After a drive all through the night, I had only changed to the back seat in the early morning hours. I could hardly muster more than a sleepy gaze around as we approached Arquà Petrarca, a small town in the east of Italy. Here, we were going to spend a week on holiday. I very nearly had been here before – not that I can recall it (as I was 2 years old back then). This time, our family had grown and arrived not only with my younger sister (who hadn’t been born yet back then), but also with my husband.
By the time we arrived at our beautiful holiday house in the early afternoon, I was still hardly able to open my eyes. Set in the midst of an olive grove on a hillside with an endless view over the valleys and the medieval village Arquà Petrarca, we couldn’t have asked for a better place to spend our holiday.
Monselice & Montagnana
After a long an deep sleep al through the night, we started the next morning refreshed and ready to explore. We set out to see the nearby villages Monselice and Montagnana. While my dad was still practising the pronunciation of the town names, we rather should’ve studied up on the – for us unusual – coffee culture the Italians live and breathe. After fighting our way through a maze in the rain, we went for a well deserved coffee break. Unfortunately, coffee can mean different things to different people / in different culture. So, while we wanted to order a nice cup of coffee, we were served Espresso (totally understandable, as the normal Italian “coffee” is our German single-shot Espresso).
Anything with milk like a Café Latte or Cappuccino are only consumed in the mornings and never after a meal. For our second visit to an Italian Café I switched to my favourite Earl Grey, for which I was frowned upon almost as much as if I had ordered milky coffee in the afternoon. What I learned from this? – When in Rome…
After our sfirst encounter with Italian coffee culture, we headed to Montagnana, a formerly fortified town. Here you can still visit the fortified part of town, take a walk along the city walls and eat Pizza on a traditional town square in the centre. Which is exactly what we did.
As almost anyone who makes their way into this part of Italy, we wanted to visit the lagoon city of Venice. Our host Matteo recommended to travel by train which only took about 45 minutes.
Take the train to Venice. It’s fast, comfortable and cheap. Taking the car leaves you with the hassle of finding a parking spot.
The most famous and frequented sights in Venice are the Rialto Bridge and St. Mark’s Square. For those among us that count themselves to the lazy sort there’s ferry services and gondolas that take you to those attractions. If you choose to take the ride along Venice’s many channels, though, you’ll miss narrow passages, colourful house fronts and window shutters and beautifully arranged flower pots.
Take a stroll through the narrow passages of Venice. What you’ll see on the way is worth the extra kilometres that you walk. You’ll encounter a beautiful atmosphere of typically Italian charme.
Walking through the streets of Venice is an experience on its own. Street vendors and ice cream shops will invite you to browse through souvenirs and sample the great variety of “gelato” flavours.
Apart from narrow passages and water ways you’ll cross countless small and big bridges, see gondolas cruising by and will be tempted to jump into one of the motorboats that frequent the channels. We also saw and crossed the Rialto Bridge (which was partly scaffolded) and walked across St. Mark’s Square (which was teeming with tourists). The real highlights of our trip, however, were those unknown streets and bridges, the unnamed channels and gondolas.
As if two full days of walking through Italian villages and town squares isn’t enough, we went straight for the next city on the list: Padua. A stroll through the park and inner city led to the Basilica St. Anthony (which we only found at the second attempt as Padua has several Basilicas).
Chioggia & Pellestrina
If you desire a day on the beach Chioggia is the most likely choice. Thanks to our host Matteo we got a great insider tip to take the ferry from Chioggia to a small island called Pellestrina halfway between the main land and Venice. There you’ll enjoy clean and clear waters and a beach less frequented than those on the main land.
Chioggia itself will invite you to stroll through market places and spend your money at one of the countless shops and stalls selling souvenirs. Walking through the pedestrian street you’ll pass the Gelateria Carpe Diem where you absolutely have to stop for ice cream. We’ve found it to be the best ice cream any of us ever sampled and enjoyed the great variety of flavours.
And then, if you are really lucky, you’ll be leaving Chioggia at the sight of an amazingly colourful sunset such as this:
One of the last places to check out was our little host village, Arquà Petrarca. This has got to be one of our holiday highlights. It’s a humble village with a captivating charm, bars, bistros and pizzerias as well as locally produced delights.
In Italy, they add work and life on to food and wine.
– Robin Leach
The little village is set amidst the Euganean Hills and embodies what is the essence of Italy for me – nestled on a hillside with remnants of medieval architecture and a tiny town square lined with bistros and bars.
Have you been to Italy before? What’s your favourite destination? Leave a comment below and share your travel tips with us.