Our long weekend in Veneto: discovering an unknown part of Italy. Third and last day.

The third day of our vacation was a happy day for me, because I was able to check one item off my bucket list: visiting the Villa La Rotonda by Andrea Palladio. This villa is an architectural masterpiece because of its symmetrical structure which makes each side look exactly the same.

The 4 corners correspond to the 4 cardinal points and, as a result, the villa is always embraced by natural light. Also, because it sits on top of a hill, one can enjoy a nice view from each side. Palladio purposely designed the exterior to look different from its interior. From the outside you see three floors: the lower one for the operational activities (kitchen, laundry facilities, servants headquarters, etc.); the middle one for the master, his family and their daily commitments (receptions, business, leisure, etc.); and the upper one designed to lodge the bedrooms. However, once you are inside, you only see the middle floor, or main floor, without realizing that there’s more above it and below it, because the access to the upper and lower floors is hidden in a very clever way: through tiny doors leading to spiral staircases, as you can see below in the image I “borrowed” from the villa website.

This is the heart of the villa, a space overlooked by a fantastic frescoed dome, as frescoed are the other rooms, some of them decorated with gorgeous stuccos as well.

At noon the villa was closing, so we took off almost weeping, not because we left behind a quite celestial experience, but rather because we left behind 40 Euros to buy 4 tickets for a half hour visit…

Next stop: the magnificent Cittadella.

This fantastic photo comes from the Tre Venezie website, which shows a collection of images of castles and medieval villages located in this area (in case you want to check it out).

Cittadella was a mere surprise for us for the simple reason that we didn’t expect to be able to walk on top of the medieval walls.

The view from up there is fantastic, you can enjoy the town and still spot its Roman roots in the direction of the two main streets: the cardo (north-south) and the  decumanus (east-west). But you can also spot rich villas, churches, piazzas, a theater, in short, the whole town from 14+ meters above the ground. Since a portion of the walls is closed, right now it is possible to walk on 3/4 of the wall circumference. And for either 2 (youth and senior reduction) or 4 Euros each, it is worth every penny.

It was almost 3pm when we left from Cittadella, with the biggest ambition of reaching Villa Pisani, in Stra’, near Padova by 4pm. Villa Pisani is another must if you ever decide to visit this region. It is a huge, magnificent property that reflects the power and the wealth of its original owner, the aristocratic Pisani family. Besides its amazing villa with frescoes (some of them by Giambattista Tiepolo) and gardens, it is known for its circular hedge maze, which was our goal that day, since we already visited the villa three years earlier during our cruise on the Brenta river. And the photos below were actually taken during that trip.

And this is the maze that was close three years ago because we arrived there too early and was close this year because we arrived there too late…

Yes. We missed it. For 30 minutes. And guess what? It was the last day for the season, since they are going to reopen it in April. It must be our fate not to be able to do this maze…

And so we left, obviously very disappointed, for our next destination: the Castello di San Pelagio, in Due Carrare, south of Padova. We arrived there that it was already dark, so I have to use the photos from their website for you to see. Here’s the map of the property:

The reason why we decided to visit this property late at night was because they were offering a ghostly night tour of the villa, through unedited passages.

But the highlight of the night was definitely the unexpected invitation to walk inside the maze when it was already 9.30pm. It was fun to see all these people trying to find their way out using their cell phone to light up the path. And if you add the fact that Alessio was hiding in the hedges and was scaring us by jumping out unexpectedly, I can really say that this fun experience ended our long weekend in a glorious way.

Our long weekend in Veneto: discovering an unknown part of Italy. Second day.

Our second day in Veneto started with a visit of the town of Montagnana, which is still completely enclosed within extremely well preserved medieval walls.

Image via temalibero.it

We walked up to the top of the Ezzelino tower (top, right, in the image above), from where we could enjoy the view of the town and the surrounding landscape.

Montagnana has the “inevitable” main piazza with its beautiful cathedral and arcades that skirt the streets. Houses no higher than two stories populate the town, which is truly a small jewel.

After a brief stop in a grocery shop where we got our sack lunch (I mean, a gourmet sack lunch…), we continued our field trip toward Este. Este‘s main attraction is what’s left of the Castello Carrarese (built in the XIV century), whose walls are today the perimeter of a very nice park.

Monselice was our third destination that day. We arrived there in the early afternoon and were greeted by a festive mercatino (a local fair), which was filling the streets. We decided to climb the small hill leading to the Villa Duodo, which ends a devotional way skirted by seven tiny churches.

Our last stop was Arqua’ Petrarca, the town where the famous Italian poet Francesco Petrarca died in 1374.

This is his house. And below you can see a local man selling, and my Mom buying, chestnuts, walnuts, apples, jujubes (which are typical of this area), and other fruits of the season right off his house, on the street.

Arqua’ Petrarca is a well preserved medieval village that embraces a small hill, with cute streets going up and down and characteristic places like this osteria (tavern):

And with Arqua’ Petrarca our field trip ended. Visiting these small towns was a revelation: seeing beautiful places off the beaten path has been a pleasant surprise also for natives like us. Besides, driving in Veneto is quite easy (unless you are in the outskirts of a bigger city), so consider it for the next time you are planning a trip to Italy. It really pays off.


The Italian Odyssey: hopping from one office to the other. Chapter 3 (end of the Odyssey)

The last document I need is the translation of the vaccinations Alessio received in the States. I’ll probably never know why they didn’t ask me to provide this same paper three years ago when the kids attended a different elementary school or even this year at Silvia’s middle school… Anyhow, I do as they say and go to Distretto 2 (note that two people from two different offices told me to go there, so anyone would consider this information pretty accurate right? Wrong).

I get there, before the office hours and meet a very nice lady who is willing to help me nevertheless. She glances at my papers and says : “Signora, this is not the right office, we deal with kids up to 6 years of age here”. My son is 9, so…

When I learn where the right office is, I realize that it is located exactly on the opposite side of the city.  I need to take two buses to get there (I don’t have a car in Italy and quite frankly so far I’ve been glad for this, I’ve never had such a firm buttocks…). This time though I’m not so disappointed, because thanks to this mistake I’ve discovered one the best lobbies I’ve ever seen and, as a design freak, I’m almost levitating when I see it:

Isn’t it cool? I’ve wrote a post about it in my design/home staging blog, if you want to learn more about it.

Anyway, back to my Odyssey: I leave, take the first bus, then take the second bus and with Charlie’s help (aka my iPhone) I get to the right office. There’s only one person in front of me, impressive, I don’t even have the time to grab my Kindle and the snack/lunch I brought with me (I always pack well and for the worst case scenario when I head to an office in Italy). I explain what I need to the lady behind the counter, she takes my papers, makes a copy and says: “Ok, that’s it, thanks”. Thanks? I ask if I can get a statement or something to provide to the school and she goes: “No signora, we need to enter these data in the system first, you need to come back tomorrow”. Tomorrow? Another trip across the city? Therefore I ask if I can send someone else to retrieve the papers, my parents have a car and lots of time, you know… “No signora, it is better if you pick them up yourself”, is what I hear. I didn’t know my son’s vaccinations were such a sensitive and private matter, to the point that I cannot even send a family member to pick up their translation.

So, the day after I’m back there, I obtain the document, I deliver it to the school, and I’m done. No more documents to get. My Odyssey is over (until the next one at least…).