Day 2: Padua, and we get to know each other.

A big breakfast was laid out for us this morning.  Brad had warned us that this may be the very last time we get eggs at breakfast in Italy, so we ate gratefully.  It rained during breakfast but miraculously cleared just before we left the hotel.

We gathered outside and played a game to help us remember each other's name.  Making a circle and starting at a random individual, we each took turns introducing ourselves and calling out every person's name that was called before us.  That way we could place a face with a name and if we screwed up the embarrassment would make us never get them wrong again.

Katerina, our local guide, arrived and led us to the Scrovegni Chapel, an unremarkable building with remarkable frescoes on its walls painted by Giotto (no pictures allowed).  We were only allowed to be inside for 15 minutes to prevent decay due to our presence.

We visited the University of Padua which was founded in 1222 by disgruntled students from the University of Bologna.  Perhaps this is why when people don't like what you say, they say "bologna!"  As we entered the courtyard of the school, throngs of students were shouting "dottore, dottore" and a bunch of other words, celebrating graduation in typical Italian style.  This included dressing up in wreaths and having posters made of the interesting points of one's life.  The graduate is supposed to recite the poster's contents and drink if he/she gets it wrong.  Many were getting things wrong and having a grand time nonetheless.

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Inside the school, we saw a marvelously preserved operating theater, which many schools copied afterwards.  After the University, Katerina took us to the Piazza del Erbe, where an open market was in full swing.  Then we proceeded to the Basilica of St. Anthony.  St. Anthony is the patron saint of all things lost, so I hoped to find some ball-point pens I misplaced in my youth.  Inside, along with Donatello's amazing crucifix, one of the chapels had Antonio's mummified tongue and jaw on display.

Brad provided lunch to us in the Cloisters of St. Anthony's, including sandwiches with Bresaola, an air dried beef considered a local delicacy.

We were on our own after lunch, so Freyja and I decided to visit the botanical gardens.  In it we found (among other things) lilies, lambs ears, a really old palm tree, and a friendly orange cat.

We lazed around the oval square, and decided to give names to the 78 statues scattered around it.  Each one appears to be a patron of some kind, but many of their poses have lost their meaning over time I guess.  One even appears to be doing the Macarena, hence we named him Mr. Macarena in honor of the dance he apparently created.

To find our way to the gardens and the oval square I used my GPS receiver, loaded with a map of Italy before the tour started.  It turned out to be very accurate and was even able to guide us back to the entrance of the gardens, nailing it to within 10 feet.  This was the first time I had ever really used the thing, so I was quite impressed and looking forward to mapping the trip using it, because not only can it tell you where you are, it can also tell you where you have been as it lays down virtual breadcrumbs as you wander.

Rejoining the group for dinner, we sat down to a 3-course meal in a nice restaurant.  The wine was on Brad, and we proceeded to drink 19 bottles of it.  Perhaps that is why I do not remember precisely what we had for dinner.

After dinner, many of us went out to bars to experience the night life of Padua.  Brad, Freyja, and I ended up at an outdoor cafe in the shadow of a large church.  We all had espresso (Freyja remarked the next morning that espresso was not a good before-bed drink) and relaxed and chatted about the day and the expectations of the rest of the tour.  Walking back to the hotel, we bumped into another group of revelers from our tour and proceeded back to that same bar for more drinks.  Then to bed - we hop on the bus tomorrow!

It seems fitting on our first day of the tour that we ran into an Italian graduation ceremony and the contrast between it and the United States.  In 13 days we will "graduate" from our Italian history and cultural lessons, and I think we all hoped we could celebrate so well as these students.

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Last updated 11/12/2005 .  Email me at