baptist, in the center, is distraught, his arms flung backward in disbelief over Christ’s death. The artist rendered the horrific reality that the crucifixion did occur, that Mary and Mary Magdalene and John and apostles were all there, perhaps wondering how this could have happened, wondering what they would do now. It is all too much to take in.
There in that little chapel in Italy, on a rainy, dark day, the story and impact of his sacrifice came full force to me, and I could not speak, nor hold back the tears. Christ was slain, all was lost, all was gone.
But the story does not end there. Christ returns, then ascends to His Father, like we all may do. Dave and I stood quietly together, the voices whispering in Italian around us, which left us to our own thoughts and emotions.
We stood for a few long moments, and we noticed the breaking of the border of the canvas denoting another place, more space. Heaven.
We moved to the The Last Judgement at one end of the chapel, noting the different figures in different places, the writing souls in Hell, the whole scene as Giotto and his workshop must have imagined it.
And then our time was up. The bell chimed. We took one last look around, then walked out into the falling rain.
Italy 2012, continued
We leave Bologna around noon, first grabbing a sandwich from one of the shops at the train station. Arriving in Padua, we find the tourist office, get our all-important tickets to Scrovegni Chapel (the whole reason we are in Padua) and wend our way to our hotel. We’d changed our hotel at the last minute because the new one promised high-speed internet in our rooms. First lie of the day. We checked in, logged in. Nothing. Then we heard Lies 2-10 on why we couldn’t get internet (famous line: “Ours is working just fine.”). I never knew I was such a lily-livered wimpie internet-addicted tourist until I tried to get online at this hotel. We finally gave up settling in (checking emails from our children is one of our usual tasks), and headed out. Did I mention that it was raining here in Padua, too?
We take the tram and get off at St. Anthony’s Basilica, where we see the above, up from the bus stop. This is one of the big sights in the Catholic world, the place where St. Anthony’s tomb resides and pilgrims come from all over the world to touch, leave mementos of their healings, and pray. No photos are allowed inside, but the gift shop is quite extensive, if you wish to buy a postcard, or twenty.
Here’s a shot of the cloisters, where they do allow photographs, but since the daylight is waning, and the cloud cover was thick, it’s hard to get good photos of this buildings.
They actually had FOUR cloisters; that ought to give you an idea of how big this place is. Here’s the well inside one of them.
Leaving the basilica, I nearly stepped on her face–a chalk painting in the square in front.
We walked up a side street, catching one last glimpse in the twilight.
Dave in front of a salumeria. We’d done some reading about this area of Italy and found out it was known for its food, especially its cured meats. We have nothing like their cured meats in the US, although we do approximate it with salami, mortadella, bologna, and the like. It’s obviously one of those things that you can’t really export very well, and if you did, it would be prohibitive in price.
My turn in front of the shop. We wander up through the side streets, passing all sort of shops selling St. Anthony medals, prayer cards, T-shirts, icons, statues proving that marketing St. Anthony is big business.
One lonely tent is pitched in the center of the Plaza of the Fruit (Piazza della Fruta), selling concoctions. I was fascinated by the fellow in the front of this booth, tossing roasted chestnuts in a large black pan, sparks flying in the air from the fire underneath and the airborne chestnuts falling like clackety autumn leaves back into the pan. There’s a chill tonight; autumn is here in Italy.
We wander through the arcade underneath the old Palazzo Del Raggione, and in one shop we buy some buttons and elastic–elastic so we can affix large trash bags around our legs like galoshes when we next head to Venice, which is having Aqua Alta (high water) episodes. In travel, your mind is lingering on what you’ve seen in the last place, and thinking about what you’ll see in the next.
We knew there was an old old university here in Padua, and we enter one of the courtyards of the buildings. The tours are not when we can tour, so we content ourselves with what we can see of the buildings, and enjoy the energy of the young around us. The students are all around us in the town.
We found our way to a marginal restaurant–more like a cafeteria, and while all the displays looked nice, it was just that– a cafeteria. We walked home through the intermittent rain, tried again to get on the Internet — a joke as it is still not working — then crashed.
We walked into tow the next morning, headed for the plazas and the markets. Padua has a river that runs through it, flanked by multi-colored houses, and sporting a few ducks.
I told Dave that graves in the ground were small potatoes compared to having the Madonna statue on a bridge for your memorial, but then he pointed out to me that there was no place to put the flowers, and wouldn’t you want flowers at your tombstone? I thought to myself: Have you seen our graves? Slanted? On a hillside? All the flowers will roll down the hill.
Perhaps it was the rainy weather than put us in such a grave mood, but we continued on.
So this must be a civic-style heartbreak. You pay tons of money to have your old church fixed up with new plaster and all, and then there’s an earthquake that leaves big cracks in the facade.
Morning newspaper. Something to do with cell phone photos and a vendetta and a sexy announcement. Because we are reading the Guido Brunetti series, we immediately think of our Venetian detective and his wife, reading these newspapers.
We are here at Piazza della Frutta, as so are the vendors. The big building overlooking the plaza is called the Ragionne Palace, but is now empty. We notice that it is mostly vegetables and fruits on this side, we head to the other, to Piazza della Erbe.
We dive in. I’d been moaning to Dave that I hadn’t purchased an Italian purse this trip, so guess what? He found me one. And then a leather tote to go with it. Cheap. The guy said that they were made in a factory just down the road. Near Padua. We joked that perhaps they used Chinese labor to keep the prices so low.
This is the view of the market from above, on the balcony of the Palace. Everything’s a little gray, a little soggy.
Those hairy things in the lower right are chestnuts, still in their covering. Everything in this market was so alluring, in terms of wanting to take it home in a cloth bag to a small apartment and cook up some fabulous feast somewhere.
I fell in love with the little strawberries in the lower left corner, and did buy one of those rosy pears in the upper left. Yes. It was amazing. I’ve noticed that in many dishes we’ve tried thus far, there are fewer ingredients, but they are higher quality. Take the tortellini en brodo that we had that first rainy night in Bologna. Three ingredients: tortellini, broth, cheese. But it was delicious. I’ve since made it since coming home and it’s easy and good, provided you use high quality ingredients.
We can see that the walkway above us in the palace has some pretty ornate decoration and we try to climb the stairs to see it. A bulky man starts motioning with some agitation that we cannot come in, and then he makes a circular motion with the other arm. Go around, we wonder? But we’ve been on the other plaza and didn’t see any entrance. But he is adamant. No one is going up there.
So we leave the area, trying to walk around. We rejoice! Sun! Bliss! Better photographs!
Some sights while “walking around.”
We made our way to Palazzo Bo, which apparently was the “way around,” and its Palazzo Moroni. I kid you not. The architect Andrea Moroni started building this area in 1541, with a courtyard, symmetrical staircases and lots of portico, columns, arched doorways and most importantly: the “way in.”
That’s a statue of Moroni there in the front on the pedestal.
We pay our money, and they let us into this giant hall, with a roof shaped like a ship’s keel–upside down. There used to be frescoes by Giotto here, but first the building burned (then was reconstructed) then a hurricane blew the roof off (which was then reconstructed), but by then the original frescoes were too damaged to be saved. At one end is a giant wooden horse, placed here in the early 1830s, modeled after the Donatello horse at St. Anthony’s. (Which we could not see because it was “in renovation.”) The long display tables in the center were an electronic art exhibit of some kind, but I chuckled when I went in for a closer look and saw this sign:
Computer malfunction. Looks like we weren’t the only ones with no signal to our computers.
The walls were heavily decorated with frescoes, just not by anyone you and I would know.
The bulky guy left, others came in by this door, and we realized that’s where the beautifully decorated portico was.
The bulky guy came back and takes our photo:
He points to my water bottle in my day pack and shakes his hand no, no, no. I’m thinking that no drinks of any kind are allowed in here and now they’re going to cart me off to Tourist Jail. Then he breaks into a big grin and says “Vino! Prosecco!” We laugh, and realize that he is right. If we were Italian, we’d be drinking wine and prosecco. Hey, if we were Italian, we wouldn’t be at the market in the rain, in sneakers, carrying guide books.
One last look as we descend the staircase. We’ve traveled to many of the number one tourist sites in Italy, and are now exploring the second tier of towns and sights. We know that while this palazzo isn’t on the order of the Sistine Chapel, Michelangelo’s David, or other sights, we try to enjoy what we see here, find new ways of looking at a small town’s Big Deal.
We don’t want to miss our appointments at Scrovegni Chapel–the whole reason for coming to Padua, but I’m definitely not going to be eating in the place where we ate last night. I’d done some searching on Frommer’s before leaving and they recommended Enoteca, just in between the two plazas on a side street. We’re wet and tired and hungry and hightail it over there. This is the fall/harvest display they have in the courtyard area.
More on this restaurant in Menu II.
We see on our tourist map given to us in the train station, that there is a something or other two streets over, so we head over there. Only the small battistero (baptismal building) on the right is open so we head over there. On the interior ceiling is a giant fresco detailing the life of Christ? Anthony? I’m never too sure in this town, but of course photos aren’t allowed.
We head out, walking along streets, headed north to the area where Scrovegni Chapel is located. No, it is not lost on me that we are seeing a series of frescoes about the life of Christ, a reverential experience on Halloween.
First we check into the Visitor’s Center, attached to the Eremitani museum, containing bits of carved stonework. We had about an hour to kill, so we took a look around, hit the movie area downstairs (English version), and saw some exhibits.
The cherubs (above) are in this circle. I’m pretty antsy now, anxious to get over there, we head over in the light rain to Scrovegni Chapel (continued in next post).
Italy 2012, continued
This area of Italy is known at Emilia-Romagna, also known as Italy’s breadbasket where Parma ham, aged balsamic vinegar and other amazing food is found.
But this is what we got on the way there, the airplane breakfast: hard roll, not-bad omelet and potatoes and iffy fruit. Duly prepared, our first meal in Carpi was a feast of Emilia-Romagnan fame.
It began with a reception with little snacks, and my favorite was the prosciutto wrapped around a grissini–a crispy breadstick.
After the reception, we were sent into the restaurant area where long tables were set with crisp white tablecloths, and set before us was a broccoli mousse in a white sauce, with what looked like chocolate drizzled over it. Chocolate? I take my fork, dip into the dark liquid–it’s vinegar, but rich and almost a sweet rich taste.
This blurry picture is the oil and vinegar that were on our table. This was my first introduction to aged balsamic vinegar and it was a revelation. We had a rich lasagna for the next course, then a knuckle of pork, both of which I only had terrible pictures (nothing worse than terrible food pictures).
This was the breadbasket–a supple cloth-like paper basket filled with chunks of bread–which I used to sop up the delicious vinegar on the bread plate. Our dessert — after 2 hours of eating — was a rich, flourless chocolate cake, with languid marscapone cream. We’d been eating for 2 1/2 hours, talking over the alcohol-enriched voices of those around us. We went upstairs to our room, ate a Tums antacid, then fell into bed.
The morning’s breakfast was a spread of everything breakfasty under the sun, including these golden-orange eggs, sunnyside-up.
I’ve been to a lot of hotels and bed & breakfasts, but this was a vast array of delicious food items.
Croissants of all kinds: plain, chocolate and raisin along with some breakfast cakes. Good thing we don’t eat like this every day!
I don’t think the Italians eat this way for breakfast, either. I imagine they have to have the meats for the Germans, the croissants for the French, and the cold cereals for the Americans. Pretty pathetic that we are the cold cereal people. Maybe we can own the scrambled eggs, too. Or those beautiful sunnyside-up eggs of golden orange.
The tables were set with beige linen, square plates and a tiny potted plant.
These were little shortbread biscuits, two wrapped in cellophane. I snagged a couple for my backpack and it came in handy later on.
When I went out walking in Carpi that day, they had Halloween Cookies for sale–love the molten liquid mouths of the ghosts. This was the day we went out to the Vinegar Farm (see the Carpi post), and came back to a luncheon in the restaurant of salad, grilled endive, a pasta dish with vegetables (like a deli salad), and last night’s leftover flourless chocolate cake along with bite-sized fruit tarts. That night we had a banquet in a local hotel/restaurant.
The first course was a variety of grilled vegetables, and firm polenta cut into bite-sized cubes and browned on all sides. About this point, another group joined us in this banquet hall and the noise level went from noisy to WAY noisy, and the pace of the servers picked up to frantic. Our section of the long banquet table nearly missed the second course of risotto with asparagus. Very creamy, but it was interesting how there was a gritty bite to the risotto–not how we serve it in the states. Salads came next drenched in that luscious balsamic vinegar from the region, but we had to practically do a dance on the table to get salad served to us. I politely held it for the lady next to me, who then whisked it on down the table, and then I had ask firmly to get it back. Please. I needed it, for they came around with platters of dry roasted pork, and the dressing from the salad helped out that bleh entree.
They redeemed themselves a little on the dessert: apple cake with cream anglaise. I could tell things were difficult in the kitchen for my spoon was a demitasse spoon–what we’d use to serve our babies their food. Teensy.
The next morning, was the breakfast spread (see above), but still stuffed from the last two days, I had a streamlined version–very streamlined.
Lunch was our final meal together. They started with a platter of these cured meats, and no I don’t know the names of all of these, but they were light and delicious. I have to assume some of it was salami (in lower right), prosciutto (in upper left). I had that, mostly.
We were served gnocco fritto–little puffy, light-as-air bread pockets. We ate them alongside the meats, but sometimes people open them up, stuff the meats in them and eat them like little sandwiches. If only we had known. . .
They had put red wine vinegar on the tables for lunch, but I convinced a server to bring me the balsamic vinegar, which you see drizzled above. Dave and I each had two platefuls of the above, but then they took away the meats, salad and gnocco fritto. I guessed we were done, but no. . . we had another course coming.
A rolled up pasta filled with a light tomato sauce and cheese, as well as a rich and luscious lasagna. At this point, the clock was running out and we were supposed to be out in the van for our ride to Bologna, so I wolfed down the rolled pasta and left the rest. I kept wondering what they would bring out for dessert, but I was stuck in the van for the next 45 minutes, while we waited for others to arrive, so never found out. Of course, it was at this point, realizing that I’d never have that amazing vinegar again, that I wished I had persevered at the Vinegeria Farm and purchased some. Luckily we were still in the area for another couple of days and I determined to look for some.
In Bologna, we ventured out that rainy night to Da Nello, a place recommended by the hotel and these crates of mushrooms were on the table in the abandoned front “porch” or eating area. I could imagine it full of tourists in the summer, for this was a place with a menu in seven languages–a telltale giveaway that this is a “tourist” restaurant.
Dinner breads on the table.
We shared a salad, which the young woman made by gathering together our lettuce, then reaching up and taking things from the stacked plates on the counter. None of those pesky food-safety gloves for her.
Later on I took a photo of them. The one closest to us is mushrooms, then strawberries, raspberries(?), and regular salad fixings.
A view from above from the other end of the counter. I’m sure she thought we were nuts.
Dave had pasta Bolognese–it looks like tortellini from this (dimly lit) photo.
I had a dish recommended to me by the man at the hotel: Tortellini en Brodo: tortellini in broth. The server sprinkled a little cheese over the top, and it all melted into a delicious warming supper. It was more satisfying than I ever thought.
We went back out into the rainy night. This golden tortellini was hanging inside their menu case. A website I found discussed the origin of this piece of shaped pasta as having come from Bologna, and since I’m posting this around Christmas time I thought the quote on the website was terrific:
Gazzetta di Bologna about 100 years ago said that “Christmas should be celebrated in Christian fashion, that is to say by eating until you burst, drinking until your head spins, and in general loading down the human machine with choice wines and edible of all sorts, varieties and origins. But precede everything with a great dish of tortellini. Without tortellini there can be no Christmas in Bologna.”
Italy 2012, to be continued.
Italy 2012, continued
I thought these lights looked like hanging prom dresses.
Waiting for Dave, back in the hotel, I caught up on journaling and thought about the woman I’d sat next to at dinner the last night in Carpi. I’d met her at the vinegaria farm and as we exchanged pleasantries outside, she dropped into the conversation that she was a widow . . . of six months. She’d come back because her husband was prominent in the Collegium Ramazzini and they were doing a memorial for him that night at the final session. I didn’t attend the meeting, but as happenstance would have it, we sat next to each other that night at dinner in the large, noisy banquet hall, filled with not only our group of nearly 100, but also a younger, noisier group. I could hardly hear her when she did converse with me, as she spent most of her time talking to someone she knew beside–and across from–her.
I thought of my sister who has gone through this experience, and from watching her and from a lot of reading for my graduate fiction novel learned that many widows considered the first year after their husband’s death to be the time they felt like they were living in a bizarre world. I felt sad for her–here she was in a foreign country, stuck next to some scientist’s wife at some noisy dinner and with whom probably had neither the inclination nor the energy to carry on a conversation. Although out of politeness, she tried.
Back home, if I met someone like her at church, I would probably know what to say, and we would have the luxury of a long-term relationship to carry us over the rough spots. But when traveling, the rough spots glare a little more, and although she was cordial, she wore her sorrow like a cloak. I sat next to her seatmate the next day at our final lunch in Carpi and found our more about her, but it only confirmed those early impressions. I wish we could have visited in other circumstances, for like my sister, she is a studio artist who has mounted several independent shows. For some reason, either because I was in Italy, or just the crazy conversions of my brain, thinking of the juxtaposition of her husband’s recent death and the art show that he never lived to see, reminded me of that oft-quoted Latin phrase: Ars long, vita brevis. Life is short, art eternal.
The key turns in the lock, pulling me out of my journal–Dave’s back and now my universe can turn in its ordered path once more. Where had he gone? Up into the university area, strolling the streets and taking photos, like the one above, and the pictures below, with fragments of the setting sun painted onto the buildings:
Neptune fountain from the front.
Detail. (Couldn’t resist)
Hand in hand, we head out for a walk together.
These candied fruits were like jewels in the window.
I splurge and buy one of a clementine, a pear, and a couple of others.
I expected them to taste differently, but later, in the hotel room that night we ate a piece of each and while they look so divine, they were just gooey candied fruit, like the fruit in fruitcakes, Dave says. But I don’t regret trying them.
We are amazed by the salumerias that we pass by. Here’s view A (above) and view B (below).
The Bolognians don’t buy regular meats in these shops–they are just for cured meats and some cheeses (in the deli cases below).
We were on the hunt for a vinegar stopper like the ones I’d seen at the vinegaria, for my new bottle of vinegar. One man told us the name of the device was a “tappo salva soccia,” or “top catches drips.” Sounds right to me. We found one in a hardware store.
I wished I could have bought some spiffy sneakers with studs in them, but we figured out (after never seeing a price tag, nor the item in the shops),that these were for display only. Still . . .
When walking in the evening, the window displays show to their best advantage without the glare of the daylight on the glass. Couldn’t decide if this display was in sympathy with the American holiday of Halloween, or the European-Catholic holidays of All Souls Day/All Saints Day. We walked back home to eat dinner near our hotel, and on the way, Dave noticed a purse in the window of a shop. Yes, we bought it. I had kind of given up hope of that kind of a souvenir. I’ve found the best policy is to not to have a pre-determined specific idea of what you want to take home, as you’re likely to be disappointed. I was happily surprised at this outcome. (I love my purse!)
We walked back home by way of another fabric shop he’d seen that afternoon (didn’t buy anything, but admired Dave for his fabric-shop-finding skills), and I had him pose by the shadow of Neptune on his fountain. That’s Dave there, against the wall under Neptune’s knee. We had dinner at a restaurant across the street, Osteria Le Mura, then went home and ended the day.
The next morning at breakfast, we try to figure out what kind of tree this is outside the breakfast room window, guessing at different things and finally wondering if it were a fruit germaine only to the local area. I ask the waiter for more information.
He says it’s a “pursey-man” tree. Pursey-man?
When the lady behind the counter brings out this dish, I understand immediately: persimmon tree. I hadn’t seen them ever as golden pieces of fruit. (And now Dave and I refer to them only as pursey-man fruits. The influence of travel is broadening.)
In talking to some other tourists at breakfast, we find out about a short walk to a lovely church and a viewpoint, so we head out, passing these rows of brilliantly colored trees on our way to San Michele in Bosco (the name of the church).
This is the view of Cathedral St. Petrionous in the center of the city (zoomed in). You saw our shot of the two towers (complete with satellite tower on top) in the previous post. It’s a lovely panorama and a fitting way to remember the city.
We head up the hill to the church.
The interior is divided into two parts: an upper and a lower, with this saint guarding the stairway. We tread quietly, as a man is kneeling silently in the first pew.
Around the corner in the sacristy (?), a woman is tending a rack of postcards, in the ubiquitous “gift shop.” We inquire in our best raised-eyebrow-fake-Italian if there is a cloister. The torrent of words in reply didn’t help. I find a postcard and point and then there are smiles and lots of pointing, with her hand going this way, then that way. We pay for a postcard (any one will do) and try to find out where this cloister is.
We walk out the door on the upper left of the church into a long hallway, which used to be part of the church, but is now a hospital. This ancient fresco clock is high up on the wall.
We focus initially on this wonderful ceiling in a play of light and shadow. Then I happen to glance down at my feet.
Dave! It’s a meridian line! I’d seen it in another one of the churches yesterday, but theirs had Plexiglas over it, so we wouldn’t walk on it (it was in that church that didn’t allow photos), and here this was, just laid out in the hallway where anyone could walk on it.
We try to follow the directions given to us, but realize that we need to get back to catch our train, so leave the cloister for another day. I saw later that it was a unique octagonal garden cloister. Bless the web. And curse it, for showing me what I could not see.
The train we’ve chosen is just like this one: sleek and shiny and looking like a stalled slithering snake, there on the tracks. We’d grabbed a snack for lunch, then found our seats, and enjoyed the hour-long (about) ride to Padua.
Because we were in first class, a woman brought around a little cart with snacks, just like an airplane. Only our flight attendants don’t wear surgical gloves when they pass out the pretzels.
We sat next to a British man who was the registrar for a large university in England, and he said he was pretty worn out by the last round of admissions, so was taking a holiday–first to Rome, then to Venice. We chatted with him on how the system worked in England, and he told us about the change-over from a government-financed education for the students, to one where they paid for it themselves (with government loans). After talking to him for the entire ride, we agreed that he needed a holiday. Academics will find each other wherever they go? We said our good-byes and got off the train in Padua.
Next post: Padua.