The Picturesque City Just a stone's throw away from Venice in the north of Italy, is the vivacious student emporium that is Padua. Famed for its history (boasting its famous university, founded all the way back in 1222, and the oldest botanical gardens, Orto Botanico, whose flora can date back to the 16th century...), Padua is an attractive option for Italian-speaking students..
Why should I choose Padua for my year abroad?
Close to Venice, but without the high prices and all those pesky tourists, Padua offers shed-loads of art, architecture and attractions for all sorts of budgets and interests. Take the Musei Civici agli Eremitani, with its 14th-18th century art collection, with some particular treasures from the city's famous artistic export, Giotto. If you're after more of this particular local's art, be sure not to miss the Cappella degli Scrovegni, where Giotto's frescoes cover every inch of wall and ceiling of the chapel.
Padua also has some Roman ruins to offer the archaeological-minded something to ponder about—the Arena here is well-preserved and doubles up as an open-air cinema in the summer months. Being a large student town, Padua offers great deals for the year abroader, with most cinemas, restaurants and museums granting student discounts.
Make sure you tuck into some of the local dishes, gorging yourself with the seafood, which is famed in this particular region. Your sweet tooth might fancy something special come teatime, but not to fret — bussolai (a cinnamon-flavoured ring-shaped biscuit), mandolato (the local take on panforte) and the renowned Tiramisù all originated here. Have an espresso with these, and take a seat in one of the cafes from the many Piazzas to indulge in some people-watching from time to time.
If it's getting a little late, you can always opt for the local aperitif spritz, and join the students and locals who gather together around the cafes and bars of the centre. For the flâneurs amongst you, be sure to visit, eat, sit, wonder and ponder in the surroundings gardens of the Prato della Valle, like many others, over a lunch break or pleasant afternoon. Even the Bard himself was inspired by Padua, using it as the backdrop to his famous play, The Taming of the Shrew.
With all these secret delights, it's no wonder many students, Italian and foreign, flock here to make the most of this idyllic city, still free from the tourist invasion that has affected so many other Italian cities. So if hearing English all day isn't your idea of fun, be sure to set up camp in Veneto's hidden gem of a city!