Sotto il Salone – Padua’s 800-year-old shopping center

This is my first post about Padua. There’s no better way to start writing about my second Italian home than posting about Sotto il Salone, the city’s 800-year-old shopping center.

Located in the very heart of the city center, Sotto il Salone is a must-see on your visit to Padua. Ready for all the details? Read on!

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Sotto il Salone: Padua’s 800-year-old shopping center

A personal note to start

Over two years ago, I moved to Italy for the second time. The difference between Rome, my first Italian home, and Padua, was striking. I didn’t like it at first. I thought it was boring, and missed the endless options that Rome has to offer. Padua is foggy and rainy in the autumn and winter, and boiling hot and still in the summer. I don’t love the food. The public transportation essentially stops after 9pm.

Slowly, Padua started to grow on me. I realized how great the portici are when it’s raining. I realized how stunning the city is, with its breathtaking churches, busy piazze, and lush parks. I grew to love the nightlife here, with students spilling out of every tiny bar, each with its own unique vibe and cheap, yet delicious drinks. I discovered the magic of cicheti. The proximity to Venice is priceless. I found Coffee Box, where I go and sit and blog and drink coffee and meet up with friends.

Friends. They have truly made Padua feel like home. My sweetheart already had great friends when I moved here, and luckily, they welcomed me with open arms. When he went to Sweden for three months, they messaged me on the day he left to say they didn’t want me to be alone. Our friendship just grew from there.

It grew to encompass many parties, outings and all-nighters, many (many, many, manymanymany) glasses of prosecco, many meals cooked and shared, including three Thanksgivings and two Easters, many film viewings, many adventures to festivals, clubs, Venice, Tuscany, and even Greece. There were many conversations about the world and politics, and even more conversations about RuPaul’s Drag Race, and always, always so much laughter and fun. Now, I can’t imagine my life without them.

That’s why this big announcement is so bittersweet: we’re moving to Bologna!

Initially, life brought us to Padua because Jeremy was doing his Phd here, and now that’s over. I work in Bologna already, and he’ll be working close by, so it makes sense, logistically. In my heart, it doesn’t really make sense, because we’ll be leaving behind a spectacular little city, and more importantly, our Padua family. Luckily, Bologna is only an hour away. And an hour closer to Rome.

So that’s the bitter part. Living abroad is filled with moments like this. People come and go. They move home or move on to somewhere else. But in the end, if you have friends all over the world, you have pieces of your heart everywhere, and if you have that, you are very, very lucky.

The sweet part is the new adventure. A new city to explore and grow into. A new apartment to make our home. A new chapter.

Also, in case you weren’t aware, the region that Bologna is in is home to prosciutto, parmigiano, lasagne, ragù, balsamic vinegar, mortadella…anyone else drooling? I can’t wait to take you there with me!

Sotto il Salone: location and history

Located in the heart of the city center, Sotto il Salone makes up the bottom floor of the Palazzo della Ragione, once home to the city’s courts. The jail was located in the adjacent area, for the easy transportation of prisoners.

One of the entrances to Sotto il Salone in Padua, Italy
One of the entrances to Sotto il Salone

Sotto il Salone runs along each side of the building, with a perpendicular corridor which connects the piazze on either side of it, Piazza della Frutta, and Piazza delle Erbe.

The modern market

50 shops and stalls, called botteghe in Italian, line the vaulted walkways. There you’ll find everything  you need to cook a splendid meal, including eggs, cheese, meat, cold cuts, fish, bread, and fresh pasta. There’s also a candy store and an organic produce shop. In the morning, you can get fruit and veggies at the markets in the piazze outside to round out whatever it is that you’re going to cook.

Cheese shop at Sotto il Salone in Padua, Italy
Say cheeeeeese (-y joke)

Don’t feel like cooking?  Grab something to go! Sotto il Salone’s got a small deli, as well as a second location of Passione Pizza, which makes my favorite pizza in Padua. There’s even an enoteca or two, if you feel like having a cheeky spritz or glass of wine while you shop.

Violante's Deli Sotto il Salone in Padua, Italy
Violante’s Deli, known for its steamed focaccia


Special events at Sotto il Salone

Sotto il Salone has special events, which they do a few times a year, usually around the change of seasons or holidays. The botteghe stay open all weekend, and each place offers a small dish showcasing their specialties for a couple of euros.

I attended one of these events with my Padua pals last November. Many thanks to my friends for being so patient as I photographed everything they ate, for holding the plates and cups still as I snapped away, and especially for letting me taste what they ordered!

We decided to wander and see what caught our eye, but our noses actually made us stop after rounding the corner and getting a snootful of the unmistakable scent of mulled wine. The dark aroma of the wine mingled with bright citrus, sweet cinnamon, and Christmasy cloves. It was being offered with apple strudel. How could we say no?

Dessert first, allora!

Mulled wine and apple strudel at Sotto il Salone in Padua, Italy
Glühwein and strudel

After the delicious start to our day, we strolled around, hungry for more. Our next stop was at Pasticifio al Torresino for pasta. I fell in love with the display case there. Just piles and piles of pasta in little baskets, ready to be dropped into boiling water and cooked to perfection.

Fresh pasta at pastificio al torresino in Padua, Italy
Pasta heaven

I got bigoli con ragù di anatra. I believe bigoli are from Veneto. They’re like very thick spaghetti, and this time, they were served with duck ragù. The dish was nice and salty and the meat was tender.

My friend got plump, sweet, squash-filled ravioli.

Fresh pasta sotto il salone in Padua, Italy
Fresh pasta

Still not satisfied, I decided to get one more thing. I settled on meatballs which were lightly smoked, and served with a delicious, savory tomato sauce that reminded me of my grandmother’s.

Italian meatballs in Padua, Italy
I’m drooling at the memory of these meatballs

My friends also got a cheese plate, which had a crostino with horseradish cheese, another that was flavored with apple, a “drunk” one, and a small dish of ricotta with berry syrup.

Cheese plate sotto il salone padua, italy
Cheese plate

The most surprising dish of the day was a potato purée with cheese, either onion or leek, and crunchy croutons on top. We didn’t know what to expect, but it was smooth and creamy, with a slight sweetness from the onion or leek (we couldn’t figure out what it was).

Potato pure sotto il salone in padua, italy
Creamy, crunchy, smooth and cheesy potato purée

Unfortunately, this event doesn’t happen every weekend, but don’t miss wandering Sotto il Salone on your visit to Padua. It’s a great way to experience a crossroads of history and modernity, and have some great food, too!

I read this while writing this post.

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More Padua posts and guides

What to do in Padua

The best street food in Padua

The best wifi cafés in Padua

Dining at Osteria dei Fabbri in Padua

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