This is certainly not a 'Danger' tip, but one to be aware of.
Dining in a restaurant or Trattoria often means a search for one that opens before 7pm. The posted hours on the outside of any establishment in Italy can only be considered as a suggestion, or as I say often to Ma Kettle, as a tease. They open when they open...
Restaurants begin filling up around 7:30pm, and are in full swing just after 8pm. Even if you are seated, the ovens may not be fully up to temperature, so sit back, enjoy your gassey water, and drink in the culture. Don't fret, won't help the situation.
American Express Traveler's Cheques in Padova are next to useless.
Most stores will not accept them, because, as quoted by 'every' store we attempted to cash them in, "they are too much trouble". I purposely refused to offer anything other than these cheques. I walked away from purchases because they wouldn't accept this method of payment. I offered passport, credit cards, Ontario Driver's License...every type of ID imaginable, even my Permisso, which shows my Italian address. Nope!!
We were told in no uncertain terms, "cash them at a bank"...however, the times I tried, banks were closed.
This ranges from larger restaurants, book stores, department stores, and shoe stores, all in the heart of Padova.
Granted, these were in American funds, not in Euros, but nobody ever picked one up, not once, so there is no way they knew what they were. They just didn't want to be bothered. Period.
Even Banks don't want them. They claim their insurance doesn't cover the loss if they are not honoured by American Express. A bunch of malarky. I tried various smaller banks (Padova has many), the answer was the same everywhere.
We ended up cashing them at old faithful, Banca di Roma, in the business section of Padova. This bank is one of the larger establishments in the city. They accepted them, but did charge us a commission rate of approximately 4%.
Convenient they are not. Just a word to the wise...
If you wish to convert American currency into Euros, then be advised that the smaller neighbourhood branches will not accommodate you.
They apparently do not have the same rights to deal in foreign currency as the larger institutions do. This has something to do with insurance coverage, etc., etc.
They may be willing to exchange a hundred dollars, but no more, and expect a 4.50 euro fee, plus ten minutes of paperwork to complete.
The larger institutions will, and one we have used regularly is Banca di Roma, in the midst of the business section. Once again expect a commission to be charged, plus the usual rate of exchange.
Be prepared to show your passport and other forms of identification, and to leave your first born child as security.
If you are Canadian, even though we have very pretty money, don't hold your breath. Convert it at home.
Rain this past season, came suddenly, or was just plain threatening. I have my favourite suede jacket I brought from Canada, but I'm afraid to wear it.
The same goes for good shoes. Carrying an umbrella may 'help' for your clothing, but puddles respect nothing.
Just a suggestion...
Italy has specially marked crosswalks which are intended to assist pedestrians safely from one side of the street to another. All traffic is to stop to provide right-of-way to the pedestrian.
At least, this is the intent. The problem is, motorists don't stop. Some are very good, but the good drivers tend to lull you into a false sense of security.
Don't step off the curb and expect vehicles to come to a screaming stop. Wait until there is a break in traffic, then use common sense before crossing. USUALLY if one car stops, then the others follow suit.
Padova drivers are much more compliant with the crosswalk rule than any other city we have visited in Italy, but, be careful.
Now, I think bicycles are a wonderful solution to smog, cost of living, and the poor mans answer to the gym, but....
I could not begin to count the number of times I have been startled by the sudden appearance of a grandmother on her grocery laden bike, two feet from my backside. We have bicycles in Canada, but they are (usually) piloted by screaming kids, whose voices precede them by a block. This early warning system serves to set my self preservation instincts in motion.
In Italy however, these well oiled machines appear out of nowhere, and the sudden ringing of the bell sets my nerves on edge. I always jump, to the amusement of the rider, and pray that I move in the right direction.
I have put forth a request to the Italian Government, that all bicycles be mandated, under penalty of law, to be equipped with a playing card affixed by a clothes pin, to the front fork of the bike. This playing card should be placed in such a manner as to be repeatedly struck by the spokes of the wheel, creating a 'drumming' effect. This will serve to advise pedestrians of approaching bicycles, and will in turn provide a restful reprieve to the constant flicking of the arthritic thumb against the lever of the bells.
I believe my request will serve as a sedative for my nerves, and for a more relaxed 'cruise' by the rider.
Until the law is passed, be warned, bicycles can sneak up on you out of nowhere, and scare various secretions from your body.
Espresso coffee. The smell is wonderful, the texture is, well, thicker than North Americans are used to.
Consequently, it may take your system a bit of getting used to also. It could act somewhat like a laxitive would, and a long day sightseeing, in a city known for shortages of familiar style toilets, well, ...best be warned, and prepared.
I remember the first evening Ma Kettle and I walked through here. We were nervous, quite unsettled. This is unknown in our part of the world.
In fact, some of the artistic attempts are very well done indeed. Some are of love, some are of hate, some scenes are political, some downright racial. The ones I like are rather comical.
We've come to the conclusion that this isn't a billboard for proclaiming their beliefs, but rather just a canvas to paint on. Nothing more...
I'm saddened to see beautiful old Porticos defaced by fools with a paint can, at least our neighbourhood artists stick to this underrail passage. We call this Graffiti Alley 1, and have a second bridge which sported graffiti until it was painted over in June. Five months it has remained graffiti clean...
Maria and I decided early Saturday night, that we wanted pasta for Sunday dinner. We had just exited the theatre (see my other tips) after viewing 'The Last Samurai', and the markets were due to close any minute.
It was pouring rain, visibility was down to three feet at most, and we desparately searched for a butcher shop for some fresh stewing beef for the spaghetti sauce.
Two blocks later, soaked to the skin, we spotted a Marcelleria (butcher shop). As we stood in line, we selected some beautiful looking stew meat, and gave our order to the man wearing the apron.
He began cubing our order, and asked where we were from, recognizing Maria's Calabrese accent, and upon hearing we were Canadian, clapped his hands together, proudly pointed to pictures of horses on the shop wall, and exclaimed "My best horses come from Canada". We assumed that he raised horses, or some such thing, until the penny finally dropped. Maria shrieked "That's not horse, is it", pointing to the freshly bundled stew meat. The butcher said "Of course it is". "I can't, I can't, no, no, take it away, I'll pay, I'll pay, but I can't eat horse", Maria said, rather revolted by the whole idea.
To his credit, the butcher slid Maria's money back across the counter, and very politely said, "That's ok".
We apologized over and over, and slunk out of his shop. Back into the rain.
The moral of our story is, "Be careful when purchasing meat in Italy, you could be buying a chunk of Mr. Ed.
Never assume, and always read the shop signs. Horse meat is 'Cavallo' in Italian. (also seen as Equino).
Motor scooters drive me crazy. They are a motorized machine, are licensed for the road, yet travel on sidewalks, on pedestrian crossings, drive on the solid white line around curves, pull up in front of all vehicles at stop lights and proceed to make illegal left turns, zip past the open doors of buses who are letting passengers off, and so on.
Part of the problem, in 'my' opinion, is the bikes are going too fast for the driver to safely read the speed limit signs, therefore the city of Padova should install motorized signs which would have the capability of keeping pace with the scooter. This would increase driver awareness of the posted speed limits, allowing time to make excuses in case of mishap.
I have been brushed countless times by these things, and they scare the h-ll out of me. Maybe this is normal for Italy, but I must warn every visitor from North America, please BEWARE !!! We are not used to these things nipping at our heels. Give me a vicious dog anytime.
They are licensed for the road, they should remain on the road. And that's my story.....
We walk all over Padova, and we have never felt any danger of any sort. We exercise common sense, and pay attention to the 'tingle' you get when something is not quite right. I can't stress it enough, just use the brains God gave you, and you should be fine.
Well, back to the subject of banks in Italy. I admit I am not a big fan. People in Canada often hated the idea of walking into a bank, because banks can feel oppresive, stodgy, over whelming. Ha, try an Italian bank.
Anyway, we received a Certified Cheque from a major bank in Canada, in American funds. The Canadian Bank assurred the sender that all banks in Europe accept a Certified Cheque, because after all, it is guaranteed.
Upon presentation, the clerk frowned, shook his head, pushed it back. If we had an account at this particular branch, they would accept it, but hold it for a minimum of forty days, before depositing it to our account. No ifs, ands, or buts about it. The banker claims it takes that long for a cheque to clear. Sorry!!
Fog in Padova is a fairly normal occurance. Not every day of course, certainly in varying thicknesses, and 'usually' in the fall. However, when it occurs, be warned, visibility can and does drop dramatically, as this picture will show.
Fog rolls in as the temperature drops, just as the sun sets, and gradually gets thicker as the night progresses. This photo was taken between 10pm-11pm, and near the end of January.
This is another photo of fog taken from our balcony, months prior to the previous picture, and taken at about 8am.
The morning fog generally dissipates very quickly afterwards, so if you have a choice, delay departure for safety sake.
From what we have been told, Padova fog, and generally speaking, fog throughout the Veneto Region is heavier and thicker than London fog, for what that may imply.
It seems silly to mention 'bad areas' of town and Padova in the same sentence, because this must be one of the safest places I have ever seen. However while I was on the hunt for permanent accommodation, the locals had some harsh words to say about certain areas. Now curiosity really does get the better of me sometimes, so I had to take a quick cycle tour through these parts, to see what all the the fuss was about. I think they were right...
(Disclaimer: This list merely represents first impressions, and the opinions of a small group of locals. I hope some of my thoughts could be proven wrong in the future)
- Near the station/ just north of the station - a hotbed of bike theft, and generally average-looking area.
- The general region around Stanga/ via Venezia, Centro Giotto. Again, more theft than normal here. While Centro Giotto is a brilliant place to find necessary items, I suggest you stay elsewhere and come here when needed.
If you are coming on university business, they tend to place you on via del Portello... it's not too bad (especially when the students are out) but I was told to not walk alone here at night.
If you are staying in big hotels, you are probably fine to be anywhere in Padova. Coming from a big city, I sometimes think the locals here are making mountains out of molehills. You will not be robbed at gunpoint (I hope!), but the bad areas are where the drugs get dealt, and where unattended bicycles slowly lose parts over the course of a few days/weeks, becoming sad little bicycle skeletons.