Tuesday, November 5, 2013

The Taming of the...

Here we are, ready to talk about Italy, and I don't even know where to start. I've been staring at the beginnings of this blog post for far too long, trying to figure out how to approach it. We went to Padova (or Padua, as it's known in English) because Morgan had a math conference, so he was away all day every day for the entire week and I was wandering the streets by myself. Which, don't get me wrong, there are certainly worse fates that can befall a person, but it makes it a little different because it doesn't break down easily into an "on this day, I did this" sort of format. Plus, I was hoping to come up with some sort of witty and appropriate title that would rhyme with The Taming of the Shrew, since that was set in Padua, but I've got nothing.

Anyway, here goes. We flew from Brussels to Zurich (where one of the few airport food options was a US $29 club sandwich) to Venice, which is just about an hour away from Padova.

Yep, that's Venice.
We got into Padova at night, so it wasn't until the next morning that I got a good look at the place. And when I did, one of the first thing that struck me walking down the street was how friendly people were. It's a marked change from Belgium, where it's rare for anyone on the street to meet your eye. It was early, so there weren't a lot of people out, but everywhere I went I was greeted with "buongiorno!" One of the people I was greeted by was a woodworker with a little stand a few blocks from the hotel. You might be thinking, "Well of course he's friendly, he wants customers!" but seriously, even people like that don't say hello in Belgium. (They might yell "Echte Gentse neusjes!" in your direction from the cuberdon stands, but they don't say good morning.)

I can check Pinocchio off my "Italy Bingo" card.
Padova is a very walkable city, as long as you're paying attention. I've heard that the drivers in Italy get crazier the farther south you go, but that doesn't mean they're sedate in the north. It's the kind of place where even after the "walk" signal turns green, it's a good idea to check the road again - in both directions - before you start to cross. We had been happy to hear that the hotel had bikes for guests to use, but once I'd walked around for a day, I was too terrified to even get on one. The bikes I saw seemed to adhere to even fewer rules than the cars - they were on the street, on the sidewalk, going in either direction. It was a free-for-all.

If you want to know what Padova looks like, it mostly looks sort of like this. Most of the streets have these colonnaded walkways. (Now imagine people walking through here and bikes weaving through in both directions as well. Yeah.) The walkways are kind of great - they provide shade from the sun, shelter from the rain, and put a nice stone barrier between you and the cars. Okay, I'll stop about the cars. Except first I have to tell you a story. I was walking along, and came to an intersection where a woman was traveling in the same direction as me on a bike. A car approached from our right and was thoroughly into the intersection before he saw the bike and came to a sudden stop. The bicyclist started yelling at the driver, clearly telling him that he was supposed to have stopped (he had a stop sign, in fact) and he could have killed her. The driver's answer was also perfectly clear to me even though my Italian is marginal at best. He pointed at her undamaged bike and said, essentially, "I did stop."

Now I'm really done with harping on about the hazards of the roadways.

Anyone will tell you that Italy is full of art, and when they say that, they're probably mostly referring to Renaissance paintings and highbrow stuff like that. Yawn! (I kid, we saw some of that, too.) But there's also a lot of street art, so I'll share some photos of that now.

These are just a few examples of what I saw on the streets; I'll have the rest of them up on Flickr eventually. I enjoyed being surprised by pieces like these whenever I turned a corner.

I particularly liked the geometric ones I ran across like the pink one posted below. There was another one of these I found, but I couldn't get a very good picture of it, unfortunately.
The lighting makes it a little difficult to see, but
he's disdainfully holding up a graffiti tag.
I know this maybe hasn't been the typical view of Italy. I bet you were expecting more architecture and old frescoes. Or statues and pictures of food. I promise I took those photos too - well, actually, not many pictures of food, oddly enough - and they're coming up in future posts. And also probably some drawings of my own - I did a few while I was there. Hopefully the next post will come sooner, now that I've started.


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