Published on :   07/13/2015

Explorations around Venice and the Po

It is my honest belief that everyone needs to visit Venice at least once in their lives.

Sitting here on the sun deck of the MS Michelangelo, my ears filled with the sound of seagulls in the air and the quiet swish of boats as they pass by, it is honestly difficult to not feel inspired, and completely enamoured with the beauty of the Venetian lagoon. 

I arrived in Venice two nights ago, getting off my taxi just at sunset. As I boarded one of the local vaporetto water taxis to get to my boat, I witnessed the most vibrant sunset I have seen on this entire Photo Tour. From the water, I watched as the sky became engulfed in a bright orange, lighting up the monuments of the city with a gorgeous golden hue that absolutely took my breath away. It was official right then: I had fallen in love with Venice.

During my free days of exploration, I found myself completely spellbound by this city drenched in romance and magic. My heart feels full just thinking of the gentle bobbing of empty gondolas tied against the canal, the bright colours of gelato shops on every corner and the small winding streets offering endless possibilities for adventure. Coupled with the uncertainty of when this sinking city will cease to exist, Venice is a place unlike any other. What I love most is that despite the hordes of other tourists, you can walk 2 minutes into a small street, and will easily find a piece of this city to call your own. Such is the charm of Venezia.

My cruise around the Venetian Lagoon and the Pô River officially began last night, with boarding in the late afternoon followed by a free evening in Venice. It wasn’t until this morning that we began navigating through the lagoon, where we enjoyed unbeatable views of Venetian landmarks, cute little towns, fishing villages and more. Soon, we were docked at Chioggia, where our buses were ready to whisk us off to Padua.  

Stepping into the city, we were brought into one of Padua’s most recognizable sights: the Prato della Valle. At 90,000 m2, this is the largest square in Italy and in my opinion, one of the most uniquely beautiful. It consists of a large oval green space with a fountain centerpiece, wrapped by a canal that is surrounded by two rings of statues, 78 in total representing famous citizens of the city. From this square, you can catch glimpses of many Padua landmarks, and as the locals would attest, it makes a pretty phenomenal spot for a picnic.

Our visit then brought us to the Basilica of Saint Anthony of Padua, an important religious site that welcomes over 4 million pilgrims each year. Photos were not allowed inside, but the interior was gorgeously decorated with marble, frescos and funeral monuments. What struck me most however was something I have not yet seen in other churches: photos. Along the walls of the Chapel of St. James, there were photos left behind by pilgrims, a common gesture of thanks for Saint Anthony from those who have survived tremendous hardship such as a life-threatening disease or unexpected accident. These photos act as tokens of appreciation for the saint’s protection. Seeing them, I felt incredibly moved. Gazing at the smiling faces of those who have conquered life’s obstacles made me feel instantly more connected to the church and to Padua, a city with an immensely rich religious heritage. After exploring the basilica’s many cloisters and chapels, including the Treasury Chapel which holds preserved relics like the Saint’s tongue and jaw, we continued with a walking tour of the city.

Our whirlwind tour took us by several of Padua’s major monuments, my favourite of which was the medieval town hall of Palazzo della Ragione, unique for being one of the largest roofs unsupported by columns in all of Europe. Its arch-dependent design makes it a standout in the city, and today it serves an important social role in Padua as a main spot for exhibitions and cultural events.

After the tour, we were given free time to explore the city centre, which is a gorgeous mass of arcaded streets lined with shops and cafés. While occupied by largely modern shops, I couldn’t help but sense a small town charm. Perhaps that’s why over 60,000 students flock to Padua for their studies, making the university the 2nd largest in Italy!

Tomorrow we’re off again to explore the Italian cites of Ferrara and Verona – land of Romeo and Juliet. Perhaps I’ll find my own Romeo along the way? A girl can dream!

Update you all soon.

- Christina