Only a 30-minute train ride from Venice, Padova is a stunning small city that remains largely untouched by tourism, but whose history, architecture and lifestyle sure make it worth a visit. Intrigued? Keep reading, for this Padova Food Guide might be of interest.
Padova runs on two main activities: the prominent University, and commerce. Close to sixty thousand students are currently studying at Padova University, whose foundation as a school of law in 1222 makes it the fifth oldest University in the world. Strolling through the city centre, one can still admire the remnants of such glorious, ancient past: in the courtyard and frescoes vaults of the Palazzo del Bo, headquarters of the Law faculty; and in the lush Botanical Gardens, created in the 16th century and still a destination for many botanists.
It’s undeniable that students make up for a big chunk of the public, social, and economic life of the city (I’ve been one and I know we were/are). Although often subject to much criticism, their presence means that real estate sees no sign of decline (rents in Padova are considerably higher than in other cities in Italy) and that businesses of all sorts – particularly those that cater to the young and thrifty – can thrive.
That said, Padova is not just for students. Residents, most of them middle-class, enjoy a high standard of living, reflecting their buying power on the local businesses of the city – from clothes (padovani don’t joke when it comes to dressing up) to food. Following an ethos that takes traditions and heritage very seriously, many of them still run part of their errands at the independent butchers, cheesemongers and delicatessen nestled in the town centre, and at the daily fruit and vegetable market, contributing to their survival in an increasingly supermarket-driven sector.
This diverse demand – students plus residents – sums up in a wide range of options, from bars turning out tramezzini and spritz; to traditional osterie offering more substantial dishes and a taste of the local cuisine; plus a good number of shops selling meat, cheese, wine, pastry and other culinary delights.
So, might you find yourself visiting the city at one point or another, this Padova Food Guide will have you covered on the food front. The guide is organised into sections, with tips on where to get a drink and a bite, a proper meal, a coffee and a sweet treat, or where to buy something special.
At the very end, I also listed some beautiful things to see while you’re at it, including a few key monuments and museums. I hope you’ll find this guide useful and inspiring, and that it’ll tempt you to explore all that Padova has to offer on your next visit to the area.
For a Drink:
Vini da Severino
Via del Santo 44
Open since 1901 as a place where to buy vini sfusi (unbottled wine), Vini da Severino has for decades been a favourite drinking and socialising hangout for students and residents (it’s only a few steps from some major University hubs). No seats, just a long wooden bar and a chalkboard with wines by the glass, all excellently picked and interesting, some of them organic, biodynamic or ‘natural’.
All’Ombra della Piazza
Via Pietro d’Abano 16
A central destination for wine worshippers. Comfortable environment, good cicchetti, 400 labels on their wine list and about 20 wines by the glass, some Italian and some not, all intelligently chosen from small producers. Busy and bustly at aperitivo time.
Bar Gran Caffé Diemme
Piazza dei Signori
A stylish bar where to sip some of the best cocktails and natural wines in town – perfect for when you’re tired of spritz and fancy something different. Their outdoor seating area, right onto the piazza and in full view of the astronomical clock, is truly outstanding.
Bar dei Osei
Piazza Dei Frutti 1
Don’t miss their spritz with both Aperol and Cynar; sip it while you munch on a rustic paninetto with mortadella tagliata al coltello (sliced with a knife). Popular on Saturdays.
Hostaria Ai Do Archi
Via N. Sauro 23
A student hangout that happens to make good cocktails. Mean Americanos and Negronis, and decent Mojitos. You can, of course, also find spritz. Young and cheerful, the front is often crowded all the way down the alley.
Enoteca Il Tira Bouchon
Sotto il Salone 23/24
You go for the ombra (small glass of house wine) in this rustic wine bar and shop hidden underneath the vaults of Palazzo della Ragione. Good choice of wines by the glass, too, and a nice selection of bottles to take home.
For a Quick Bite:
(Aside for any of the above-mentioned places doing ombre of wine with panini.):
Piazza Della Frutta (food truck, late afternoon only)
This is the place (maybe the only one) to eat seafood in town. Order from the vast selection, including steamed fish salad, boiled folpetti (baby octopus) with oil and lemon, and seppie (cuttlefish). Then sit at Bar dei Osei (mentioned above) and have your fish with a glass of white wine. Savour the moment…it won’t get much better than this.
Piazza delle Erbe (at the corner by the stairs of Palazzo della Ragione)
One of the local specialities in Padova is tramezzino, a small sandwich made with soft bread, often a layer of mayonnaise, and a series of filling combinations such as egg and pickled artichokes, tuna and pickled onions, ham and mozzarella and so on. If you want to savour tramezzini in Padova, then, this is definitely the place. You can have them at room temperature or lightly toasted (I recommend the latter).
Via Gorizia 12
There’s no way around it: if you want a sandwich, come here. It’s another hole in the wall (no seats), but that wall is wallpapered with all sorts of colourful signs listing the various panini (over 200) on offer, one more tempting than the other.
Via Umberto I 15
Fancy wine bar (they call themselves bottega-bistrot) where you can also enjoy a glass of wine with a selection of excellent cheeses and cured meats while at it. Perfect for a more sophisticated aperitivo. Let the knowledgeable staff behind the counter guide you through their offer. You can also buy wine, deli meats and cheese to take away.
For a Meal:
Via del Soncino 13
A Slow Food osteria, and one of the few in town where you’ll find traditional fare using local ingredients at modest prices. The food is good, but the dimly lit dining room gets crowded and noisy, so it might not be the best place for a date night. Book ahead if you want to eat, or else just come for a glass of wine.
Da Nane della Giulia
Via Santa Sofia 1
Old-school trattoria serving traditional dishes in a warm, no-frills environment. Service is spartan; it can be mistaken for rude, but it’s not. The market-driven menu changes based on the seasons, save a few staples, and the pasta dishes are true highlights. Good choice of wines, too. Booking required.
For a Coffee Break:
For Sweet Treats:
Via Jacopo Facciolati 12
A bit out of the beaten track, this is where you’ll find the best fine patisserie in the city. The pastry chef, Mr Biasetto, has won the world championship a few times. His signature cake is the Sette Veli (seven layers), but all his creations are truly outstanding.
Via Umberto I 26
Good coffee, hot chocolates and pastries. Try their speciality, the Pazientina Padovana – a cake made of chocolate, almond shortcrust, polenta shortcrust and a filling of zabaione custard – as it’s almost impossible to find it anywhere else.
Via Domenico Vandelli 2
A favourite breakfast spot. Their cornetti are excellent (their almond one especially), and so are their capuccini. It gets busy, so it’ll be hard to sit down, but most Italians take their breakfast standing at the counter, so it’s worth joining in.
Hidden in a tiny alley behind a large department store, this is an old pastry shop specialising in chocolate creations – their Easter eggs are real works of art. Walk in to buy some cioccolatini, or have a coffee with a biscotto at the counter.
For Bread and Baked Delights:
Piazza dei Frutti 26
Their range of bread and focacce is endless, from traditional formats to innovative shapes and flour mixes. You can also find fantastic cakes and crostate, biscotti, and all sorts of sweet and savoury treats, plus a wide range of quality artisan dry goods such as pasta, oils and sauces. Another speciality is chocolate, and especially their chocolate and hazelnut spread (a sort of artisan Nutella), which you can buy by weight.
This is the pastry laboratory that the non-profit association Giotto opened in the prison of Padova. they produce award-winning leavened sweet breads such as Panettone, Focaccia Veneziana, Colomba and some sweets typical of Padova, some of which date back to the Middle Ages, like il Dolce del Santo.
You’ll find them in many retail shops and pastry shops in the city, just ask at the counter.
For Fruit and Vegetables:
Mercato di Piazza delle Erbe
Every day until 1 pm
For Cheese/Meat/Deli Products:
Sotto il Salone
Palazzo della Ragione.
For Bottles of Wine/Beer:
Enoteca Il Tira Bouchon
Sotto il Salone 23/24
Via del Santo 44
Casa della Birra
Via Roma 128
Things to See Between a Sandwich and a Spritz:
° Palazzo del Bo
° Orto Botanico
° Cappella degli Scrovegni
° Basilica di Sant’Antonio
° Prato della Valle