Stayed in Padua at tour hotel Albergo Al Fagiano for four nights before the start of the tour: Thursday 4/18, Friday 4/19, Saturday 4/20 and Sunday 4/21.
This was a day to relax and orient ourselves to Padua. We walked through the old town, and vendors were set up in the various piazzas.
Day trip to Venice. We took the train from Padua to Venice, and had to stand the whole way. There were two cruise ships in port (I’ve heard that there can be as many as six ships visiting Venice at the same time). The crowds were huge, and it was impossible to get in to see St. Mark’s Basilica or the Doge’s Palace. In the afternoon we took the boat to Burano, and people working at the dock crammed us like sardines on the ferry. On the way back to Venice we stopped in Murano. Venice was much more pleasant in the evening after the cruise ship passengers had left. We were glad that we made the trip, since we had never been to Venice before. The train back to Padua was running a bit late, and when they finally posted the arrival track, many people waiting ran frantically to get on the train. Caught in the crowd, for a few moments we feared that we would be trampled. When they reached the track, most of the passengers tried to crowd onto the first few cars. We strolled down to the end of the train and boarded an empty car.
Another relaxing day in Padua. The highlight was the Botanical Garden. This garden is a UNESCO site, and is supposedly the oldest in the world. Especially impressive was the new section which was a sort of greenhouse with various plant habitats. We think that the Botanical Garden deserves a higher rating in the Rick Steves Italy guidebook.