When in Paderno, Do as the Italians Do: The Top 5 Places in Town to Interact with Locals

Written by Sydney February 10, 2017

Sunday morning at the Crespano Market (Photo credit to Mikayla Pugel)

Frutti di Bosco from Pasticceria Gambasin

Spending time with friends at Pizzeria Al Sole

Some concerned Snapchats were sent regarding my Diet Coke intake. Good thing Coca Cola Light IS Diet Coke, and Tabacchi 2 always has plenty on hand!

Little Town, Big View

After four weeks on campus and experiencing more culture shock than I’d like to admit, I’m starting to get the hang of the Paderno del Grappa lifestyle here at CIMBA. While I’m sure I still stick out like a sore thumb when I venture beyond the CIMBA bubble, through insight, observation, and self-awareness, I’ve begun to explore the hidden gems that Paderno has to offer. Not only are these spots treasured by us Cimbians, but they are also spots where we have the opportunity to interact with the locals who have welcomed us into their little, authentic community with open arms.

1.)   Pasticceria Gambasin

Pasticceria Gambasin is a pastry shop that is about a fifteen minute walk from campus in the Fietta neighborhood of Paderno. Recommended to me by a University of Iowa Tippie College of Business professor, I decided to venture there on a sunny Sunday afternoon with a friend. Since the pasticceria was closed from noon until 3:30pm (which is not unusual for any stores or shops in Italy), we left around 3:10pm, knowing we would get there a few minutes before it reopened. To my surprise, there was already a line of eager locals outside of the pasticceria when we got there, hoping to nab one of the few tables. I count my lucky stars that we not only got a table, but that we weren’t trampled trying to get to it.

After picking your jaw up off of the floor after seeing the insane variety, you’ll order your tiny culinary masterpieces, and even tinier cups of espresso. After much anticipation, be prepared for your taste buds to sprout angel wings and take flight to heaven. And for only 1.10 Euro per pastry, that’s by far the cheapest flight you’ll have while abroad.

Pro tip: Order the fruitti di bosco which is basically berry cheesecake (but even better, of course). I promise it’s amazing, and it’ll save you the embarrassment of walking up to the window and pointing at pastries since there is no menu, and you don’t know how to order in Italian. Been there, done that, don’t recommend.

2.)   Tabacchi 2

Tabacchi 2 is by far the place I’ve visited the most in Paderno. While the direct translation for the word ‘tabacchi’ is ‘tobacconist’, tabacchis are basically much cuter, Italian convenience stores. Tabacchis have everything from school supplies, to toiletries, to snacks and soda (it took me far too long to figure out that Coca Cola Light is the same thing as Diet Coke).

But what sets Tabacchi 2 apart from its counterparts (besides the fact that it is literally a 30 second walk at a snail’s pace from campus) is that the tabacchi has amazing sandwiches made by its endearing and English-speaking owners, Bruna and Diego. So when the dorm food is getting to you, or you’ll need a meal to-go for your four hour train ride, Bruna and Diego have got your taBACKi.

Pro tip: After your first few times in Tabacchi 2, you might find yourself as one of the chosen ones that Diego will try to feed, even if you just came into buy a highlighter to catch up on your reading (by the way, keep up with your reading). But if Diego gives you free cheese, eat the free cheese.

3.)   Crespano Market

The Crespano Market, which is held every Sunday morning, is not your typical small town market; or actually, maybe it is to Italians standards, but definitely not compared to what I was used to in the states. I had expected to go to the market, visit a few vendors, maybe by some fruit or a pastry (I swear I eat more than fruit and pastries, and fruit pastries…), and walk back to campus. But not only was this market much bigger than I expected in li’l ol’ Paderno, but there was an assortment of items for sale, besides food.

Aside from fresh, homemade food, the Crespano Market also has big scarves, warm coats, and even fashionable shoes, for both men and women, and for very inexpensive. The local vendors are very reasonable, and will not try to get more money out of you just because you are an outsider, unlike many of the places you will visit on your travel weekends. And while the prices of the market’s wearables are cheap, the quality is not.

Pro tip: Bring more than 5 euros because you might find some boots you like.

Pro tip (part II): Don’t try to break in said boots for the first time on a travel day (I’m talking to you, Jack!).

4.)   The School Gym

Now I know you’re thinking, “The school gym?! Like the ones from high school?!”, and there is some truth to that. The CIMBA program is lucky enough to share a campus, along with all of its amenities, with an Italian school called Istituti Filipin. CIMBA and the Filipin put forth a lot of effort to grant us the opportunity to get to know one another, despite there being an age gap, a language barrier, and a wide array of cultural differences.

Aside from more formal gatherings such as ‘Add a Seat to the Table’, where a CIMBA student gets to have dinner with a Filipin student and their family, or when the Filipin students get to shadow CIMBA classes during week three of the program, we also get to face off with the Filipin students during recreational basketball or volleyball games that are held multiple times a week. What better way to make friends than through some friendly competition?! While we are hoping to organize a soccer game between the friendly rivals, we all know how seriously Italians take their soccer.

Pro tip: Play by the Filipin students’ rules. Not only are they younger and speaking in English for your sake, but they do have home court advantage, after all.

5.)   Pizzeria Al Sole

The pizzeria is definitely one of Cimbians’ favorite places to frequent. Only a ten minute walk from campus, the pizzeria accommodates the herds of CIMBA students by housing us in the massive room in the back that has large tables, and keeps our impressive volume a healthy distance away from the real locals (because after all, we are only temporary locals).

There’s two steps to having a successful visit to Pizzeria Al Sole. Step 1: Order your own pizza. Step 2: Eat the entire pizza. Now for those back home who think this might be gluttonous advice, these pizzas are far from the Detroit style pizza from back home, and even dissimilar to New York style pizza. Pizza crusts are insanely thin here in Italy, and I promise if you look over at an adjacent table, you will see that this is what Italians do. My first time at the pizzeria, my three friends and I thought it was a language barrier when the waitress was confused when we only ordered two pizzas. But in reality, we were the ones that were confused, and shortly after, hungry.

Pro tip: Contrary to popular belief, not sharing your pizza has pros AND cons. The pro is that you can get whatever toppings you want (my favorites are ricotta and spinach). The con is that Italians do not cut pizzas into slices, and it is improper to eat the pizza with your hands. So unless your fork and knife are in hand, your American is showing.

As you may have noticed by now, I have much love for the places in Paderno, and of course, its people. While some of the places you will visit on travel weekends will seem to be flooded with tourists, or worse, locals that are less-than-pleasant to tourists, remember those that made Paderno your home away from home without a second thought. I’m utterly indebted to the locals that have shown me patience and grace during my first four weeks here and will sorely miss their culture and kindness when I leave in just eight more weeks.