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Posts Tagged ‘art’

I had two of the best meals of my trip in Padova! I love Italian food and wine, so I was really anticipating this weekend, and Italy did not disappoint. The first night, I ate pasta with a light cheese sauce and squash blossoms, and baked fish with cherry tomatoes and olives. I’m not sure what type of fish I ate, because I ordered the branzino, but they had run out of branzino so they recommended this off-the-menu option instead. For dessert, I had a pastry dish that I believe is called “craquatella” (I have no idea if that is the correct spelling), which is like a glorious Italian version of strawberry shortcake. There were very thin, crackly rectangles of pastry layered with pastry cream and fresh strawberries, sprinkled with powdered sugar. It was delicious with a glass of prosecco.

My second night in Padova, I decided to explore off the main roads and was rewarded with an amazing discovery, the Re Porco Osteria. It was such a wonderful place I ended up spending 4 hours there! The very genial waiter/host (who was serving the entire restaurant) came to my table and explained each dish in English, one by one. I began my meal with a lake fish, grilled with basil and olive oil and served with a puree of fresh green peas and garnished with sundried tomato. The chef, who recommended the dish, very kindly explained both the dish and his cooking philosophy to me. I’m not sure why sundried tomatoes here were so much better than the ones I get in the U.S., but they were so completely different. Instead of being wrinkly, leathery and tough, these were bright red, and tender, though with the same concentrated flavor I expected.

I followed this first course with an orzotto with cheese and asparagus, and finally I had rabbit cooked sous vide with porcini mushroom sauce. I don’t usually eat meat, but I was eager to try both a traditional meat and also to try a dish cooked sous vide, which I had read about but never encountered. It was definitely a meal to remember. I drank a balanced, deep straw-colored gewurtztraminer with the meal, and afterwards had two small glasses of limoncello, which was made in-house with lemons from Sorrento. I don’t usually like spirits, but this limoncello was one of the best drinks I have ever tasted. I realize my description of this meal seems hyperbolic, but this restaurant truly can only be described in this manner. It may have been one of the best meals I have ever eaten!

Side view of Il Santo

Padova has some really amazing churches and squares, including “Il Santo,” or Basilica di Sant’Antonio da Padova, and the Prato della Valle, an elliptical square that is like an island since it is surrounded by a water-filled concrete ditch. The Prato della Valle was lovely, but my major complaint about the city really affected my ability to enjoy the square: the entire place, as well as many other squares, was surrounded by ugly tents full of cheap merchandise, making it impossible to take a nice picture of the square like the ones you see when you look it up on the internet. Il Santo is dedicated to Saint Anthony, and despite my fatigue of churches, it was quite beautiful and impressive; one of the small side chapels had one of the most beautiful paintings I have seen so far in a church. The square outside also houses the Gattamelata statue by Donatello, known to be the first bronze cast equestrian statue since antiquity.

Donatello's Gattemelata statue

As a great city for lovers of renaissance art, Padova’s crowning artistic experience is the Scrovegni Chapel, which requires reservations to visit and is truly a marvel. Giotto completed it in 1305, and it is remarkable to stand inside and think that you are looking at 700-year-old paintings that remain very vivid even today. Before you go inside the chapel, you have to wait in a climatization room for 15 minutes, as they have instituted many protections to try to preserve the chapel. Luckily, they have a really informative video for you to watch that explains the provenance of the chapel (Scrovegni concern was his deceased father’s usury, as well as his own), and the symbolism in the paintings. When I was eating at the Osteria, an Italian lawyer I conversed with told me that the Chapel used to be wide open for visits and completely free, and it was always empty (and you could smoke inside!), but that when they started charging for entries, it suddenly became crowded and a popular tourist site. Funny how that works.

The unassuming exterior of the Scrovegni Chapel, which used to be attached to a much larger structure, hides a true treasure of early Renaissance art.

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I feel out of place like the Little Prince on Earth

I found this street art on a garage on a quiet street in Montmartre. I love Le Petit Prince and Antoine de St-Exupéry and am always delighted to see little signs of him here and there in Paris. The written message evoked the sense of melancholy that I always felt in the background of Le Petit Prince.

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