Nino Zoccali's obsession with Venice began many years ago, when at the age of 21 he visited the floating city for the first time. The chef and restaurateur behind Sydney's acclaimed Restaurant Pendolino and La Rosa The Strand has a new book, Venetian Republic (Murdoch Books, $49.99), which explores the food of the wider Veneto, including Padua, Adriatic Croatia and the Greek Islands. See murdochbooks.com.au
In Italy, one starts the day with coffee. Period. Padua is no exception and there is no better place to do this than Caffe Pedrocchi. Founded in 1831, this institution and architectural wonder is also home to a restaurant, pastry room, terrace and several different dining spaces. If you want to start the day like a true Italian though, the excellent coffee at Caffe Pedrocchi can't be overlooked. Caffe latte and cappuccino is customarily ordered until 10am. After that, espresso and espresso macchiato. See facebook.com/CaffePedrocchi
Just a 10-minute walk from Pedrocchi is one of the city's – possibly Europe's – best pasticcerie, Biasetto, run by highly-awarded pastry chef Luigi Biasetto. Choosing the accompaniment for your next coffee will be tough: mignon pastries, pralines or macarons? Or a more savoury croissant, perhaps? Personally, I'd recommend Biasetto's award-winning cult-cake, the chocolate and hazelnut Setteveli. Traditional Veneto sweets and treats are just as spectacular, as is his highly-lauded version of the classic panettone. See pasticceriabiasetto.it
Scattered across the stunning Piazza dell'Erbe, these produce markets are probably my first choice in Italy. The colours of the seasonal fruits and vegetables are something to behold, and nowhere else have I seen eight different varieties of radicchio – one of my favourite ingredients. Rather than buying a sandwich from one of the market's fantastic cafes, this is where you pick up incredible ingredients to take back to your Airbnb to cook your own lunch. For me, it'd have to be a radicchio, vespaiolo and morlacco Risotto – a stunning representation of this part of the world. Once the radicchio is selected, head to the Palazzo della Ragione and peruse the butchers, fish mongers and food and wine retailers for everything you'll need, including the gorgeous local product, morlacco – a stracchino cheese that has been aged for up to three months.
By now you'll have earned yourself a drink, and thankfully this is real spritz country with its primary ingredient, Aperol, hailing from Padua and Prosecco, the other significant input, also being produced about 60 minutes away. Any number of bars in and around the historical town centre will do a great spritz. Padua is also close to iconic wine regions such as Valpolicella and Soave, and if you're looking for more of a sophisticated, wine-oriented experience for your aperitivo, there are plenty. My suggestion is a fantastic little wine bar called All'Ombra della Piazza. (No website: Via Pietro D'Abano, 16.)
Jewel in the crown of the revered Alajmo Group empire, Le Calandre is about six kilometres out of Padua. Since opening in 1981, it has become an international avant garde dining institution. Menu development at this truly unique three-Michelin-star restaurant is approached with a "childlike curiosity". Creative flair extends into the dining room, where everything from the glassware to furniture and the room's fragrance is designed by the Alajmo brothers. The menu changes seasonally, and while clearly very modern, it has its base and influence in Padua. Risotto will always be on the menu and is suggested. If you're after something more low-key, Il Calandrino next door is the group's casual bistro, and serves the best of modern Italian cooking at great prices. See alajmo.it