We had a whole weekend with our new friends all to ourselves in store and we couldn’t wait! We hadn’t spent a good amount of time with people our own age – or close enough – since we traveled with friends in Italy very early on in our trip. This is one of the downsides of motor-homing – whilst most travellers our age are meeting peers in youth hostels we’re hanging out in some field with retirees. Both Silvia and Andrea have lived in Padova all their lives and made very good guides as they showed us around their lovely city. We were all constantly impressed with the random wikipedia-like bits of trivia Andrea kept coming out with. Silvia told us of a famous local saying that describes Padova as the city that has “a meadow without grass, a saint without a name and a café without doors”. The tour took in each of these three things and we were baffled to find that the “meadow” is the city square which does have grassy areas, the saint’s name is Anthony and the cafe does indeed have a door. Huh.
I found Padova, in a strange way, to be a bit like our home town of Melbourne in Australia. It doesn’t look like it at all but I found that Padova didn’t seem to have any grand tourist attractions to it’s name – just like Melbourne – but what it does have is a sense of “liveability”. It’s a nice city. It has pretty parts, it has a pleasant atmosphere and there seems be a lot going on. This was interesting to me as the longer we’ve spent in Italy the more I’ve come to feel that I wouldn’t want to live here. I’ve become very aware of the general lack of space – doors opening right up onto the road in towns, the “country” still being quite populated with at least a house or two always in view. To me, this has amounted to a general sense of crowdedness. This is something I love about travel and learning about other cultures – it shines a new light on our own country and culture. Intellectually I understood that Australia has a tiny population and is massive with wide, open spaces but I didn’t understand what that felt like until I felt what a large population in a small country feels like. It may have been because of our friends’ presence but Padova felt like one of the few places in Italy where I could live – I say “I” as Mike has felt there have been plenty of places that he would be happy staying put in.
It was absolutely wonderful spending time with locals and gleaning little insights we otherwise wouldn’t have gleaned. I love my coffee, I come from a city that has a well-known and respected coffee culture but I can’t for the life of me understand Italian coffee – the espresso. “Sip” and it’s gone! Andrea shed some light on it for me when he likened it to a small gourmet chocolate – it doesn’t last long but it’s a taste sensation for as long as it does.
We had a traditional “spritzer” – a cocktail – at “spritzer o’clock” – sometime in the evening before dinner – and watched the “fighetti” – comically fashionable Italian youth – strut and generally stand around looking rich and beautiful in “The Uniform” – the wardrobe that it seems all Italians have agreed to adopt. I asked Silvia, who expressed exasperation at “The Uniform”, where she does her shopping. Her answer – she doesn’t shop! She proceeded to point out her hole-ridden Doc Martins that were The Thing to have in the 90s!
Just as Andrea finished explaining to us what “fighetti” means, a very expensive looking car that barely came up to knee-level came to a screeching halt right in front of the busy cafe and a trendy young thing strutted out in The Uniform. Everyone in the vicinity turned and stared. Andrea turned back to us, shrugged, and announced, “fighetti”. We all cracked up as the guy sauntered off nonchalantly.
We talked for a while about the band they were in in their twenties, “K”. Turns out our new friends were quite the rock stars back in the day! Later that night at their apartment we watched a concert they played at to a massive audience, Silvia on guitar and Andrea the lead singer! That night we introduced the guys to some Aussie bands – Clare Bowditch and The Cat Empire. It was fun seeing Andrea rock out to a song about our home-town “The Crowd”.
We had a wonderful home-cooked meal with a couple of Andrea and Silvia’s lovely friends and the best strawberries I’ve ever tasted with nothing but a bit of water, lemon and sugar. After dinner we went to the “Gelateria da Bepi”, a gelateria with a very unconventional array of flavours, including basil, carrot, sweet potato, pepper, tomato, rosemary, sage, celery, pumpkin and salmon!
We discussed our plans for Sunday and couldn’t pass up the opportunity of visiting Venice with locals – both Silvia and Andrea went to university there, the lucky things!