day 18 :
wednesday, 31 may
Padova was just the wrong size city for navigating with our green Michelin maps — it's not big enough to warrant its own insert, but it's big enough to get you completely lost if you don't know precisely where you're going. We wanted to see the frescoes at the famous Scrovegni Chapel, but although we knew where it was on the map, we couldn't figure out where we were on the map. Just as we were getting close to giving up, we made sense of the poorly marked signs and found the chapel. To go on the tour of the frescoes, you enter a special filter chamber for twenty minutes that helps acclimate your body and reduce the deterioration of the frescoes when you go in to view them. The frescoes, considered one of the masterpieces of Western Art, were painted by Giotto between 1303 and 1305 and are a beautiful, colorful depiction of many Christian themes.
We wandered to the Padova market and grabbed a light lunch of focaccia and fresh fruits, which we enjoyed on a park bench, then drove on to our final destination of the trip: Venice. Dropping off the Hertz rental car turned out to be straightforward, and even getting to our hotel via vaporetto (water bus) wasn't hard; we just took the #1 line from Piazzale Roma to San Silvestro, and then dragged our luggage through the narrow streets for a few minutes. It certainly helped that we had visited Venice the previous week with Giuliano's class, so we already had a general familiarity with the layout of the city.
We checked into Ca' Angeli, a wonderful bed and breakfast that lived up to our expectations. Nearly everyone had raved about the place on tripadvisor.com, and compared to most accommodations in Venice, the price was a bargain. We got particularly lucky and had the upstairs suite to ourselves; the suite is normally shared by groups of four or six travelers, split across three bedrooms. The hotel sitting area looks out onto the Grand Canal, so after lugging our bags up to the top floor, we enjoyed watching the gondolas and boats float by as we checked our email over their wi-fi network.
Eric was on a quest to try some coffee at Caffe del Doge, ever since we had tried the cappuccini with their beans at Villa Giona. As luck would have it, one of their cafés was a short walk from our hotel. It was a quintessential Italian coffee bar — several tables inside and out, filled with people enjoying the afternoon weather, and a long stand-up bar towards the back of the cafe. Also typical was the menu with two prices for everything — one price if you order at the bar, and a higher price if you sit down at a table. But then we noticed something unique: nine huge coffee grinders on the counter behind the bar, with each grinder filled with a different roast of bean. If you order your coffee without specifying, then the barista will grind Doge Nero beans for your espresso. But, if you want to try a different blend on the spot, no problem, just tell the barista the blend and they'll grind it to order for your coffee. Eric went with the default Doge Nero for his macchiato, knowing that he'd come back for more later. After trying a couple espresso drinks a day for this entire trip, Eric finally found a place that was on-par with the best coffee shop in Seattle. The Doge Nero roast is a great example of a northern Italian roast; it's a lighter roast, keeping the essential coffee oils in the beans until you grind them. And the barista here knew precisely how to extract the espresso flavor without bitterness or sourness. Coffee heaven.
We wandered around before dinner, watching the city's colors change with the slowly setting sun. The intensely-colored buildings reflecting in the canals were simply beautiful. It was hard to not stop and stare as we crossed every little bridge.
Since we had enjoyed our meal at Fiaschetteria Toscana so much the previous week, we had made reservations for dinner there tonight, and it's a good thing we did: the restaurant was jam-packed. We both had to have the amazing cuttlefish ink tagliolini one more time; we hadn't gotten enough of it on our last visit.