Thursday 16th April. Set off early to Padua with a plan to find a hotel then go on to Vincenza the city of Palladio the great 16th century architect. On the way we passed a village which might be called the world capital of garden ornament suppliers. A whole succession of companies offered everything from ornate 17th century street lights, statuary of every size up to twenty feet high, garden pots in which a whole family could dine and animals of all sorts including a life size elephant.
Padua was much larger than we expected and finding a hotel a bit of a task but finally found Hotel Maritan close by the city walls at a reasonable rate and with free car parking. The old town walls enclose probably the largest medieval area we have seen in Italy with much of them built up against the river and most of them survive including several gates and bridges over the water. After booking in we set of for Vincenza about thirty miles away and soon found ourselves parked near the centre, at the end of via Palladio. Palladio was probably the most influential architect on the look of England during the 17th to 19th centuries and that influence can still be seen in Buckingham Palace, Chiswick House, Blenheim Palace, most of Bath and other Regency buildings. Vincenza has some 16 of his creations, mostly Pallazos but also some church sections to which people from all over the world come to see and pay homage to. The amazing harmony and symmetry that is his trademark are wonderful to see at first hand. His basilica in the central Piazza dei Signori is dazzling and was the structure that made his reputation. Our photos can never show it best so suggest an internet search.
Back to Padua and an evening voyage of discovery initially to get our bearings but were persuaded to go into the Pallazo della Ragione (Il Salone). Built in the early 13th century with fifteen foot ceiling shops on the ground and first floor, each with fifteen foot ceilings and with arched walkways outside, then on the second floor the hall of judges. The hall is 81 metres long (270feet) by 27 metres wide (90feet) by 27 metres high with a 30 feet high 550 year old wooden horse at the end and certainly exudes a wow factor. Tintoretto originally decorated the ceiling but it burnt down in 1400 and the replacement is free of decoration but the walls are covered in various religious and astrological frescoes. The hall is where the city’s magistrates and judges had their benches to give judgement on their own particular responsibility. Quite an introduction to the City.
Feeling hungry we stopped at a bar for a tourist (cheap) meal and quickly got talking to the Austrian girlfriend of the owner who was a dead spit for Ross Kemp. In fact after a few drinks Judy got his autograph and the bar had been renamed 'Queen Vic'.