Monday, September 22, 2008


September 21, 2008

This past weekend was so great, really simple but a lot of fun. Saturday Gabi, Justine, and I took a day trip to this great little city a half hour outside of Padova, Vicenza! It was such a great day in so many ways. Since it is small and has such a compact city center with few big sites to see, we could wander freely and aimlessly. Gabi and Justine are also the perfect travel companions for me because we all like to do the typical tourist things along with exploring, and they love taking absurd amounts of pictures, too! The whole city itself is actually an UNESCO World Heritage Site, mainly due to the influence famous Italian architect Palladio had on it. In fact, Vicenza is known as the "City of Palladio" and is home to 23 buildings designed by him. We got there by train in the afternoon, and simply began wandering. I guess school must have just got out, because there were kids everywhere! It was weird to see kids with backpacks and stuff especially because it was Saturday (Italian schools run 5 days a week!). There was also some kind of fair going on in the park with carnival rides and music. As we entered the actual city, we were met with the impressive sight of this great castle tower and immediately stopped for our first photos of many that day.
We ended up walking down a street that was clearly the shopping district of the city, as both sides were lined with shops... This was especially bad for us since we had all made some hefty purchases at H&M the day before. We popped into a few "just to luck around" but thankfully didn't find anything special. We eventually found ourselves in a huge, beautiful piazza with the coolest open-air market going on. The tents and booths varied from people selling cooked-on-the-spot risotto, to aged cheeses and fresh vegetables, to cured meats and canned goods. There was even this one amazing booth lined with various types of olives; just looking at it was so cool! But our favorite booth by far was one selling dolci, or sweets. And not just any sweets either... We're talking cannoli, Belgian waffles with Nutella and whipped cream, donuts filled with Nutella, cream puffs with Nutella and custard (the Italians love their Nutella!) and other dreamy creations. We vowed to return after finding something to eat for lunch.
The piazza, which we later realized was the famous Piazza dei Signori, was really quite stunning on it's own. Palladio's famous Basilica Palladiana is located here (although we couldn't see it very well because of all the tents) as well as a gorgeous clock tower called the Torre di Piazza, and two lovely columns topped with sculptures. There were actually a couple other buildings lining the piazza that were quite beautiful, too, one double-tiered and called the Loggia del Capitaniato with these big, pink pillars on its front. We moved on to find somewhere to eat lunch, and eventually settled on a little place right near a church we wanted to visit. The restaurant was a little strange though... Gabi and I almost ordered pasta until we found out it came out of one of those frozen food things, so we changed our orders to simple sandwiches. After lunch we went to check out the church, called Santa Corona. It was closed for the lunch hours, so we decided to head back to Piazza dei Signori to get our sweets! Justine got the donut, Gabi a cannoli, and I got the cream puff. Let's jut say I don't remember the last time I consumed so much sugar at one time. I was seriously eating spoonfuls of custard. It was good, but halfway through we knew it was probably a bad idea, but we finished them anyway and ignored the oncoming stomach aches.
Next we walked to the Duomo, aka cathedral, of Vicenza. It wasn't open and the hours weren't posted, so we had to settle on just seeing the outside, which in my opinion quite sufficient. The church was obviously huge, but it was unique in that it sort of looked like various peices of different churches all thrown together. For example, the body of it was completely made of reddish brick, but then there was a circular dome or baptistry toward the back that was red with a turquoise (probably bronze) top, and then the front facade was this pinkish white brick design. It was very beautiful, but a little odd, too. Next to the church was the lovely Piazza del Duomo with a central grassy area with these big green trees and a statue. After we headed back to Santa Corona, this gorgeous red, brick, Gothic-style church complete with tower and garden. We were able to go inside this time and saw some beautiful paintings by Italian painters Giovanni Bellini and Paolo Veronese. Gabi's guidebook talked about two famous paintings in the church, but unfortunately one was removed for restoration so we only got to see one. Actually, I was more impressed by a painting called Madonna delle Stelle, or Madonna of the Stars. The church also had lovely stained glass works and a beatiful and intricate marble altar piece.
From there we walked to the famous Teatro Olimpico, Europe's oldest indoor theater (1585) and another work by Palladio. The courtyard alone was breathtaking, with statues and bright green grass everywhere, and ivy lining the brick walls. When we went to get tickets, we thought they were only 2 euro, but then the very rude lady told us no, they were actually 5. This created a dilemma, since I really didn't know if I wanted to pay 5 euro to see something I didn't know anything about, or even if it would be worth it. Justine and I decided to wait in the courtyard while Gabi paid to go check it out.
About 20 minutes later Gabi turns up and says it was pretty awesome and shows us her pictures. It looked pretty cool and I figured what the hell, so I decided to go in real quick and check it out myself. I'm so glad I did, it was definitely worth it. The high-rise seats are simply wooden, but the stage is absolutely magnificent. Based on Palladio's design (he died before it was finished) the stage has three 3-dimensional trompe l'oleil alley-like openings that give the optical illusion of little streets going back hundreds of meters when in reality they only stretch back 15 meters! It's hard to explain in words - you kind of just have to see it. The ceiling was also painted beautifully to imitate the sky withplenty of fluffy clouds. On the way out the floors were really slick and smooth, so I got to ski-walk on them amid stares from perplexed Italians!
The last place we wanted to see was another church, but it didn't open until 5 so we just walked around for a while. Even just some random buildings here and there had these amazing designs and details, so unlike cities in the States.
I think it must have been fate that we were there that day, however, because there was a huge protest march going on, and guess what for? ANIMAL RIGHTS! Yes! They were protesting hunting, and everyone had these cardboard rifles with yellow flowers coming out of the ends instead of bullets. It was so cool to see people with the same views as me, espcially in Italy where animal rights is not a very big issue. We followed along with the people for a while before finally going off on our own again.
Our last stop for the day was that church, which apparently had another famous painting that Gabi wanted to see. The outside looked more like the typical white columned churches like in Rome, but it did have one of those bronze-turned-turquoise domes and a pretty brick tower. Both were difficult to see as they were toward the back of the church and surrounded by buildings. We still had about a half hour til it opened, so we walked nearby to sit a wait. Finally at 5 we headed back, only to find that it was still not open! We waited in front awkwardly for another 15 minutes, but with no signs of it opening, we gave up and decided to call it a day.
On the walk back to the train station and and while we were waiting for our train, practically everyone I saw had those freaking cardboard guns from the protest! They must have been giving them out for free or something, because they were everywhere. I wanted one so bad I was tempted to ask a stranger if I could have one since people were carrying like 2 each. My shyness got the better of me though and I ended up just sulking sans protest propaganda.
I was super tired by the time we got back to Padova. We went straight to Tio Pepe's for dinner and then came back and watched a movie before calling it a night.
Sunday was super lazy. I slept in, caught up on my shows, blogged a bit...basically anything to avoid studying for our final Monday! I actually did do something active though - I went on my first run in forever! It was such a great feeling running in the cool afternoon along the river, I think I'd almost forgotten why I love running. And surprisingly, I went a lot further than I thought I'd be capable of. Hopefully I'm not too sore in the next few days : ) As far as the final goes, I figure if I know it, know it, and studying now isn't going to suddenly teach me something I didn't get before. So I'm going to bed, and I'll just review a bit in the morning before my exam at 12:30. Wish me luck!


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