Our Third Week in Italy: Venice, Padua, and Bologna

March 22 - April 18, 2008

Our Three-Week Italy Vacation - Overview

We had a fantastic vacation in Italy! Almost three weeks. Our trip overview page is here.

April 12 - April 17, 2008

Our Third Week (This Page) - Where we Stayed

Venice - 3 nights, beginning April 12. Stayed at Cà Gottardi.

Padua - 1 night, April 16. Stayed at Albergo Al Fagiano.

Bologna - 1 night, April 17. Stayed at Zanhotel Europa.

Saturday, April 12


Train, then a Vaporetto

Took the train to Venice. We had booked our train reservations in advance (on Friday) at an automated kiosk at the station in Florence, which worked just fine. Our train, a "EuroStar Special," left Florence at 8:40 am and got into Venice at 11:15. A light rain when we arrived, which tapered off. But it was chilly!

We took the ACTV vaporetto (or "water bus") from the train station to the Ca' D'Oro stop, near our hotel, which was a short walk from the vaporetto stop. (More expensive than you would expect!)

Checked in to our hotel, Cà Gottardi, in the Canareggio district. Very nice hotel! the double-pane windows cut out all but a hint of the outside sounds, which we really appreciated. (Particularly after our hotel in Florence, which had no such soundproofing.)

From a recommendation in Rick Steves Italy, we had a lunch of cicchetti at Osteria al Bomba. Cicchetti are various pre-prepared snacks -- both veggies and seafood. Good, but not great, as you might expect for things that have been sitting out -- particularly the fried cicchetti. (It was mid-afternoon by the time we were able to get our lunch.) Still, it was nice to enjoy a Venetian specialty.

Exploring Venice by Foot

We walked to St. Mark's square, and picked up our pre-reserved-over-the-Internet museum passes. (From Selectitaly.com, for "the San Marco Museums" -- Doge's Palace, Museo Correr, plus a bunch of others.)

Beauty and decay, always intertwined in Venice...

Venetian balcony

Lots of these (gondolas and canals) in Venice.


Along the Grand Canal, from Rialto Bridge.

The Grand Canal, from Rialto Bridge


We tried to go to Osteria da Alberto for dinner, but they didn't have room; reservations needed on a Saturday! (We went back on Monday night, though. It was great!)

We stopped by Vini da Gigio, in Cannaregio, quite near our hotel. It was booked 'til 9:30, so back to the hotel, and then back to the restaurant at 9:30. It was a treat, with very nice service. The "cuttlefish in their own ink" is a bit heavy; the grilled cuttlefish is much better. (A Venetian specialty, evidently.)

Sunday, April 13



We happened upon a parade in Piazza San Marco. Nice happenstance!

Parade in Piazza San Marco

Parade in Piazza San Marco

Parade in Piazza San Marco

Parade in Piazza San Marco

Package Deals!

We had pre-booked a two-part package tour, the "Venice in 1 Day Special Tour Offer Combo" from the tour company Avventure Bellissime.

Guided Tour of Venice

The first tour was the "Original Venice Walk," from 2:00 pm to 4:00 pm. Our guide, Luisetta, a Venetian, was fantastic. We began in the epicenter of tourism, Piazza San Marco (St. Mark's Square), but she quickly led us away from the crowds to the back streets, describing the interesting history of Venice and somewhat conflicted nature of the Venetians. We were very pleased to have signed up for the tour!

In a courtyard, in the Doge's Palace.

Clock in the Doge's Palace

Doge's Palace

The Doge and the Lion

Two of the "Four Tetrarchs." On a corner of St. Mark's Basilica. One of the many treasures that the Venetians "appropriated" from other parts of the world during the Crusades.

Four Tetrarchs

A mosaic on the exterior of the Basilica. The mosaics inside are incredible. You get shuffled through rather quickly, but it's well worth it anyway.

Basilica mosaic

The lion is the symbol of Venice. The old hospital at Campo dei Santi Giovanni e Paolo.


Our guide explained that this statue is a great example of chiaroscuro -- an intentional emphasis on shadow and light. By Bartolomeo Colleoni. In Campo dei Santi Giovanni e Paolo.

Statue by Bartolomeo Colleoni

Along a Venetian canal.

Canal scene

Guided Tour of Venice by Boat

The second tour was the "Grand Canal Boat Tour," a 45-minute tour on one of the cool-looking "water taxis." Our guide, Christine, described the sights as we made a loop through the Grand Canal. And we each had nice glass of prosecco. A good tour!

The Bridge of Sighs (in the background). Connects the interrogation room in the Doge's Palace on the left to the prison on the right.

Doge's Palace and the Bridge of Sighs

San Giorgio Maggiore. On an island south of the main Venetian islands.

San Giorgio Maggiore

The old and the new.

Old and new

A vaporetto pulling into a stop.


An example of the beautiful Venetian Gothic architecture.

Venetian details

And a close-up.

Venetian details

A Venetian scene

The Bridge of Sighs again.

The Bridge of Sighs


Dinner at Osteria Il Milion, Corte del Milion. Which we read about in Rick Steves Italy. A bit stuffy (waiters with bow ties, as promised) and a little old fashioned, but the food was good.

Time-Lapse at Night

A vaporetto pulling away from a stop.

Vaporetto at night

Movement and light.

Lights on the canal at night

Lights on the canal at night

Monday, April 14


Walking and Exploring (LOTs of Walking!)

We took a traghetto (a large gondola that goes back and forth across the Grand Canal), heading off for the "Frari" (the Basilica S. Maria Gloriosa dei Frari) -- a wonderful old church where you can see great art in situ. We had at least a vague idea of how to get there, and while stopped for a minute looking at our map, an older man who sensed that we might need help said, "Rialto Bridge? San Marco?" (the two big tourist destinations). We said, "no, Frari," and his face just lit up with joy! (Somewhere different! And special!) He happily rattled off directions in Italian. Very sweet. (Maps are both a blessing and curse in Venice; it's often impossible to pinpoint your location on the map as you navigate the tangle of twisting alleys)

Lunch -- a slice of pizza -- along a canal in a particularly nice area, in Dorsoduro.

Cute puppy!

A water taxi (like the one we were on for our tour yesterday).

Water taxi

In a courtyard of Palazzo Foscari.

Palazzo Foscari

San Vidal, in the background.

San Vidal, in the background

Style in a shop window!

Reclining statuary


Dinner at Osteria da Alberto, in Cannareggio. Fantastic place, with very good food! According to our guidebook, they open at 7:00 pm, but they didn't open up 'til 7:20 or so, and said that they would take us without reservations if we could be done by 9:30, which worked just fine. If you want to eat here (and we certainly recommend that you do!), make sure (unlike us) to make reservations. A must.

Time-Lapse at Night (Again)

Time-lapse along the Grand Canal

Time-lapse along the Grand Canal

Tuesday, April 15


Padua (or Padova) is a university town. (The university was founded in 1222!) A nice change of pace from our previous stops. (And Galileo lectured here!)


We had already purchased our train tickets in Florence, so we were all set on that account. Rather than taking a water bus back to the train station, we decided to walk. It wasn't too far, so that worked out just fine. Our "EuroStar Special" left Venice at 10:30, and got in to Padua 25 minutes later.

We had pre-purchased a PadovaCard, getting us on the busses and (very fancy!) trolleys for no charge, and into a bunch of museums as well. (I don't think it saved us any money for our one-day visit, but it was convenient.)


Our hotel, Albergo Al Fagiano, was just great! Lots of funky decorations. (We were in the Red Room.) Very quiet and pleasant.

The red room at Albergo Al Fagiano

A Grand Hall, and a Chapel with spectacular 14th Century Frescos

Piazza Dei Signori.

Piazza Dei Signori

From the same location, looking in the other direction at Torre Dell'Orologia.

Torre Dell'Orologia

Palazzo della Ragione. A grand Renaissance hall. (Its roof is peeking up in the background, two photos up.)

Palazzo della Ragione

Looking up at the portico ceiling -- same as in the above shot.

Palazzo della Ragione - portico ceiling

Here's the inside, with a temporary exhibit of very modern jewelry, from the Gioielli d'Autore - Padova e la Scuola dell'oro (the "School of Gold") on display.

Inside the Palazzo della Ragione

Then, on to another pre-booked treat, the Cappella degli Scrovegni, or Scrovegni Chapel. Rather unassuming from the outside, but inside it's a wonder! With frescos by Giotto. ("One of the most important masterpieces of Western Art"! So "says" Wikipedia...) Anyway, it is astounding to see firsthand one of the greatest works by the first painter to depict humans as humans, with emotions and feelings, vs. as "icons," as was the way things were done during his time (in the very early 14th century). Advance purchase of tickets is a must. From the Chapel's Website: "Groups of maximum 25 people wait at the door to the air-conditioned waiting-room for 15 minutes, the time needed to stabilise the interior microclimate. They then enter the Chapel for another 15 minutes. Visits last a total of about 30 minutes."

And prior to our time in the Chapel, we wandered through the adjacent Eremitani Museum, which helped to set the context for Giotto's frescos in the Chapel and was well worth the visit.

Flowers on the grounds of the Chapel.

flowers on the grounds of Scrovegni Chapel

Dinner (One of the two Best of Our Trip)

Dinner at Osteria L'Anfora. We sat near the somewhat rowdy bar area in this very casual restaurant. But the food was out of this world -- so fresh and flavorful! The menu is in a rather hard-to-read script, but I tried my best to write down what we had: Orecchiette con Pomodoro e Gricotta Affutli (sp?) Cala (sp?), which is "little ears" pasta with tomato, Gricotta cheese, and I'm not sure about the other words. Garganglli Con Gamberi e Fave, which is garganelli pasta -- thin squares rolled up by hand into tubes -- with shrimp and fava beans. And Cosciotto (sp?) di angello alla menta, which, if I wrote it down correctly, is leg of lamb with mint. I think there was one other couple in the restaurant speaking English, but otherwise it was all Italian. Very nice!

(Our other best dinner was in Spoleto.)

Wednesday, April 16



We took the very sleek streetcar from the hotel to the train station. And then on to Bologna. Our train, an "EuroStar Special," left at 8:25 am. And took an hour to get to Bologna.


We needed to get an early train out of Bologna on the 17th, so we picked a hotel, Zanhotel Europa, that was quite near the train station. (The website Venere.com is just great for finding hotels in Italy, BTW!) I think it caters primarily to conventions and business travelers (vs. tourists who will be more inclined to stay in the more interesting parts of town). Worked out just fine for us, nonetheless.

Wacky Modern Art

We thought we'd do something different... I'm a big fan of modern art -- even wacky modern art. But the art at MAMbo just wasn't particularly good. The poetic and over-the-top descriptions accompanying the art of the walls were (unintentionally, I think) very amusing. (The MAMbo is in a part of Bologna that's being remade from an old industrial zone into an arts area. We read about it in this NY Times article.)


We walked a lot in Bologna! Was fun to be out exploring.

Fontana di Nettuno, just off Piazza Maggiore. Pretty showy, huh?

Neptune, just off Piazza Maggiore

Just off Piazza Maggiore, near Neptune.

Just off Piazza Maggiore

One of the many shaded porticos in Bologna.

A shaded portico

A tiny slice of the farmers' market, on a narrow city street.

Farmers' market

In a courtyard inside Santo Stefano, which contains between four and seven connected churches. Amazing brickwork on this one.

Inside Santa Stefano

Brickwork in Santa Stefano

The Fontana di Pilato, also inside Santa Stefano, where Pontius Pilate is said to have washed his hands after condemning Christ.

Fontana di Pilato

A close-up from the courtyard above.

Column closeup in Santa Stefano

Inside San Petrino. The money ran out before the exterior was completed, but the interior is very impressive!

San Petrino

San Petrino

San Petrino

San Petrino


Dinner at Da Cesari, which was recommended by Fodors. Reservations at 7:30, when they opened. (We're such early eaters!) Very good food -- including two dishes with white truffles, and a nice wine made by the owner's brother (as recommended by Fodors.) First-rate food, in the Emilia region of Emilia Romagna -- which many consider to have the best food in all of Italy.

Thursday, April 17

Heading Home...

An early train from Bologna to Florence, and then a bus from the train station to the Florence Airport (the reverse of the bus we took into Florence on the 6th), and then home.

Wonderful trip!!