A Travellerspoint blog

Circling the Adriatic Italy: The Veneto

Verona and Padua

Mei Ling was at the wheel as we rolled into Verona an hour or so after leaving Ferrara. Like many of Italy's famously picturesque cities, Verona was pleasant but nondescript outside of the center. We decided to switch positions as we approached the chaos of Centro and Mei Ling pulled off the busy parkway onto a narrow driveway leading into a fenced parking lot. She stopped in the driveway just before the open gate. I looked up and saw the lot was nearly empty and told her to pull into the lot so we wouldn't block someone coming up behind us in the driveway. "Are you sure?" she asked. "Yeah, why not? The gate's open, " I answered. She pulled into the lot and five seconds later the metal gate slid closed behind us. This did not seem like a reason to panic. From the lot we could see cars whizzing by on the busy parkway we had just left. We changed positions and I drove back towards the gate, trying to activate a motion sensor or camera. Nothing happened. I reversed and pulled forward a couple more times. Nothing. I got out of the car and looked for any kind of button or sensor I could activate to get the gate to open. Nothing. I looked around for a phone or intercom and likewise saw nothing.

The lot was fairly small with just a few cars parked inside. The outer perimeter of the lot, facing the driveway and parkway, was ringed with an eight foot tall iron fence. The inner perimeter was blocked off by tall concrete walls that appeared to surround some kind of industrial complex. I found a double metal door in the wall that was chained closed. I could look through and see a rather decrepit courtyard and a large building behind it that had a few lights on, but otherwise appeared abandoned. I looked for an intercom and banged on the gate but no one showed up. I went back to the car, and called our Airbnb host and told her our situation. Of course, she had no idea where we were or what kind of place we were trapped in. I let her know we'd be later than expected and made a mental note that I might have to call her back to call the police for us. My next move was to climb over the gate at the driveway, which I accomplished with moderate difficulty. I set off down the sidewalk to try and find a way around to the front of the building. I had no luck in the first direction, where apartment buildings came right up to the edge of the gated complex, so I reversed tracks and went around the building from the other side. I had a little better luck here, as I was able to get to the more presentable facade of the building I had seen through the gate, but everything was locked tight and no one answered when I knocked on doors. There weren't even any stores or restaurants to inquire about the nature of the building. Some passers by hurried past with lowered heads, and it seemed highly unlikely any of them could have offered assistance. Eventually I decided to return to the car to attempt to contact the police.

When I was about 100 yards away from the gate, I heard Mei Ling calling and looked up so see her waving at me. The car was back in the driveway with another car beside it. Someone had finally arrived to get his car and had opened the gate. With enormous relief, we jumped back in the car and resumed our navigation towards the center. It had only been an hour and a half but it felt like an eternity. Moral of the story? Either "don't drive into private parking lots with open gates", or "listen to your wife." I'm pretty sure I know what Mei Ling would say. Fortunately, this was our closest brush with disaster for the duration of the trip.

The old town of Verona is packed into a small tongue of land created by a loop in the River Adige. The entire old town is a no go for the cars of non-residents. We lost a little more time searching for the underground garage in Piazza Isolo on the opposite bank of the river, and then set off for our Airbnb accommodation. It was a long walk with all our bags and the gondola but the location was perfect, a wide open square adjacent to the Piazza delle Erbe and the Torrei dei Lamberti. We checked in and then immediately set off to find dinner. It was a Friday night so the first couple of restaurants we tried weren't taking walk-ins, even though they looked half empty. We eventually found an attractive place with al fresco seating but unfortunately the meal was forgettable, except for a creme brulee with a live flame that impressed Cleo no end.

The next morning we strolled around the small market in the Piazza delle Erbe and admired the tall Torrei dei Lamberti from the outside.
Outside of our Airbnb

We were a little pressed for time so we decided to walk around the tip of the "tongue". Verona has beautiful streets and great views from the numerous bridges that span the Adige.

Our last stop was the ancient Roman gate of Porta Borsari, appearing somewhat incongruous yet majestic spanning the cobblestone street.

When planning this leg of the trip, I had to make a decision between stopping in Padua or seeing the famous fish market in Venice. Since it was Saturday, missing the fish market that day meant missing it entirely as it was closed Sunday and Monday. In the end, I chose Padua because I knew we'd be going back to Venice one day when the kids were older but I couldn't be sure we'd make it back to Padua. It proved to be an excellent decision. The food markets at Padua were absolutely spectacular and one of the best culinary experiences of the entire journey. Aside from an enormous number of stalls selling produce, there were arcades around the piazzas containing dozens of specialty foods such as cheeses, meats, and dried goods.

One of the specialties in Padua is horsemeat, which pleased Mei Ling no end. Along with some bread, parmesan, pasta, fruit, and olives we bought some strips of horsemeat in oil and settled down at an ice cream shop to eat lunch. Mei Ling took one bite of horse and determined that it was not carpaccio after all, but intended for cooking. Even without the horse piece de resistance, our self-catered lunch was outstanding. Cleo was the happiest of all since she got her favorite strawberry ice cream.

After a pleasant hour strolling along the arcades and negotiating with vendors, we explored the surrounding piazzas and cobblestone streets. After Perugia, Padua was the second Italian city that I felt would make a great base for a return visit, especially since we were missing the city of Vicenza and surrounding countryside on this trip. I could have eaten in the Padua market every day for a week. We made sure to wash our hands in a street fountain before returning to the car to head to our much-anticipated exploration of Venice.

Posted by zzlangerhans 14:14 Archived in Italy Tagged verona veneto padua

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