Another lovely day, another cold breakfast in the hot sun. Had some fruit juice also – very pleasant. Then set off for our cultural tour of Vicenza and Padua. Long drive to Vicenza, in boiling heat over the Piave flood plain. Road well above the farm lands – all bright green with vines, maize, wheat, potatoes, peas, beans, tomatoes. Enormous nets suspended over the river at intervals. Houses often painted a warm terra cotta colour. Went through various towns, including one completely walled one (Castellfranco). The walls were in a beautiful soft pink brick and astonishingly well preserved.
Vicenza is a large town. Very Palladian in the centre, with an enormous green roofed Basilica, which was upstairs, never seen a church like that before. The square in which it stood was very impressive too, with a lovely campanile. Did some shopping in the cool colonnaded streets and had an ice cream and coffee in a little arcade opposite a fascinating book shop which had some Richard Scarry books in Italian. Trotted round the town centre, which had all manner of Palladian gems stuffed in the rows of houses. Also some very nice food shops with cooked fish, pats, lobster, veg and crisps.
Drove on to the Monte Berica which has a splendid church surmouting it and a superb view over the plains to the hills. The plains all bright green, houses red roofed, and dark cypresses standing out at intervals. From where we ate, a good view of Palladio’s Rotunda at Este, very like Chiswick House, but warmer, with its red tiled roof and creamy walls. I had a veal and Russian salad concoction from the Standa supermarket. David had sardines in brine which he had to give up, much too salty. The children had some very nice pork, and we all washed it down with some sparkly white. After a hunt for a garage, and using the toilets of one which was closed for siesta time, we went on to Padua.
A bewildering place – large and busy, and designed to keep one out of the centre in a most annoying way. Parked in the square Prato Delle Valle, beautifully laid out with trees and a canal in a circle, but obscured by a travelling fair when we saw it. Went in to the Basilica of Santa Guistina, very high and cool and empty with numerous side chapels. Then found the Basilica of St Antony at last, when we saw this several years ago it was pouring with rain, today a tremendous contrast, and of course it looked completely different. Children mesmerised by the special Chapel of St Antony where there are crutches, etc, photographs and hundreds of candles, also by the treasury complete with St Antony’s tongue in a golden reliquary; and by the confessionals.
NB Very strict about people’s clothes – no sleeveless dresses, mini dresses, ‘immodest or low necklines’ etc., and someone there to see this was carried out.
After a visit to the loo, ‘one of those horrid squatties again mummy’ said Sarah in disgust, and a walk around the cloisters, discouraging Gareth from singing ‘Who do you think you are kidding Mr Hitler’ as he marched around, we went into the shop which can only be described as a holy supermarket, with rosaries, statues, medallions, candles in proliferation. After buying some post cards we got ices outside the Basilica for the children, and drove back to the camp site via the autostrada, very hot and busy.
Miles to our camp site of course, but made it eventually and adjourned straight to the beach. After putting the children to bed we had a supper at the fish restaurant on the site – a plate of mixed fried fish – delicious, with salad, wine and coffee. Several people eating there, one can just imagine how busy it is at the height of the season.