Friday, September 22, 2006

Travel Chronicles IV - Summer - From Montagnana to Padua and back

Wednesday 11th - Montagnana - The unusually quiet morning

Wednesday we took it easy. We woke up, had a long breakfast (personally, enjoying the sugar "conquered" the night before), prepared with all the calm in the world and headed out in the quiet streets of Montagnana. Knowing that Padua was just 50 minutes away and with plenty of trains connecting the city indeed was a pleasant thing and for once we weren't running to the station with the "that train or nothing" feeling.

At the station, we found a different kind of people to share the trip with: if the previous two days we found ourselves surrounded by secondary and high school kids, on our way to Padua it was mostly university students around us.

Wednesday 11th - Padua - The crazy guide in the laid-back city

The one in Padua was possibly the most relaxing of the ones we had over the whole week, with one single episode counting as an exception. As soon as we got out of the station and headed for the city we encountered a bookshop offering a "pay 2, take 3" on already discounted books, a hardly resistible offer for two people like Susanne and me. Being it closed as we passed in front of it, we took mental note to visit it again on our way back.

The first thing on the list, and conveniently on the way from the station to downtown, was Giotto's "Scrovegni's chapel". There, a ticket seller in a particular good mood (and with a ticket system with a lot of problems) decided to award us two reduced-fee tickets for the turn of visits starting at 10.15 am. In fact, only 30 people at any time can visit the chapel and only for 15 minutes, to avoid the frescoes' deterioration, which are preceded by another 15 minutes of introductory video explaining what the visitor is going to see.

We moved directly to the chapel and the guardian there was so nice to actually let us joining the previous turn than the one we were assigned, which counted only a half dozen people, sparing us a half hour waiting and having to see the place with the much more numerous group that was coming soon. The introductory video was really well done, in italian with english and german subtitles (which, funnily, was a problem for Susanne, with her hears following the italian audio and her eyes on the german and her mind on the english subtitles). The chapel itself was, as had been for me the first time as well, stunning, particularly the "inferno" part of the last judgment (bottom right section in the picture).

Finished our 15 minutes in the chapel we headed for the civic museum attached to it, hosted in the former monastery of the "Eremitani". And there, the only bad moment of the day happened. The first floor hosted the antiquity (mostly roman and egyptian) section, included some very interesting mosaics. Unfortunately, we couldn't appreciate much most of it as a scarily weird guardian, of maybe 25-35 years of age, decided to attach himself to Susanne and me. At the beginning it looked quite harmless, It all started with a general question he asked me which I interpreted as an attempt at breaking the monotony of the day and to which I politely replied. Unfortunately, it followed another question and yet another one that met my, still polite, increasingly colder replies as we marched from room to room and he kept chasing us. As he started talking with Susanne my patient was to the limit, also because the topic of the questions were becoming more and more personal and they were mixed with long blabbering (which I stopped following early one).

At some point, it occurred to me that the guy could had been not in its full mind and my attempts at leaving him behind redoubled, with scarce success. Luckily, as I was just about to turn and flatly ask if he didn't have other rooms to check and people to control, he was intercepted by two other visitors who asked him something, allowing us to put a room in between us. At that point, we were seriously playing hide and seek with the guy and once we arrived at the end of the first floor it was with some anguish we realized we had to go back in order to continue the visit. With no other solution, we turned on our heels and with a quick marching peace walked back, crossed the guy who made a step towards us only to be met by a nod and a possibly increased tempo of our steps, and off we were, up to the second floor where, seriously, for the first 5 minutes we expected to see him materializing behind us. Creepy experience indeed.

The rest of the museum was huge, filled with paintings (more than 3.o00!) and bronze statues, and even interesting, but slightly maze-like and ultimately exhausting. As we walked down, once again looking around for the weirdo, we paid a brief visit to the Eremitani's church (with its Mantegna's frescoes unfortunately almost totally pulverized by a a couple of air bombs during the last stage of WWII), not before having made a call to my grandmother in the occasion of her 85th birthday. As we walked downtown, our mood was already back to normal and a nice trio playing Bach, Mozart and Vivaldi at a street corner made it even better.

After having been closed in a museum for almost 3 hours, we walked for a long while around the centre of the city, finding the two main central squares of the city used in the very same way they were used 500 years ago: fruit and vegetables markets. We were also looking for a very specific thing: brown thread and a needle, but we were unlucky in our search for the better part of the day. And we walked, and we walked, saw the tower of the clock, the various important palaces, the side streets and reached the cathedral... once again closed for lunch. Through the former ghetto's narrow streets we walked to "prato della valle" (left), an immense open space in the middle of the city with at the centre a nice little park surrounded by a channel and ornate by dozens of statues, where we (ok, I, on the right) finally decided to have a break.

Next step, the "Chiesa del Santo", meaning the church of Saint Anthony from Padua, famous and venerated for his miracles and where I myself stood in prayer next to the saint's coffin, probably to Susanne's surprise. Having visited the whole church and his many, wonderful, cloisters, we left the church, smiling to the scores of visitors, especially americans and russians, rejected at the entrance for inappropriate clothing (despite the warmth, Susanne had been wise enough to bring a jacket to cover her shoulders every day, and Saint Anthony's guardians are notoriously among the most strict enforcers of the dress code for churches, second only to the ones of Saint Peter in Rome).

And there we went again, walking around the city, having a quick lunch at a sushi bar (I love sushi...) and then looking for the university and it's hall frescoes with the coat of arms of ancient students. At that point, we call the cultural visit over and we indulged in a typical pleasure of Padua: the "Spritz", which is a kind of light cocktail made of prosecco, soda and campari or aperol. We sat in piazza delle erbe and enjoyed a bit of relax when I was called by a friend of mine from Padua and recently mom, Sveva, who regretted the fact she was just back from another city and couldn't meet me. She also revealed me that another old friend of mine, Federico, had his law firm at less than 200 meters from where we were and so, as soon as the call was over, I gave him a call and half a hour later, there we were, reminiscing old times (between Federico and Alessandra, I bet Susanne has joining ELSA at the top of her "never to do" list).

Said goodbye to Federico, we set towards the station, paid homage at the library we had seen in the morning (without buying anything, amazingly) and boarded the train, reaching Montagnana once again with a bit of anxiety due the renewed difficulty of identifying the right station coming from the opposite direction that we had gotten used in the previous days.

Wednesday 11th - Montagnana - The last night

Once arrived in Montagnana, we made a last tour of the city before the sunset, taking a couple of pictures of its walls. Then, a quick grocery shopping for the next morning and a kebab were arranged and we headed home to prepare everything for the day after that would had seen us heading at a very early hour towards Venice where we would had stayed for the next two days .

And yes, if you are wondering by now... the bloody toothpaste was forgotten again.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Actually the thing with the guide didnt started as he talked to you... it stated as he nearly run into me as I steped from one room in the next one and than started talking with me.
Didnt I told you?