Today I decided to change my itinerary a bit. I was planning on spending 2 nights in Padua and exploring both Vicenza and Verona as day trips before heading to the Dolomites. Last night when I was looking at the train schedules, I realized that would only give me one full day for the Italian Alps. Since it will take me most of the day to get there and another full day of traveling when I leave, I decided to try and get another night in Castelrotto. They are all booked, so instead I will spend a night in Bolzano, which is the gateway city to get there. That way I can get up early and take the bus to Castelrotto, giving me nearly 2 days instead of one. I will only have one night in Padua and won't be able to see Vicenza or Verona, but I'd rather spend the time in the mountains. The downside is that my hotel in Padua is free, and it's a pretty nice hotel. Oh well...
I got up early, went for a quick dip in the lake and left Varenna on the early train. I got to Padua and instantly noticed the heat - in the 90's. I was soaked with sweat by the time I got to my hotel. I spent the whole afternoon and evening walking. I must have drank 10 gallons of water and slurped down at least 5 granitas. I even toured the Basilica to escape the heat, since big, stone cathedrals are usually pretty cool inside, but it was so hot out, even the inside of the cathedral was warm and stuffy. Thank god my hotel has air conditioning. I came back to an icy-cool room and collapsed on the bed.
One of my main reasons for coming here was to see the Scrovegni Chapel
, which is famous for it's paintings by Giotto
(see this webpage for details: http://www.cappelladegliscrovegni.it/eng/index_e.htm
I had to make reservations months ahead, as they only let 25 visitors enter the chapel at one time to protect the paintings from excess humidity, and you only get 15 minutes inside. You have to sit in a room for 20 minutes beforehand to become "climatized", where you watch a video about the chapel and Giotto. The detail of the paintings is incredible. A lot of it is painted to look like marble, but most are pictures depicting the life of Jesus and Mary. After touring the chapel I just started walking, exploring the city and ended up going in circles again. The city center is built on an old medieval grid plan, with lots of winding, narrow streets, so it's easy to get turned around. I was walking for over an hour when I realized I was right back where I started from. This wasn't so bad, except at this point I was getting hungry and thinking about that doner kebab shop near my hotel. Doner Kebab
is basically the same as a gyro sandwhich - roasted beef and lamb meat or falafel, stuffed in a pita with various kinds of sauce, lettuce, tomato, onions, peppers and sometimes french fries. I love these things and practically live off them every time I'm in Europe. They are cheap, quick and reasonably healthy. Just writing about them is making my mouth water for another. Well, I finally found my way back to my hotel and the Kebab shop and headed to the Prato della Valle
park, one of the biggest squares in Italy. Its surrounded by a moat and statues with a big fountain and lots of grass. It was the perfect spot to eat my dinner, just lounging on the grass, in the shade of a tree and feeling the cool mist from the fountain.