[ambient train station sounds] Are you tired? – Yeah.
– Am I keeping you up? Verona, Vicenza, Padua. Three medieval Italian towns in Veneto,
the northeastern region of Italy surrounding Venice. Today, we would ride the train from Milan to Padua, to explore street markets, piazzas and a cathedral. In nearby Vicenza, we would visit the oldest theater in the world, the Olympic Theater, then travel to Verona, where we would climb the steps of an ancient colosseum and see the famed balcony of Romeo and Juliet. This is Veneto: Verona, Vicenza and Padua on day two of our twelve day tour across northern and central Italy. Today depended on an alarm clock and waking up early in Milan. We’re getting ready to leave our hotel room; we’re running a little bit late. The air was cool and the Piazza del Duomo
in Milan’s center was empty. Krista: It’s downright pleasant here without all the crowds. We rode the subway to Milan’s Central Train Station, a Mussolini-era building of massive grey granite and arching steel and glass roofs. Our plan was to ride the train from Milan to Padua, where we would check our bags at the hotel, so we didn’t have to drag them around with us. We would backtrack to see both Vicenza and Verona, then catch a late train back to Padua to sleep the night. Leaving Milan, we had reservations on the
Frecciabianca, or White Arrow train. It connects Milan to Venice at speeds up to
160 miles per hour. We disembarked the train just twenty minutes short of Venice, in the town of Padua. [woman speaking in Italian] We bought city bus tickets for the day. It was a great opportunity to see if those
Pimsleur audio Italian lessons would really pay off. [Scott asking for tickets in questionable Italian] We dropped off our luggage at the hotel. Padua is the English name for the city of Padova, which is the setting for Shakespeare’s “Taming of the Shrew.” It’s an Italian college town, hosting the
University of Padua, established in the 13th century. Our first stop was the Palazzo della Ragione, a large medieval town hall building and marketplace, built in the 1200s. We explored the darkened corridors to find cheeses, olives, salamis, hams and one tired pig. On either side of the Palazzo we explored
the open air markets for fruits and vegetables. We bought strawberries, peaches, cheeses and salami. We walked a short distance to the Piazza dei Signori, a nearby square lorded over by a winged Venetian lion, a gargoyle, and a large clock tower. [rhythmic acoustic guitar music] There were all kinds of bargains to be had. We found a small cafe on the piazza, and ate fresh pizza with cold soda. Next door we found gelato. We passed through the archway under the clock tower to Piazza Capitaniato, a quiet, tree-filled space where we sat in the shade to listen to the midday clock bells. [clock bells ringing] We rode a bus to the city’s most celebrated
cathedral, the Basilica of Saint Anthony, known locally as il Santo. The Basilica is visited as a place of pilgrimage by people all over the world, and we weren’t the only ones to appreciate the building’s beauty. The Basilica is named for Saint Anthony, a Portuguese Franciscan friar and the patron saint of lost things. He died in Padua in 1231 AD, and the cathedral’s
construction began the following year. He’s the namesake of San Antonio, Texas. We enjoyed the beautiful gardens in the adjacent monastic cloisters. Scott: This is just beautiful. From the Basilica, it was a short walk to the Prato della Valle, a large ellipsoid 10th century park, surrounded by a moat and marble sculptures of prominent Paduans. Today it was also surrounded by street vendors. We enjoyed the soft grass and shade, where we picnicked on cheese and salami from the market. It was time to buy tickets for the 20 minute train ride to Vicenza, our next city-stop. We rode in the upper deck of a double-decker passenger car. We didn’t have much time in Vicenza, so we hailed a taxi to carry us through the narrow cobblestone streets to the Olympic Theater. Scott: Was that your favorite walk so far? – This was my favorite walk so far! The Olympic Theater is one of only a few surviving Renaissance theaters in existence, and was completed in 1585. It was the last design of the master Italian
Renaissance architect, Andrea Palladio. Scott: I got in trouble. You have to use the small steps, not the big steps. Krista: Oh, I did that, too. The onstage set is believed to be the oldest in existence, and perspective is used to give the streets the illusion of receding into a distant blue horizon. We headed back to the train station through the streets of Vicenza, stopping to look in churches and gelaterias. Peach and chocolate, because I saw on YouTube they said, “Try a fruit flavor with a chocolate.” Pink grapefruit … with tutti bosco. Grapefruit flavored ice cream! I wouldn’t have to share with you, would I? [orchestral music plays] Passing through the city wall, and back at the station, we bought tickets for the twenty-minute ride to Verona. We made sure to validate our tickets before boarding the train. Arriving in Verona, we bought tickets to ride the bus to Piazza Bra. We exited the bus beside the ancient city wall. Scott: … and there’s the Roman arena right behind us! All right, we are in Verona. We are at Piazza Bra, … here in fair Verona … and they have the stage set up! What do they have the stage set up for? Krista: something Egyptian. – Our arrival! The Piazza Bra was a large public space full of people, shops, and characters with which to take your picture. I don’t think that’s a real Disney Mickey. – Oh, it’s not! I know these things. That is not the real Mickey! I’ve met the real Mickey. What if you just, like, run over and tackle that Mickey? [laughing] The centerpiece of the piazza is the Verona Arena, a Roman colosseum. Tonight it was being used to host an Egyptian-themed opera. The Arena was built in 30 AD, during the lifetime of Christ, and is still used today to host events. Over half a million people attend concerts and operas in the arena every year. We climbed to the top of the arena to take in the view. Scott: Hey, ‘Funniest Home Videos’ called; they said you forgot to fall. – I know! that was my greatest fear, is that I would fall, and instead of getting hurt, have it on video! Scott: Hey, ‘Funniest Home Videos’ called again. [both laughing] Krista: Shut up! We found our way out of the Arena and walked through the travertine-paved pedestrian streets of Verona. [mime squeaking] We arrived at the courtyard of Romeo and Juliet, just before it closed for the evening. The 14th century house surrounding the courtyard delights tourists by claiming to have belonged to the Cappelletti family. The balcony here is said to be where Romeo pledged his eternal love to Juliet, and inspired the famous Shakespearean tragedy. Love letters adorn the walls of the courtyard, and a bronze statue of Juliet stands inside. The statue’s breast is polished bare by the tradition that touching it brings a happy love life. The wall inside the entrance arch is known as Juliet’s wall. It’s covered with the names of lovers from around the world, perhaps several layers deep. I got limone and … I don’t remember what the dark chocolate’s called. Scott: Azteca. – Azteca! All I can picture is your mom in that video going, “Oooooo!” [Scott laughing] We found ourselves in Piazza delle Erbe, a great place for people watching and enjoying gelato. A whalebone hangs from an archway in the piazza, and legend states that it will fall on the first truthful person that walks under it. It hasn’t fallen since the 17th century. We found a small restaurant, which we decided to try for dinner. They had exotic items on the menu. Krista: You’re not getting horse meat? No. I was going to get donkey meat for the first course and horse meat for the second one. but then I decided against that. After dinner, darkness had fallen, and the colors of Verona became even deeper. A fresh sprinkling of rain made the stone pavement glisten under an indigo sky. It was time to head back to our hotel, past high-end retail shops. We reached Piazza Bra, and found a taxi to take us to the train station. We had a forty-minute train ride back to our Padua Hotel. Tomorrow, we ride the train to Venice!