Side Trips near Reggio

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St. Anthony’s Basilica in Padua

Padua is not in our region—Emilia Romagna, but the Veneto region is our next door neighbor and an easy side trip by train. We rented a car because we had a concert to attend and friends to pick up the next day in Verona. We stayed at a fantastic villa outside of town that’s been made into a B&B, called Villa da Ponte. We actually found it on Airbnb, a website for rentals by owners, that is an international service started in San Francisco. The villa had three rooms, but we were the only guests in early April. We had a plush room with antique furniture and a very comfortable bed. The bathroom was one of the largest and most modern we’ve seen. It had a large tub/shower combination with a jetted tub. The large sitting room was very comfortable and had a flat screen TV and wifi. There was also a lovely little breakfast room with a microwave, cooktop, a small refrigerator filled with breakfast goodies and tables for sitting. It also included a nice espresso machine with both regular and decaf espresso options.
Due to our schedule, we only stayed one night. Next time, we’ll give ourselves more time for this beautiful area and the city of Padua, which has a lot to see. Padua is an interesting city with one of the oldest universities in Italy. Da Vinci studied anatomy there and if you’re lucky, you can get a tour of the room where he worked. It’s also the city of Saint Anthony, whose impressive basilica is worth a visit. An important pilgrimage site, the basilica is where you’ll find the saint’s tomb and quite a few relics in elaborately decorated cases. Don’t look too close if you’re squeamish about body parts. Like so many towns in Italy, Padua is a great place to stroll and enjoy the architecture and fun outdoor Cafés.
Our purpose this time around was to attend our first pop concert at their Geox Theatre, on the edge of the town. Fiorella Mannoia, a favorite Italian performer, was on tour, and this was the only date that fit our schedule. It was worth the trip! She gave an outstanding performance and the audience was fun, yet very polite. Whenever she sang one of her more popular songs, the crowd sang along softly. No one stood up to block your view. After two and one-half hours of continuous music, we gave her a standing ovation and she returned for the encore. Not only did she sing another song—she danced (along with her back-up troupe) up the aisles into the very last rows of this small arena. Now, you might think that she would be mobbed. But in Italy, the fans are very respectful, and they only took pictures with their cell phones and shook her hand. It was another special Italian experience.
The next day we took a short side trip to the town of Vicenza, the home of the famous architect, Andrea Palladio. This prolific 16th century architect had many followers and his influence can be seen even in America. Jefferson’s home, Monticello and other important buildings in Washington D.C. borrowed from Palladio’s designs.
Since we only had the morning to explore, we walked around the old town center where we could’ve visited over 16 of Palladio’s buildings—all considered to be World Heritage sites by Unesco. On a pleasant April weekday, there were only a few school groups besides us walking the tranquil streets of the town. This is another bike friendly city where it’s very easy to share the streets with the locals on bikes or on foot, as you stop and stare in awe at the amazing Palazzos, churches and public buildings. It looked like a great place to shop, too. And, if you have a car, the city map provides a list of smaller towns outside Vicenza that have even more buildings designed by Palladio, including Jefferson’s favorite, Villa Americo-Capra. So, we’ve found another great town we want to visit again, not far from Reggio Emilia.
The historic town of Verona is another easy train ride from Reggio. We drove there to pick up our friends, Anne, Jeff and Kathy, from Indiana. Anne’s brother Marty has been living there for the past year and teaching at a nearby university. He and his wife Carol, and their daughter Marissa live on the top floor of an historic building overlooking the Adige River.
The first time we visited Verona, we went inside their ancient arena, built by the Romans, who established Verona in 49 BC. The arena is in good shape and is now an open air amphitheater used for concerts, plays and summer opera. If you can’t attend a concert, it’s still worth it to go inside and sit for a moment and imagine what it would be like.
For this visit, we only had time for a short walk after lunch. For the walking tour, Marty took us by the amazing Arche Scaligere, the elaborate tombs of the wealthy Scaligere Family who ruled Verona in the late 13th and 14th centuries. Then, we walked to Piazza Erbe to see buildings of the Renaissance with their romantic balconies and spring flowers. Close by, we took a peak at Juliet’s balcony, that is one of the most popular spots in Verona. This is yet another town in Italy that deserves more time for exploration.
Below: Fiorella in concert, Vicenza building by Palladio, friends in Verona

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About msraaka

I am a writer, ESL teacher and desktop publishing consultant living in the Pacific Northwest. After our first visit to Italy, my husband Bob and I have found ways to spend more and more time there. We love the people, the language, the food, architecture, art and the history of this amazing place.
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2 Responses to Side Trips near Reggio

  1. lemonodyssey says:

    I’m enjoying keeping up with your travels — it all sounds great! What local specialties have you been eating?
    Toby

    • msraaka says:

      In Sicily it was the fresh fish! You find the freshest fish dishes there. We also enjoyed getting cannoli that had not been sitting in a case for hours. It’s so much better when it’s fresh.
      In Reggio, we enjoy their erbazone, a sort of spinach pie. They have it for breakfast with an espresso or during happy hour. The favorite pasta seems to be tagliatelle, a pasta stuffed with a spinach and chard mixture or with pumpkin. But there are many other pastas to choose from. I will have a slow food blog coming soon. We had a fantastic meal in the small town of Zibello that I hope to describe adequately.

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