"They always say time changes things, but you actually have to
change them yourself.”
― Andy Warhol
My experience in Padova has come to an end and I know for sure that I’m not leaving this city, this country, this university as the person I was before.
There is one thing that is very important and dear to my heart, and I want to share these thoughts with you, because I think they are important. Important, because it can help us remove barriers. Between cultures, between people, between souls.
Before I came to Padova, I researched. I looked at what the internet had to offer about the university. I also heard some things about it. And about Italians in general. About their bureaucracy, about their non-existent organisation skills, about their laziness. Wow, I thought. Wow wow wow. Maybe I should rethink this whole thing. Maybe this is not where I want to go. As a fairly organised and structured person, it sounded like a nightmare to me.
Relax, Nadine, I thought. Relax, relax, relax. Maybe this is not true. Maybe this one experience is not at all true. Forget what you heard, and just be prepared. Be prepared for what is going to come, and accept it.
And I did. I tried my best to take everything as it was, and it was definitely very different than what I was used to.
Organisation: very low. Punctuality: Pun…what?, Bureaucracy: a catastrophe, to say the least. What I mean by this is that to do my internship in a primary school, I had to go to four different offices, because first you have to complete this form, then you send it to that person, after that you need to go to that office, and then they need to send another e-mail to confirm, after which you need to see this person (which is available about an hour a week, most probably when you have a lecture you don’t want to miss), and so on.
Punctuality: professors show up twenty minutes late for the exam which is supposed to be at 2, and then realise that oh, the lecture hall is booked for 3:30, “COME ON, HOW CAN THAT BE? I WAS ON TIME!” We saw you park your car at 2:19, but ok, you were on time. On-italian-time, maybe.
In Austria professors come 10 minutes before the lecture is supposed to start to set up their laptops, make sure technology works and they can start on time. In Italy professors come 5-30 minutes late, or ask if they can go and get a coffee before starting the lesson.
Organisation: for oral exams, in my university you enter your name in a list with time slots. You know your turn, you come some minutes before, you take the exam, and go home. I know this might be not true for other universities in Austria, so they way it was done in Italy may not surprise either. Here you enter a list online. First come, first serve. At some point the professor sends a list with when your turn will be (1-20 on day 1 at x o’clock, 20-40 on day 2 at y o’clock etc.) and you show up on that day, on the time shown. What you don’t know is that there is another list for another course and that they are 20 people, too. What happens then is that you wait until it’s your turn. Being number 10 then means being number 20 (because taking turns with people from the other group), and depending on the talkativity (i know this is not word) of the professor you might be sitting there for three hours until it’s your turn.
With all these experiences I made, I soon realised that there are two options for me: 1) complain and declare that the way things are done here is bad and inefficient. This will leave you the same person as before, because you know how things are done. You know that the way you do it and the way you’re used to things being done is the only way.
2) Embrace the culture. I am not saying that being late is praiseworthy. But neither am I saying that being so strict that an excuse for why you were late should be unacceptable.
I learnt that the way things are done here is not bad, but different. People are not inefficient, they take things easy. People are not lazy, they’re much more relaxed. Waiting for three hours until it’s your turn for an exam might be annoying if you sit there and focus on how disorganised this system can be. But waiting for three hours and talking to your uni friends, getting to know them better and meeting some now people doesn’t sound all that bad.
Always having to wait for people isn’t cool either if you stand around, looking at your watch every two and a half seconds, but if you know that people tend to be late, accept it. Take a book with you and read. Problem solved.
Living in Italy as an organised person might be hard, if you think that life needs to always be organised and can’t have that little “go-with-the-flow”-touch, sometimes. I have the feeling that exactly these people, including me, are doing themselves a favour by going to a place where things are not done in a certain way. In a way THEY think is right.
We all can learn from others. And we should. Because in life, you won’t always meet people who do things you want them to be. But if you have a mindset of learning from others, this gives the whole thing a twist. You accept them the way they are and learn something. And they might learn from you, too. If we’d all be a bit more sympathetic, the world could be such a nice place.
Because Padova has some crazy good food to offer, I thought it’d be nice to share some of my favourite spots with you. These are my personal experiences with places and they might deviate form yours.
Pasticceria al Duomo (closed on Wednesdays)/Caffè al Duomo (closed on Tuesdays)
Great variety of brioches – and some say the most amazing ones of Padova! They are all baked in the pasticceria and also catered to the caffè, which is about 10 meters away. I would go for a ferro di cavallo (literally horseshoe, which is a brioche filled with apricot jam and sprinkled with some caster sugar) or a cornetto di mandorla (almond croissant). To get one of the latter, you might have to be there before 7:45/8:00 a.m.. At the pasticceria, there are only a few tables inside (Brioches: € 1,20, espresso: € 1,10). The Caffè has places outside, but beware – prices get higher if you sit outside! (inside: brioche: € 1,20, espresso, outside: brioche: € 1,60, espresso: € 1,60). The Pasticceria does not serve soy milk, the caffè does.
One of my favourite spots when it comes to afternoon coffee – they have a huge assortment of Italian pasticcini. My favourites are the Cannolino Siciliano (a sicilian speciality consisting of a tube-shaped shell filled with a sweetened ricotta cream and pistachios) and the Sole Mignon (I think that’s what it was called – it’s a tiny cake with a white chocolate cream and a raspberry on top). Pasticcini Minion: € 1,10, espresso: Serves soy milk.
Caffè Biasetto (closed on Mondays)
Prices a bit above average, but the pasticceria won several awards for their patisserie. If you’re close to Prato della Valle/Basilica Sant’Antonio/Santa Giustina, you might want to give it a try, it’s near the university hospital, so not exactly central, but definitely worth a try! Good tramezzini, too, but too expensive for Padovan standards (they say the best ones are made at Bar Nazionale, but I haven’t tried).
Although it’s only a caffè and not a pasticceria, I ate one of the best cornettos ever there – it’s filled with lemon jam. Yes, LEMON JAM. It’s the best. Not super-central, but if you’re around and by any chance staying at Hotel Igea, give it a try (get there as soon as possible for the lemon cornetto!), cause it’s right around the corner.
Caffè Vergnano and Pasticceria Breda have really, REALLY good vegan cornetti, though the latter one is on the expensive side, especially with their coffees.
Undoubtedly my favourite spot go grab a quick bite. The concept is simple: You get a panino with whatever you want inside for 2 €. You can either pick the ingredients yourself, or you go for a “Fantasia”, which means that the extremely cute owner, an elderly man, will make you a panino with whatever he feels like putting inside (if you feel like having one particular ingredient and the rest fantasia, go for it: “un fantasia con pecorino” or “un fantasia con crudo” etc. They often have boiled potatoes, and I know it sounds weird to have potatoes in your panino, but please try it. I think they’re lush. My favourite panino is with crema di radicchio/ricotta, potatoes, tomatoes, pickled onions and salad. Sometimes I added pecorino, and the best part is when he places your panino on the counter and proudly states: “VE-GE-TA-RI-AAAAANO!”
Absolutely amazing Indian food (for an even more amazing price!). Make sure to bring your own tupperware, otherwise you’re gonna end up with loads of trash (and as we know Trash is for Tossers). The Pakoras are incredibly good, and so is their chana masala (which is a little spicy).
A classic Padovan treat – basically a (slightly smaller version of a) calzone. There are vegetarian and non-vegetarian options (unfortunately no vegan options… yet!) for 2-3 € each. On a warm day, grab one and go sit on the stairs on Piazza dei Signori (and try to find out how the watch works, it’s fun!)
This is the place to be as a student, because… it’s cheap. And it’s good. What else could you ask for? A tiny and unspectacular place near some of the university campuses with limited places. You can get pizza slices for 1,30€ and a whole pizza starting from 3 or 4 euro, so if you’re trying to save some money this place is definitely worth a try! Note: limited places to sit inside plus a bench outside.
If you’re looking for a quick pasta dish during lunch time, Dai Pupi will probably satisfy your needs. They serve Sicilian food and have a good variety of pasta and secondi (yummy parmigiana)!
Dinner (Or a not so quick Lunch)
Trattoria Nane della Giulia (closed on Mondays and Tuesdays)
Probably my favourite trattoria in town. I love the atmosphere inside (some complain it’s a little dark…) and the hand-written menus. Their menu changes almost every day and choices are limited, but more than enough. Their desserts are really good (give their classic chocolate cream nel ‘barattolino’ a try – it’s heaven!), and so are their primi. They are also open during lunch time.
Osteria Dal Capo (closed on Sundays)
If you’re happy to spend a little more (Antipasti and Primi around € 10, Secondi around € 15), this is a hot tip. I had one of the best gnocchi ever and their desserts are divine. Make sure to book a table! From Tuesdays to Sundays, they’re also open during lunch times.
This ristorante/pizzeria/paelleria is quite off the beaten track, but if you have a tram card, you will be there in 20 minutes from the city center. They have a huge variety of pasta and pizza and their prices are unbeatable (plus their portions are huge, so sharing is an option, especially if you dive in their luscious tomato sause they bring with the bread!) I personally wouldn’t opt for their desserts though.
Antiche Cantine Zaccharia
Slightly outside Padova (you will need a car), this Osteria serves food from South Italy. It doesn’t get more Italian than that. Desserts are ok, but nothing extraordinary. Fair prices.
Pizzeria Orsucci (closed on Thursdays, opens at 5pm)
Personally my favourite pizza, though it might not be a classical Italian Pizza and the sizes are fairly small. It’s the eldest pizzeria in town and you can see they’re experienced in what they do. If you get there after 7, waiting times can get long, but you can always order and take a walk around prato della valle – which is also where people go to have their pizza, as there are only two tables inside and a few outside.
If you want real good Pizza, iDon is the place to go. Don’t let the waiter impose starters on you, because they’re too expensive and he will bring you way too much. Desserts are good.
It looks a little touristy, but the pizza is really good and the atmosphere outside on a nice summer evening is enjoyable.
Good Pizza, and a good variety of other dishes, too (though I would go for Pizza). If you like Panna Cotta: Panna Cotta con Frutti di Bosco is your choice. The profiteroles weren’t amazing.
Savonarola (closed on Mondays)
Very fair prices and nice salads, insalatone, something you will find all over Padova. They’re usually quite big, so if you want some salad with your Pizza, go for an insalatina.
After I heard the story of Giotto, it became my favourite place to get some ice cream in Padova. The employees (about 120) are prisoners who work and produce everything in prison and who, having learnt a ,will have high chances to have a normal life. Their noce del santo and cantuccio ice cream is scrumptious.
This small ice cream shop produces organic ice cream and has loads of vegan ice cream flavours. Their fruit ice cream is amazing, and so is their vegan pistachio and almond ice cream. If you’re ok with having milk, go for the mediterraneo; it’s one of the best ice creams I’ve ever had.
Being a very renowned Italian brand famous for their chocolates, Venchi produces quite amazing ice cream, too. Their dark chocolate ice creams are divine, so is their sorbet!
If you travel to Ferrara…
…or to Bologna…
Ruggine or Osteria Orsa
What are your favourite spots in Padova? Happy to hear your tips in the comments for my next Padova visit :)