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DEcor is minimalist

Padua is a student city and as such, caters gastronomically for cash-strapped young people. Fast food joints proliferate but one of them caught our eye. It was packed, and the offer, toasted sandwiches was unique and very clever.

The menu - a window poster

The menu – a window poster

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Quirky names for the different toasties

Quirky names for the different toasties

Capatoast. With seven outlets across Italy it will not be long before it is everywhere.

Entrepeneurs out there – copy or get there!

The Entrance sign - photography is strictly controlled - not allowed with the Chapel

The Entrance sign – photography is strictly controlled – not allowed with the Chapel

The Scrovegni Chapel (Italian: ”Cappella degli Scrovegni”, also known as the Arena Chapel), is a church in Padua, Italy. It contains a fresco cycle by Giotto, completed about 1305, that is one of the most important masterpieces of Western art.

The church was dedicated to Santa Maria della Carità at the Feast of the Annunciation, 1303, and consecrated in 1305. Giotto’s fresco cycle focuses on the life of the Virgin Mary and celebrates her role in human salvation. A motet by Marchetto da Padova appears to have been composed for the dedication on 25 March 1305. The chapel is also known as the Arena Chapel because it was built on land purchased by Enrico Scrovegni that abutted the site of a Roman arena. The space was where an open-air procession and sacred representation of the Annunciation to the Virgin had been played out for a generation before the chapel was built.

History
The chapel was commissioned by Enrico Scrovegni, whose family fortune was made through banking. At this time charging excess interest when loaning money was considered to be usury, a sin so grave that it resulted in exclusion from the Christian sacraments, and many early bankers were concerned lest their trade jeopardised their souls. It has often been suggested that Enrico built the chapel in penitence for his father’s sin of usury and to obtain absolution for his own. Enrico’s father Reginaldo degli Scrovegni is one of the usurers encountered by Dante in the Seventh Circle of Hell. Recent studies have debated whether Enrico himself was involved in usurious practices and if the chapel was intended as restitution for his own sins. Some scholars tend to suggest that Giotto’s frescoes in the chapel reflect these concerns with usury and penitence, although the issue is controversial and others see a more secular set of concerns. Enrico’s tomb is in the apse, and he is also portrayed in the Last Judgment presenting a model of the chapel to the Virgin.

The chapel was attached to a new palace built by Enrico Scrovegni and was ostensibly a family oratory, but it also served some public functions related to the Feast of the Annunciation.

Giotto was an architect as well as an artist, and recent research has argued that he designed the chapel.

A rogue photo - not allowed!!!

A rogue photo – not allowed!!!

One of the most gripping paintings in the chapel is Giotto’s portrayal of the Kiss of Judas, the moment of betrayal that represents the first step on Jesus’ road to the Crucifixion.

The Scrovegni Chapel is open every day. Booking is essential (via the internet or in person) as they only accept 25 people every 15 minutes. You have a 15 minute video whilst your body temperature is cooled to the ‘correct’ temperature and you then enter the controlled atmosphere. It’s also worth lingering a bit longer in the adjoining Padua Museum and Art Gallery within the grounds of the old Roman arena – your Chapel ticket covers all of these entrances. For bookings, click here.

The Italians just love their ice-cream!

The Italians just love their ice-cream!

 

Birdies in the fountain

Birdies in the fountain

 

Street art in Padua

Street art in Padua

 

Christmas decorations in Padua

Christmas decorations in Padua

 

Lobster risotto at one of the Padua restaurants near the market piazza.

Lobster risotto at one of the Padua restaurants near the market piazza.

Padua is a city in Veneto, northern Italy. It is the capital of the province of Padua and the economic and communications hub of the area. Padua’s population is 214,000. The city is sometimes included, with Venice (Italian Venezia) and Treviso, in the Padua-Treviso-Venice Metropolitan Area, having a population of circa 1,600,000.

Risotto heaven

Risotto heaven

Padua stands on the Bacchiglione River, 40 kilometres west of Venice and 29 km southeast of Vicenza. The Brenta River, which once ran through the city, still touches the northern districts. Its agricultural setting is the Venetian Plain (Pianura Veneta). To the city’s south west lies the Euganaean Hills, praised by Lucan and Martial, Petrarch, Ugo Foscolo, and Shelley.

The Bapistry attached to the Duomo is ablaze with frescoes

The Bapistry attached to the Duomo is ablaze with frescoes

It hosts the renowned University of Padua, almost 800 years old, and famous, among other things, for having had Galileo Galilei among its lecturers.

The city is picturesque, with a dense network of arcaded streets opening into large communal piazzas, and many bridges crossing the various branches of the Bacchiglione, which once surrounded the ancient walls like a moat.

Padua is the setting for most of the action in Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew.

Padua has a lovely covered  market and is well patronised by the locals.

Padua has a lovely covered market and is well patronised by the locals.

 

Cheeses, cheeses

Cheeses, cheeses

 

The city is an ideal base for exploring the region, without the expense of staying in Venice. There is a large, modern railway station with easy links throughout Italy.

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We stayed in the Best Western Premier Hotel Galileo which was a revelation. Modern, clean, really inexpensive and apart from conventional bedrooms, they have an apartment block (we stayed there). And, to cap it all, Madame declared that the bar coffee was the best north of Melbourne. That’s saying something!

27th December is Madame’s birdie.

Bon Anniversaire…

The joy of her life

The joy of her life

 

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Palaces, churches, beautiful buildings - that's Venice

Palaces, churches, beautiful buildings – that’s Venice

 

St Mark's square with those (very) expensive cafes

St Mark’s square with those (very) expensive cafes

Grand Canal

Grand Canal

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ExchangingLettersWithSanta

The French like to believe that they invented Christmas. Their belief is that they did this shortly after discovering the secret of fire (Prometheus was from Marseille) and a little before they invented reggae music (which Bob Marley copied from Serge Gainsbourg). But we do admit grudgingly Christmas couldn’t have been invented by any other nation. The details of the nativity are unmistakably French: a family undergoing extraordinary inconvenience for the sake of a massive bureaucratic exercise; a leading lady who may or may not have been sleeping with her husband; and of course the Christ child himself, who grows up and promptly turns water into the national beverage. (The gospels don’t specify which kind of wine was produced at Cana, but locals assure me it was at the very least a  Château Latour or Miraval).

runner-up

Children love a French Christmas because the French really do it right. In many countries, there is occasional loose talk to the effect that Father Christmas may not exist. In France, they do not permit this heresy. Since 1962, there has been a law that any French child posting a letter addressed simply to “Le Père Noël” must receive a postcard in return. Adults who break the spell are shunned. On the other hand, the French have found a way to make the Christmas magic work for parents, too: they have provided Le Père Noël with an evil sidekick. The terrifying Père Fouettard – literally “whipping father” – rides on the tailgate of the sleigh, delivering beatings to naughty children as Father Christmas delivers presents to the good. When you’re trying to get children to sleep on Christmas Eve, the Anglo-American song exhorting children to “be good for goodness sake” is not nearly so effective as “be good or Le Père Fouettard will come down that chimney and thrash you”. You have to hand it to the French.

Bon Noel to everyone! And, as the French say, Bon Fetes!

Beautiful palazzo on the Venice lagoon

Beautiful palazzo on the Venice lagoon

 

Grand Canal

Grand Canal

 

Looking out from the Grand Canal into the lagoon and the sea behind

Looking out from the Grand Canal into the lagoon and the sea behind

 

Naturally, a gondola

Naturally, a gondola

Inside d'oro. It's a bit dark and dingy, and, of course, those pots hanging from the ceiling!

Inside d’oro. It’s a bit dark and dingy, and, of course, those pots hanging from the ceiling!

 

We didn’t want a sandwich from one of the thousands in the streets of Venice. We wanted a ‘real’ ‘historic’ Venetian bistro. Armed with a few notes from friends about trattorias with pots hanging from the roof, we weaved our way through the Rialto area, many back lanes, deserted buildings and some dubious neighbourhoods, to find Trattoria Ca’ d’oro – it’s been in the same family since it opened its doors in 1891.

Yes, and in common with many trattoria, there were pots hanging from the roof.

Madame's seafood pasta

Madame’s seafood pasta

The family were friendly, service was prompt and the Ca’ door is famous for having the ‘best meatballs in Venice’. We tred them as a starter – they are more baby balls than large meat balls and they were delicious.

However, we plumped for the pasta as a main course and the restaurant lived up to its reputation. Very tasty, affordable (by Venetian standards), loads of bread, and above all a fun experience.

Ca' d'oro is at the end of a lane with a tiny sign showing a restaurant within

Ca’ d’oro is at the end of a lane with a tiny sign showing a restaurant within

 

 

The iconic Rialto Bridge - now a souvenir stand

The iconic Rialto Bridge – now a souvenir stand

We decided that we did not want to be ripped off by over-priced and dowdy Venetian hotels (not everyone can afford the Cipriani!), and on the advice of some friends, decamped from Treviso to Padua. Only two train stops to Venice – at a princely sum of 4.50€!

You alight at the main Venice train station and take a day pass on the water ferries. No one can fail to be impressed by the amazing buildings seemingly wallowing in the water. However, it’s behind this façade that tells a different story.

Along the way - a plea for the Mafia to back off!

Along the way – a plea for the Mafia to back off!

 

Beautiful building in St Mark's Square

Beautiful building in St Mark’s Square

The Venetian population now numbers only 60,000 residents, half those of five years ago and diminishing by the year. The scourge of high taxes, dilapidated buildings and their prohibitive upkeep and a change in the nature of the tourists thronging the Venetian streets have all combined to place the future of the city under a real threat of becoming a ghost city – especially at night time.

Cruise ships take much of the blame, according to locals. The ‘cruisers’ arrive each day, stuffed from a huge breakfast on the ship, armed with food supplies ot see them through the day, visit the main sights and leave that afternoon for another port. And so the cycle goes on and on. Not good for restaurants, greengrocers and shops providing essential supplies to the local population. As one local commented “you cannot eat glass”, looking at the Rialto bridge fast becoming a massive souvenir stand.

Near the Rialto Market

Near the Rialto Market

We wondered why there was such a proliferation of sandwich shops – they’re catering for the day trippers. In the evening, the restauranteurs become desperate for customers and harange passers by. Not a great look for such a majestic city.

Where will it end?

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