Picture of mausoleum On Monday morning we headed out of Milan, which takes quite a while as none of the autoroutes come particularly close to the city center. Our first stop was the village of Capriate San Gervaiso on the banks of the Adda river. Just outside of this town is a village called Crespi D'adda. Not exactly highly touted in most tourist guides, it was designed at the end of the 19th century as an 'ideal working town'. The centerpiece is a cotton mill along the river which is where all of the residents of the town worked. Houses fill up the center of town with the managers' homes being slightly larger and slightly farther out of the center of town. The main road contains everything that was considered necessary to keep the residents happy: a co-op store, a church, a school, a park, a castle built specifically for this town, and the mausoleum shown here, as a monument to the city's founder.
Picture of crespi_st Each home designed for a worker and his family was exactly the same - a two-story cube-shaped home set in the center of a square lawn with plenty of room for a garden. Today, the mill is used in part as a factory and people still live in the town. The homes can be seen in this photo in a variety of colors.
Picture of prado After Crespi, we continued on to Padua stopping along the way at an Autogrille. Autogrilles are placed every few miles along Italian highways and despite warnings from Italian friends to avoid the food there, we found the panini to be exceptional. (Well, compared to anything you'd find at an American rest area.) Arriving in Padua, we promptly got lost and spent some time driving around in circles (literally). The major difficulty is the wide plaza shown here. On maps, and in reality it is called the 'Prado della Valle'. We translated this as 'meadow of the valley', and thus we continued looking for a huge meadow basically. Eventually we figured this out.
Picture of orto_gates Just off the Prado della Valle is the Orto Botanical Gardens. Purportedly the oldest botanical gardens in Europe, it is by far the most extensive we've ever visited. The gardens are divided into over 20 sections, most of them devoted to a single family of plants. In many cases each variety of every plant in a family is displayed. This can actually get tedious after you've seen all 237 varieties of sage but it is impressive. This photo is of the front gates with the spires of the Basilica del Santo in the background
Picture of lavender These flowers were found in the alpine rock garden section. We lost the map to the gardens shortly after our return, and unfortunately we had written down the flowers we had photographed on the map. Over a year later the map reappeared, but now we're not completely certain of the order. As best we can tell, this is a species of Iberis.
Picture of melanie Here we have another lovely flowering thing that we think is a species of Mimosa. We do recall that it was extremely rare for one of these to flower, whatever it might be.
Picture of orto This circular fence in the foreground of this picture surrounds one of the four major plant groups. It doesn't really matter which one, unless you're a botanist,in which case you should already know just by looking at it. If you are a botanist, please email us and tell us what it is.
Picture of red One of the flowers here (either the red or the lavender) are anemones. The other are aubrieta. We might mention that these names are also in Italian only, so other than spices and particularly common flowers, we probably don't know what we're talking about in English anyway.
Picture of purple Here we have an extreme close-up of ... some purplish flowers. These are either pulmonaria or myostros. It could be a quiz in fact, but it would be a very very difficult quiz for the average reader. Also, we don't have the answers. Pretty though, aren't they?
Picture of orto_towers After we left the gardens, we drove out of Padua and proceeded on to Marghera, across the water from Venice. We stayed in Marghera at the Hotel Roma, which we recommend very highly as a cheap place to stay while visiting Venice. Furthermore they were very friendly and helpful (and gave us free food). That said, we will also mention that Marghera is a city made up almost entirely of rotaries. Driving there is almost like being on one of those spinning tea-cup rides at an amusement park. We took a bus from the hotel to Venice proper which is far cheaper than actually trying to park in Venice. It was dark and raining lightly when we arrived in Venice, but it really doesn't matter. Seeing the maze of alleys, canals and bridges for the first time completely overrides any objection to being vaguely damp. We also found an open gelato store and picked up some mint and chocolate to add to our collection. After what seemed like hours, we found our way to St. Mark's square (pictures coming on the next couple pages) which was dark and deserted, and in retrospect was rather nicer that way. We found a ludicrously over-priced restaurant to eat at before taking a vaporetto (water-bus) back down the Grand Canal and returning to Marghera. We now realize that all restaurants in Venice are ludicrously over-priced, but we would discover how to avoid this by the time we left. (That's a meager attempt at a hook to make sure you anxiously read the next page now to discover the answer).
Picture of tx_gardens

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