In desperate need of a real getaway, I decided to head off to Italy for a 9 day solo trip. After 4 nights in sunny Verona, and on the way to Venice, I took a short coach ride to Padua for an overnight stay. One night was not enough – I’m already planning my return trip!
If you haven’t been to Padua it’s a little gem in between two major tourist hot spots. Verona had lots to see but wasn’t so good for the solo traveller. Venice was quirky, brilliant and fun but not so relaxing. Padua (Padova) was, to quote Goldilocks, just right.
It’s a University town so it has a more laid back friendly vibe. There are some lovely parks and gardens and funky little bars, as well as the traditional historical streets, cathedrals and tratorias. Best of all, nobody seemed to think it odd to see a female solo traveller or make me feel uncomfortable.
The hotel I stayed in was the best I’d have ever experienced. When I arrived a little early for my check-in, I was assured it was fine and then offered a glass of Prosecco. I fell in love with the Hotel Belludi 37 then and there.
The hotel is a historical building but with some brilliantly modern touches; a fridge full of complementary drinks, handmade biscuits, a bottle of Prosecco and bowls of snacks, a coffee machine and a kettle with speciality teas. There’s also Eco friendly purified water, robes, slippers and organic toiletries and if it was in the room, it was free. I had a balcony that overlooked the famous Basilica of St Anthony of Padua (“Il Santo”). Perhaps I had an upgrade, as it was a quiet season? But who cares? I was in heaven.
Following the recommendation of the receptionist, (there are lots of them, all equally friendly and helpful) I headed to the Box for lunch – a funky little café on the nearby Prato Della Valle. It has fabulous homemade bread in a breadbox made out of Lego, and great pasta salads.
There is a tram very nearby on the Prato which can take you to all the sights if you don’t fancy walking, or on your departure, jump on board to get back to the train station. The statues and park in the Prato Della Valle are well worth a look, as is of course Il Santo and the tomb of St Anthony, which attracts people from all over the world.
There are plenty of other sites for the explorer, including the Palazzo della Ragione, the botanical gardens, and if you have time you must go on a tour of the Scrovegni Chapel – the local version of the Sistine Chapel. However, this has to be pre-booked.
The hotel Belludi is about a 15-minute walk to the rest of the other main attractions, in particular the three squares with all the outdoor cafes, the market place and many restaurants. It’s a very easy walk along mainly pedestrian streets, and after a nice dinner, it was nice to walk back to the hotel in the cool evening. I felt very safe walking around. There isn’t a restaurant in the hotel, although with the amount of complementary food and drink you could just stay in all night!
A lovely sunny breakfast room started the next day off well too, with an ample buffet, including jaw dropping-ly beautiful homemade cakes. On check out I was offered directions, advice, given a map of Venice and a guarantee of a lovely return stay as soon as I could make it. It was like leaving dear friends.
I left feeling refreshed, happy, and ready for the next adventure (which in this case was Venice and was absolutely brilliant too!).
Padua would make an excellent base for exploring the area including the winegrowing regions, and day trips to Venice are a piece of cake as it’s only a short train ride away.
About the author:
Jenny Josephs has been a barrister for the last 15 years, specialising in criminal law. She works long and antisocial hours so whenever the opportunity to travel the world comes up she jumps at it!