Padua, the oldest city in Northern Italy, where the famous Basilica of St. Anthony is located. We decided to visit this small city as part of our pre-Christmas 5-day vacation this year. Not many people actually stay in Padua (or Padova as it is called). They usually stay in Venice (side note: To go to Padua, you have to go to Venice first) and take a day’s trip to Padua. It took us a while to sort out our trip. The flights were cheaper (considering) and we booked in M14 Hotel (don’t ask us why that name) which is close enough to the centre of the city. We decided to wing the day to day activities based on how we feel and what was there. We had our offline Padua Map downloaded on our tablet and off we went.
[Visa related] If you are a non-EEA Family member with a UK Residence Card and travelling to a European city along with the EEA family member, you might want to carry a proof of your relationship. While trying to board, they thought that they should check everyone’s visa and since my passport is Indian, they wanted to see my visa. My UK Residence Card sadly does not have my spouse’s name. Thankfully, I did carry my marriage certificate copy, proof of stay (bank account), proof of employment etc just in case. That came in handy even though people behind me in the queue had to wait for that lady to check all the details. It would have been nicer for them to do it beforehand, like check-in in case someone didn’t have the necessary documentation. Nowadays, everything is DIY. Bag drop off is also DIY and if I do it with my boarding pass then it flags up, but we did it with Mr M’s boarding pass so it let us through. All these are some of the loopholes that need fixing in the system in the long term and for you to keep in mind, lest you go to the boarding gate and they detain you there.
Once we got to Venice Marco Polo Airport, we got an Atvo bus shuttle ticket to Venice Maestre Railway station from a ticket vending machine. There is a water bus too, but that is to Venice St. Lucia. (For people who may not know, Venice is not just the small island you see in the movies. There are two railway stations. One inland called Maestre and the other in the island St. Lucia. To go to Padua, the quickest route is through Maestre). The travel from the airport to the station looked very dreary and dull. It was a Monday and given that it was getting closer to Christmas we expected a crowd. It was very quiet and not a soul in sight. Looked very run down and abandoned. But don’t get fooled like us. It was a whole different look when we left two days before Christmas. Looks like most places are closed for 2 hours during lunch in Italy. That was the time we were on the bus. When we left on Friday through the same route in the evening, there was so much traffic that we couldn’t believe that it was the same place we saw on Monday.
We had booked the railway ticket online (cost of 9 Euros per person) for the Venice Maestre to Padova just in case, but you could actually go there and do it because there are cheaper trains (approx. 4 Euros) that go through Padova (only 10-15 mins train journey) every 20 mins or so. We had to wait for our train because of the ticket and while waiting we saw that there were double-decker trains, which costs the same as ours 4 Euros or so and it was so cool 🙂
We got down in Padova and enquired in the Tourist office which is located in the station about the travel to the hotel. The lady told us that we could use the tram (costing approx. 3 Euros for two people and valid for 75 mins) which runs through the centre of the city and takes us closer to the hotel. We also got a map (for our planning). Took the tram and went to Prato della Valle, the stop closest to the hotel. It was a 7 min walk from there to the hotel. The tram was the best part of Padua. You could go to all the important attractions using the tram and it’s frequent and cheap. I loved it, but don’t forget to validate your tickets when you get it. Any ticket (even the train ticket), you need to validate them in the machine (just like we do it using Oyster cards in London) to avoid penalty.
We got down at our stop and using the maps, located our hotel and got a shock when we went into the room. It was boiling hot. The temperature outside was very cold (not icy cold, but dry cold). It was a small room (no kettles, if you are interested) and the bathroom heater handle was broken and we couldn’t turn off the heat. But the room had a balcony, thank god. We decided to relax a bit and check out the city in the evening.
We got out after some rest and walked towards the city centre. It is a very small city actually. The shops close by 8 pm. It has a very prominent and very old University and you can feel that there. There are a lot of university-based properties in and around. People mostly speak only Italian. All shops and restaurants have the menu in Italian. Thanks to Mr M’s quick Italian sessions in Duolingo we somehow managed. Scouted the area for the next day, spotted some eateries and crêpes shop for later use and went back to the hotel for the well-needed sleep.