Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Friday in Padua

On Friday, we went to Padua. After a nice breakfast (at this place, they really lay on the flans and quiches, and hot egg n bacon open sandwiches, cereal, yogurt, cakes, rolls, croissants of all sorts, fruit salads, hams and sausages, etc.), we caught the Eurostar to Padova.

We got there about 11ish and had a few hours to while away before our timed ticket gave us entry to the Scrovegni chapel.
Included in the price was a visit to the Museo degli Eremiti - all on the site of a former convent, you see. These Italian civic museums are stuffed full of treasures. There were ancient Greco-Roman archeological finds, mostly from excavations in the grounds; endless medieval and Renaissance paintings, church artefacts and sculptures to the 17th century...oh it was the sculptures that captivated me most!

We were not allowed to take photos, and the thing I REALLY wanted to capture for you was within a few steps of the docent. They were two lifelike painted wooden sculptures or mourners - wringing their hands, howling and crying. It was a real "wow" moment.

However, round a quiet corner I was able to get a pic of Holofernes' head after he'd been beheaded by Judith.

Sneaky, thankfully my phone fit in my money purse (we had to check in our bags).

Oh poo! I have just realised we didn't go into the Church itself where we could have seen frescoes by Andrea Mantegna. I like his control of perspective and foreshortening.

This is the publicity pic for the upcoming Mantegna exhibition, on giant posters all over Padua. I forgot to take the photo, but I fortunately found it online:

After the museum, we left the grounds and searched for lunch. Found ourselves at a real local, where the regular customers and serving staff were chatty, and there was no menu. We got what I call a proper peasant salad, but you know what, it will go down in my books as one of the best salads I've ever had, I enjoyed it that much. It was something I would never choose, and here it is: chopped lettuce, finely shredded cabbage and carrot, cherry tomato halves, tuna, prawns, fresh mozzarella balls - and all we had to dress it with was olive oil, red wine vinegar, salt and pepper. Truly deelish, I tell you!

(Phone pic)

While we were there, businessmen came to eat and we couldn't understand how they wore nice dress shirts without breaking a sweat - carried their jackets with them too.

Also, proving it is truly a university town (2nd oldest in Europe behind Bologna), while we were eating a group of men dressed like computers with CPUs on their backs and monitors on their heads came by offering a free mouse. "Mouse? Mouse?"

Also, everyone was on a bicycle.

After that refreshing lunch, we returned to the museum and awaited entry into the Chapel.

Check out my sundress, haven't worn one since I was a girlie. Behind is the 13th century Scrovegni Chapel.

In order to preserve the frescoes, there is a new tinted glass antechamber added to the entry of the chapel - what used to be the family's private entrance. It's like those airlocks on space stations. We were put into an air-conditioned room with air exchange, while we cooled down, dried off, and watched a 15 minute video on the museums of Padua.

Meantime, the next group began to gather outside. Afterwards, an inner door was opened and we were ushered into the chapel. This Italian woman insisted in talking to me, so she agreed to speak "in francese" when I told her I was not Italian. She pointed out many amazing details I will not go into here, boring unless you've seen it. There is so much staring upwards I had a crick in my neck.

The chapel was built next to the fine townhouse of Enrico Scrovegni, for the soul of his father Reginaldo the usurer. You may have encountered him in Dante's Inferno.

And seeing this in real life - not in a book, not on a slide - made me want to cry:

The Deposition of Christ from the cross. Once again, the pure grief all over this scene cannot come through here, not even if it does make you go "wow".

We left the chapel through the air locks after our timed 15 minute visit, and Miss S and I were picked up by a Mercedes she had arranged when she bought the tickets however many months ago...she is very good at arranging things, perhaps she has one of those personal concierges (you can even get one at Selfridges now). It was an hour's drive back to Verona and we fell asleep.

While Miss S went to her dressmaker for measuring, I went scouting around again for some sandals, without success. I had only brought along my tan moccassins in the hope I'd find something before the last night! I have skinny feet that get sore and blistered in anything slightly uncomfortable. One wrong stitch or pinch will spoil an entire pair. Plus sandals without straps do not stay on. So it's like the princess and the pea, really.

Then Miss S and I met up at the Tre Marchetti restaurant, where we had gone in 2004.
It's a tiny place holding no more than 20 diners very close together but like all Italian restaurants, the front wall disappears in summer, putting us all close to the outdoors. This street was so narrow, the maitre d' had to move his podium to allow a big car to pass.
The decor was typical of the traditional better class of establishment: a very busy baroque as you can see:

Miss S with her dessert. (phone pic) She owns two of the blue chargers and just bought the new red one.

Antipasto: swordfish carpaccio on a bed of rocket with little curls of divine Italian butter.
Primo piatto: linguine with prawns, garlic, chilli and parsley. I "mmmmm-ed" through the first 5 or 6 mouthfuls.
Dolce: a dense, hot chocolate souffle on creme anglaise. Could only manage half, and as my Daddy loves sticky chocolatey desserts, I wish he were there.

On the house was a dish of little sweet biscuits that go well with coffee. To prevent myself desperately wanting sleep like the day before, I ordered an espresso that came in a delectable Venetian gilt and enamelled red glass cup and saucer:

On the red charger, as you see. A pastiche of Verdi operas traditionally shown at the arena.

The Maitre d' is crazy, and probably a local celebrity - stuff of legends after he's gone, I bet. He stops by each table every now and then to tease and wink and sing. He used to wear encrusted brooches of all designs all over the front of his white jacket, but this year he makes do with one. The young waiter wore a bejewelled spider on his tie!

Someone somewhere was playing "Nights in White Satin" so of course he picked up on it and for the next hour would hum the first bar from time to time: Da dee-da da deeeeee...
And I'd think, Come on, next line - but ended up singing it myself "Nights in white satin....never reaching the end...."
Coz he never reached the second bar...

I digress badly today.

At the opera, once again on our two each 3 euro per night hired cushions (kept forgetting our own blow up ones), we sat beside a chatty old French gentleman who said he's been coming to the opera here for 48 years! I think that's when they started doing it, anyway!

We saw Bizet's Carmen, set design and direction by the legendary Franco Zeffirelli.

It had tried to rain during dinner, but failed and was replaced by a rather refreshing breeze that had us putting on our little cardigans halfway through.

I wore a white corset-like top and a black skirt with contrast white stitching.

One gust, about 5 minutes into the first act, brought down a top section of village scenery, exposing the mountain scenery behind. But all of the operas give about three 20-minute intermissions. This opera needed it because Zeffirelli's sets were very elaborate and needed lots of work to change.

Oh, and as with any outdoor Italian opera, they trotted out a few donkeys in the market scene, and horses with the military patrols.

My camera is awesome. I couldn't understand why people kept using their flash - the pic never comes out and it was forbidden anyway but what can the staff do? I have such a large lens I don't need flash, and I was able to steady the camera using the bar in front - we sat in the best seats, in the stalls near the emperor's box - and the bars are useful for resting the feet and catching the breeze :)


Leilouta said...

I love the way you describe the food in your posts :)

Chris in MB said...

wow, you seem to lead a very glamourous life based on the last couple of posts!
Suddenly I feel so plain & boring. :(

tooners said...

lol... i have to agree w/ both leilouta and chris!!! but, i'll tell ya, you take me away with you! i love your stories and all the descriptions... you should write travel books! no kidding, you'd be fabulous at it. you could give details of the best places, the food, and everything. i know i'd buy it!

i love your sundress.. i love them period. the night out sounds wonderful, and i must say, i got tears in my eyes at the painting above w/ jesus. it's truly beautiful. i would love to see these sights and maybe, one day, i will.

the opera looks fantastic. i've never been to one but had the chance many times in dallas w/ a lady i worked w/.. i wish i had gone. altho, i'm sure they are nothing in comparison to these!

again, great stories!

tooners said...

oh yeah, ur friend, Miss S, she's the sweetest looking thing! i love her red cheeks..... so adorable.

Rebecca said...

How was Zeffirelli's set?
I saw La Traviata at the Met in NY several years back, the one famously designed by Zeffirelli, and it didn't actually work very well. At all actually. The first act in Violetta's house was ok, but it got progressively more mad and descended in to mis-placed fantasy and excess.

Olivia said...

Leilouta - I love eating the food so I guess that shows :)

Chris - no no, I lead a very quiet life, and every now and then when I hit a busy period, I share it with you. I am settling in for many more weeks of quietude and job hunting.

Tooners - oh how sweet! I have been told to write travel books before. I wouldn't mind short articles for a magazine...

I am so glad you liked the Giotto painting. If only I could have shared more.

As for the dress, well I've been skinny since birth, but...since developing a little bit of a shape, I've become a voracious viewer of style because now I know it is within my reach. Personally not an adventurous dresser for the reason above, but obviously this year am making an attempt!

I wish you had gone to the opera in Dallas too. My first few were in Houston, mostly outdoors at the Woodlands Pavilion, a fantastic venue - and some at the downtown opera house.
My taste has in no wise suffered from developing in the US, probably because the Houston Grand Opera goes on world tours.

Miss S came out rather well in this photo. Red cheeks is a common Japanese reaction to alcohol.

Rebecca - as you can see, a bit busy. You can tell he wishes he was filming on site or something.
It is possible he learned from his mis-hap at the Met, but not entirely - case in point all the scene changes and the bit that collapsed.

Nabeel said...

these are such great pictures .. just awesome .. a lovely treat to see .. you're soo pretty and so are your friends .. and so is your eye through which u take pictures :)

Olivia said...

Nabeel - I'm glad you came back, I'd lost your address.
And thank you!