For me, the best way to return to Venice from Padua is to cruise down the Brenta Canal. The river Brenta runs south from the mountains and, in the 16th century, a long canal was built to take the waters from near Padova to the Adriatic near Chioggia. A small branch was left called the Naviglio del Brenta, or the Brenta Navigation and this became the most famous stretch of the waterway as it was the route of choice for the wealthy to travel from Venice to Padua. The banks of the canal also became some of the most sought after real estate on terra firma, as the Venetians used to refer to the Republic’s hinterland. Along its banks you can still see these wonderful monuments to the wealth of the Serenissima, as the Venetians like to refer to their city. The transport of choice for this journey was a burchiello, a richly carved and ornately decorated barge with a covered cabin where the wealthy passengers could enjoy every luxury whilst watching the banks drift by.
Today it is still possible to do this journey and three of the greatest historic villas are open to the public. The largest is the enormous baroque Villa Pisani in Stra. Also open is the Villa Widmann-Foscari in Mira, but the perhaps the most interesting is the Villa Foscari, also called “La Malcontenta“, designed by Palladio himself.