Venice is the cheap thrill of Northeast Italy. Yes, it's charming, but it's altogether too obvious, as unsubtle as a Versace dress. Travelers who want to see the more dignified side of Italy should head about an hour west to Padua (Padova). Once great and now willingly overshadowed by Venice, Padua may be small (population 200,000), but it packs an impressive punch. Bound by medieval walls, the city's center is filled with portico-covered streets, an appropriate architectural metaphor.

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