Relics and Bufala

Since I was forced to post only a brief update from Padova yesterday, here’s the rest of the news from the Veneto.  This is one of those places where I wish I could spend more time, not necessarily because I want to see more sites, but because I have enjoyed acclimating to the culture.

I'm moving away from Venetian seafood, and this pasta with meat (not sure which kind), olives, and mozzarella made a great lunch.

This is the Piazza delle Erbe, in the medieval center of the city. The building across he plaza is the Piazza della Ragione, which dates from 1218.

The winding narrow streets open up onto small piazzas that are filled with cafe tables.

There seem to be equal quantities of bicycles and cars in this town. After being in Venice, i was a little out of practice in sharing the road with them.

Padova has an endless series of arcaded streets, which provide a cool breeze on a hot day, and shelter in the rain.

The Basilica di Sant' Antonio is surrounded by some peaceful cloisters, and the monastery here is still active.

Sant' Antonio houses a bunch of relics of Padova's patron saint, Saint Anthony. Among other body parts on display, his tongue is preserved in a glass and gold jar. I would not have known that it was a tongue if I hadn't been told, because it looked nothing like flesh. Photography is strictly prohibited within, but I must say that after seeing Hagia Sophia, which was built in 537, the church, built around 1200 could not help but seem dark and a bit stifling. It's amazing that I'm still more and more impressed with Hagia Sophia, and I'm now nowhere near it.

Next to Sant' Antonio, the Scoletta del Santo (pictured here) contains a number of early Titians, and the neighboring Oratorio di San Giorgio is covered in frescoes by Altichiero da Zevio and Jacopo Avanzi. For some reason, these are not at all popular with tourists, and while I was joined by the sleepy guard at the Oratorio, he let me into the Scoletta all by myself (which is why you see a photo of it). I was thoroughly impressed by the Oratorio, and after later seeing Giotto's frescoes, it was interesting to see how much painting had changed in sixty years. The frescoes depict the lives of Saints George and Lucy, and it was fascinating to look at them as precursors to comic books. I was particularly taken with Saint Lucy's story, and her face was recognizable in each frame. In one panel, which reads from left to right, she appears three times in the same scene, escaping death twice, and succumbing to a ruffian's knife.

The eliptical Prato della Valle is lined by 78 statues of Padovans from history. In the distance, the Basilica di Santa Giustina can be seen.

Another site that tourists seem to disregard, the Basilica di Santa Giustina is a huge, quiet church with spare ornamentation, and a painting of Santa Giustina by Veronese.

The apse contains the most ornamental portions of the church, and gold provides the dominant color.

In the distance of this picture, which was taken across the transept, a small service was taking place. The monks were singing the mass in the most mellow, delicate fashion, which made every other mass that I have heard seem like heavy metal compared to Chet Baker.

The music definitely contributed to my appreciation of the church, and like witnessing a service in one of Istanbul's mosques, it was great to hear the church filled with its intended sounds.

After seeing countless churches coated in frescoes and intricate carvings, this place was refreshingly simple.

From what I could tell, the doors to the basilica, in addition to the relief above the left door, were added recently to the 16th Century facade.

The Prato seems like an incongruently grand space for a town like this.

Towards evening, Padovans make their way to one of the countless outdoor cafes for aperativi.

Not a bad place to enjoy a spritz.

The roads in the older part of town are composed of round river stones, which makes them somewhat uncomfortable for walking. Fortunately, smooth marble paths surround them.

My waitress recommended that I try this dish, mozzarella di bufala, tomato sauce, and pureed eggplant. I had been looking forward to having some bufala mozzarella for a long time, and this did not disappoint.

For dinner, my waitress suggested this, tagliatelle with rabit and mushrooms.

Padova's little streets get silent at night.

A beacon for late diners.

Although the streets go quiet, the piazzas come to life, and people stay at these outdoor cafes well into the night.

I turned a corner to find these kids practicing their breakdancing.

Within earshot from the dance party, a view from the eighteenth century.

3 thoughts on “Relics and Bufala

  1. I actually think I took a photo of St. Anthony’s tongue (probably wasn’t supposed to!) years ago when I was there! and yes, it didn’t look like much of anything. An imagination is required. Especially disturbing was St. Catherine’s head in Siena!

    Seeing all the piazzas and arcaded streets made me really miss living in Italy! Why don’t we design cities this way? Are strip malls the American version of an Arcade? hahaha!!

    That pasta dish looks exactly what you like to cook for yourself at home!

    By the way, it was 99 (possibly 100?) degrees F today, I was thinking of you and how you didn’t have air conditioning in your Venice hotel…I would have died!

    • Dear Elizabeth
      I would love to see this recipe for rabbit, mushroom and tagliatelle.

      You still seem entranced by Hagia Sophia. After the spare beauty of the Central Asian countries–well, for the most part–you next encountered the sumptuously textured Byzantine and Turkish churches and mosques, which impress less by surface and more by the skillful stereometry of a Justinian or a Sinan. All those mosaics seem to disappear in the power of the volumes. Now you seem slightly amused by the visual and religious sites of Italy, all surface, all sensual. What cultural and aesthetic transformations, contrasts, centuries you have witnessed in a few weeks!

      What a piece of work is a man, how noble in reason, how
      infinite in faculties, in form and moving how express and
      admirable, in action how like an angel, in apprehension how like
      a god!

  2. Tad, I did a quick 5 min. re-run through of your entire trip. It is quite amazing that you have been through all of these places in the past 2 months, and even more amazing when you see the progression through all your images in such a short amount of time. when you get home you better make a beautiful book out of this.

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