Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Whirlwind Weekend // Verona, Padua & Venice


This past weekend I headed up a little farther north with three lovely women to explore Verona, Padova (Padua) and Venezia (Venice). Here is what we found:

It's fall at last! Being in Verona on Friday was the first time that I felt like it was fall here in Italy. Some of the trees on the hillside next to the villa have changed color, but in Verona its undeniable. The falling leaves, the cool breeze,  the pumpkins... It all reminded me that it really is fall! Sweater and scarf time! The best time of the year!

The first scenes of Verona!
Picturesque view of Verona! 
Maddie and I taking it all in!
Going for a swim. No big.

Old Roman ruins surrounding Verona.
Something that I've had to adjust to is the unusual bathrooms. Example: Pictured above is a "Turkish bathroom." Try to figure this one out for yourself. 

Amazing architecture. This church was left incomplete after starting to be built. Builders got bored I guess....

Inviting streets around every corner.
  I honestly didn't know what to expect besides Juliette's house. Apparently Romeo and Juliet is set in Verona so every year people flock to Verona to see the balcony where Juliette stood as Romeo called out for her... Ahhh, so romantic. Actually it wasn't very romantic because it is really just a crowded courtyard with tons of tourists, but it was fun to see it!

Letters to Juliette! There wasn't a wall. I was a little disappointed.
More "locks of Love" in the courtyard of Juliette's house.
The walls going into the courtyard were covered with gum and band-aids. Interesting choice of materials to memorialize your visit. 
Other than a couple of sad lovers, Verona was an amazing city! It was sophisticated and beautiful and oh so clean! It was the first thing I noticed, I was so impressed by its cleanliness. I told the other girls I felt like I was at Disneyland! There were well manicured parks and benches everywhere, the sidewalks were large and clean, made of pink marble, a ton of expensive shopping, and loads of colorful street entertainers. It really felt like the happiest place on earth! 

Street Performers Galore! How do they do that?

They even had a Disney store! I really felt like I was at Disneyland.  All I was missing were the ears!

Beautiful parks with fountains made my heart happy.
After our afternoon in Verona we set off for our next stop...


Padova (or Padua as we say in the States) is the home of St. Anthony of Padua, the patron saint of lost articles. Since I can remember I have asked St. Anthony to help me in trivial matters, finding lost earrings, parking spots, etc... I thought I better do myself a favor and learn more about him before I paid him a visit. What did he do that was so incredible? Little did I know!
The art didn't stay in the Church.

St. Anthony was/is so legit! He was a simple man and then one day the Holy Spirit inspired him in his preaching and it never stopped after that! He preached the Gospel with such charisma and conviction that people's hearts were changed in dramatic ways after hearing him. He allowed the Holy Spirit to use his voice to such an extent that after he had died and was buried, hundreds of years later when they exhumed his remains they found that in the pile of ashes and dust that was his body, his tongue, vocal chords and jaw were incorrupt! 

Say what?!! 

I know! Crazy right?!?! That's what I thought when I saw them! They were framed in the Relic chapel behind the altar in the Cathedral of St. Anthony! 
The Basilica! I wish you could see the inside! It was even more magnificent than the facade! 

statue of St. Francis and the Child Jesus. Do you see Jesus chillin' in the air on the left?
The Cathedral of St. Anthony is probably one of my favorite churches that I have visited thus far in all of Italy. The art was so amazing! The whole place gives glory to God so obviously! Mass and confession are constantly being offered. There is even a side chapel where a priest stands and offers a blessing for anyone who wonders in! It is a pilgrims haven. 
One of the many courtyards.
I didn't want to leave when our visit was coming to an end. I could stay there forever and wander through the many courtyards, chapels, the cloisters, and the huge gift shop (which had the potential to be hazardous to my budget, but I persevered with my Dave Ramsey inspired budget). At the end of our visit I was so grateful to have had such an amazing experience!
The rain came, but we still got to enjoy a few more sites of Padova: the Prato della Valle
Padua side note: I had the best Bed & Breakfast experience. The owner was a lovely lady named Marina who spoke broken English, but loved us so well! If you are ever in Padua check out the Al Ponte B&B.
Our cute little B&B. Sorry, we didn't make our beds for the pic.

And last but not least, our weekend ended with a trip to Venice. According to Rick Steves, "getting lost in Venice is the best way to see Venice." And he was right. Most of Venice is not touristy at all, but just a collection of tiny, winding, pedestrian streets that all connect somehow and cross a canal every 20 meters or so. It is an amazing network of streets and shops. I am impressed that the residents don't get lost on their way to the grocery store!

Walking around Venice was great, but unfortunately the weather wasn't to our liking. It rained for a good part of the day on Saturday, but that didn't stop our exploring. We visited St. Marc's Basilica, which is a huge tourist attraction. Unfortunately in the massive and beautiful church I felt like we were cattle being herded through the aisles. There was no place to sit and pray and just take in the beauty. The one high point to St. Marc's was hearing a little portion of a Mass in English. It was music to my ears hearing the priest begin his homily in my native tongue :) I will never take for granted a homily in English again!

It was really strange at first walking around Venice because I felt like I had already been there. Gondolas weren't that special and water in between buildings seemed normal. I think that this feeling of familiarity had something to do with my previous trips to the Venetian hotel and casino to visit sister Allison when she worked there. Allison, you would probably be more confused than me! Gotta love living in Las Vegas. It's an international city!

Las Vegas or Italy? I felt at home :)

Pomegranates growing in the trees lining the streets.

Fresh Market produce, in a canal nearest you!

Masquerade! It's a big deal here.

That night we had quite the public transportation adventure that resulted in a taxi ride and free Italian lesson. Even though taxis are expensive, I have come to find they are a great way to practice Italian with people that have to talk to you! Taking what life gives you and seeing the positive is the only way to live when you are traveling. Really, its the only way to live! 

Our adventure continued that night due to our stay at Camping Rialto. We had no idea what to expect, we only knew we had reserved a "mini-chalet." The "mini-chalet" really was a little wooden shack, but it was comfortable and clean and the bugs didn't get us too bad. After a long day on our feet the girls and I enjoyed a drink in the common area of the campsite. It was a really young and fun atmosphere to be in. We met fellow travelers, such as a group of guys from Ireland, Whales and England who wished us a "Buona notte, Principessa."  We were loving the accents. It was a great night "roughing it" with the girls.

I love this picture because it captures the bustle of people in Venice in one of the many squares. Also... I think this lady's sweater is awesome!
After a long weekend we headed back to Florence after discovering an amazing little pasticcieria or bakery. Venice was a great place and I would love to go back again to keep discovering all that it has to offer! 

Praise God for another weekend of safe travels and lots of adventures! Next weekend: Assisi, Norcia, and Perugia. This week is jam packed with lots of good stuff, including two quizzes. Life continues on and the adventures keep on coming!

Send me and email if you get a chance! I would love to hear how you are doing!

God bless,

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