In Padova particularly, one gets a real sense of the vigour of the Northern Italian emergence from the Dark Ages, a sense of emerging cities full of bustling purpose and underlying confidence about the possibilities of the future.
While we were in Padova Friday night, wandering along discussing the many ways Northern Italy was different to Southern Italy, a live demonstration played out in front of us. A gentleman (I would guess hairdresser by his white coat, but could have been a pharmacist) started yelling loudly (saying, at a guess, "stop thief!" with elaboration) chasing a guy in front of him. Immediately, all the pedestrians started converging to cut the fellow running away off so the angry guy in the white coat could seize him, one fellow waved and shouted to the police and last we saw, the gentleman in the white coat was dragging the recalcitrant back, presumably for him to pay.
Traffic lights are much more common (than in Sicily), people follow the rules and one actually sees traffic cops. We really are not in Sicily anymore. Southern and Northern Italy may have (mostly) a common language and they may share a state, but they do not really share a culture (in the sense of a way of life), they just pretend to.
As is normal with public transport, a Venezian water bus is rather more fun when you know what you are looking at (and what awaits you at the other end) rather than worrying about whether you are on the right route and whether you will know which stop to get off at because you have no sense of the system or the landmarks yet.
You look at male deities seizing unwilling women and you think "oh yes, scenes of male dominance". But then you look at a Judith looking you in the eye with a knife in her had and the head of Holofernes sitting next to her and that is not quite the subtext.
The further North we go, the more African men we see. They are a notable feature of Venice, hanging around in groups, or flogging handbags, or sunglasses, or whatever.
Throughout our travels in Italy, school groups are a common sight wandering around; the children seem generally well-behaved. It is probably easier when you can just walk to places of historical interest. I also presume that successful suing for damages (and so having a legal system trying to ban consequences, particularly for children) have not yet blighted such.
[Read the rest at Skepticlawyer.]