Padova – unlike Venice or Ferrara – feels like a merchant city, a commercial place, centred on its Palazzo della Ragione (Palace of Reason) and it’s surrounding open-air markets. There are perhaps 40 vegetable/fruit stalls outside the Ragione, and around 20-30 stalls for poultry, veal/beef, horse, salumi, cheeses, fresh pasta, stockfish/bacalao, as well as prepared foods, within. Most excitingly, there is an ever-crowded porchetta & mortadella stand, where one eats heavily salted panini with a slab of fatty pork, and an enormous goblet of crisp prosecco, out in the sunny winter cold, ogling the delicious furs on crones and green loden coats on wizened old goats.
Or perhaps tastes run to the heaving tiny bar that sends out spritzes by the dozen, accompanied by slightly cloying, but brilliantly washed down with the drinks, tramezzini (my favourite: prosciutto cotto & artichoke). Again, standing outside…
As a student town, it is lively, yet (at least on our 2 visits) perhaps a touch more sophisticated than Bologna.
Great dogs – mostly of the wiener variety. Lots of puppies.
L’Anfora: little osteria with excellent meatballs, walls covered with jazz, posters, and bulldogs. Seems very much the place for bohemians of a certain age and solvency, particularly the old men after church. All the classics: bigoli in salsa, baccala mantecato, and excellent crostata.
Fabbri: probably our favourite, for its sharing tables, simpatico owner, and wonderful soups – lentil soup with no hint of over-salting, or a soup of radicchio, redolent of a carefully made stock.
Nane della Giulia: a strange place, specialising as it does in the old dishes of Padova, including a menu written in dialect. Horse or donkey stew, pasta in a donkey ragu, or pickled herrings.
A super enoteca on Via del Santo near the crossing with Galileo Galilei, good selection of wines by the glass, but also bottles, ranging from €80 to a more manageable €12.50 (for Cos’ Rami from Sicily – excellent with chicken curry). Apparent favourite of Padova’s numerous rugby afficiandos, a rowdy lot at 2pm on Christmas Eve.
A 1 hour bus or train away is Bassano del Grappa, home of the Poli & Nardini distilleries/museum, on the banks of the river Brenta. Fine little town, very atmospheric view from the Alpini Bridge, built on Palladio’s plans and many times destroyed. I think the town is the home of the Italian Alpine army units, and a little museum is dedicated to them. Also a place on the Hemingway trail. Birthplace of Jacopo del Ponte detto Bassano. And lots of grappa.
Venice is only 30 mins away by train, and makes for a civilised lunch with a spot of contemporary art to cut through (or make one doubly appreciate) acres of Renaissance and the occasional offending Baroque. We like the Hotel Bauer Grunewald for a Negroni on the terrace, opposite the Salute, a water taxi to Torcello for risotto with vegetables of the laguna at the Locanda Cipriani, followed by Signor Pinault’s collection at the Punta della Dogana.