Connected to Venice by the Naviglio del Brenta, Padua is a lesser-known but no less beautiful city in this northeastern region. At its heart lies Prato della Valle, the largest square in Italy, with l’Isola Memmia nestled in the middle, surrounded by a small canal. In the depths of winter this charming piazza is dusted with a soft white coat of snow which sits atop the heads of the statues that adorn the canal. In the warm glow of the streetlamps the buildings take on a golden hue which is quite mesmerizing. From Prato della Valle one can gaze up at the Basilica of Saint Anthony of Padua, an architectural masterpiece that pays tribute to Romanesque, Byzantine and Gothic styles of design. This square also hosts the city’s New Year’s Day firework display where locals converge to join in the festivities, celebrating with food and music.
Wandering through this city on a cold November evening you will be captivated by the moonlit waterways and the ornate porticoes that offer a slight reprieve from the wintery chill. Despite the cold, we recommend that you forgo the temptation to duck into the nearest restaurant and instead experience a more authentic taste of Veneto by indulging in some spectacular street food. Enjoy a short stroll through the ancient streets of this beautiful city - it takes just 15 minutes to walk from Prato della Valle to Piazza della Frutta - and it is certainly worth it. This smaller square is stunningly beautiful and is home to one of Padua’s most well-hidden treasures - La Folperia. This street food restaurant with its unassuming red gazebo promises the best seafood in the city.
Simplicity is at the centre of this dining experience, with beautifully fresh produce - from boiled octopus to steamed shrimp and fried crab - prepared right in front of you and served with a delicious sauce made from only a few key ingredients. The mellow flavours of basil and olive oil allow the seafood to do the talking, inviting you to enjoy a divine sensory experience. The friendly owners of this establishment will offer you a slab of bread to mop up the excess sauce, which you seriously will not want to waste. Perching at an outdoor table, huddled against the elements and slurping a saucy plate of calamari may not sound like the most appealing prospect - and it certainly isn’t the most dignified way to dine - but trust us when we say that you will regret not eating here. La Folperia offers a taste of truly authentic Italian seafood which you will not forget in a hurry.
Nestled in the foothills of the Veneto Dolomites, Cortina is a popular destination for many Italians during the winter months. As one of the oldest ski resorts in Europe, some of the city’s most luxurious hotels date right back to the Victorian era. The streets are dotted with stunning facades and many travel to this city to indulge not in the winter sports but in the stylish shops and art galleries. The cobblestone charm of the small piazzas and the commitment to car-free streets means that when in Cortina you feel like you’ve been transported back in time to a bygone age. As one might expect from a city which attracts so many of the Italian elite, there are many fine places to dine here and the cuisine strikes the perfect balance of rich flavours and hearty warmth.
Il Vizietto di Cortina is the perfect place to get a feel for this particular part of Veneto. A far cry from the Canal-side, alfresco dining associated with Venice, this cozy - yet supremely stylish - restaurant evokes the snug comfort of a warm, wood-panelled chalet. The deep, tan-coloured leather armchairs invite you to relax and indulge in a bottle of vino rosso, described as the linfa vitale - the lifeblood - of Il Vizietto. The staff are all extremely knowledgeable and will gladly recommend the best wine to accompany your meal, ensuring you enjoy the perfect pairing.
Now onto il secondo (the main course). Every plate served up by the talented chefs at Il Vizietto has been meticulously created to entice and impress. With the closest attention paid to every element of the dish from the conception of the flavour combination to the appearance of the food on the plate, you will not be disappointed. The most succulent cuts of veal cheek and venison fill parcels of fresh ravioli, steaming bowls of rich, buttery risotto will melt in your mouth and you can try the braised suckling pig in a red wine sauce that is popular in this region for good reason. We recommend this lovely eatery for those who want to experience the flavour of this enchanting city without breaking the bank.
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