All the dance-floor thrashing gay nightlife that Venice lacks can be found barely half an hour away in Padova, home to both the University of Padova and her rather friendly, often queer students. Close to the train station, Anima Drinks & More (Via Vicenza 15, Padova; +39-348-726-4713) spins a successful mix of electro, house, and pop, cheekily calling itself "A Different Place for Different People."
A little further on, the Love Fashion Discotheque (Via Bernina 18, Padova) gets its own share of dancing co-eds and throws mean theme party on its two floors.
At the city's western tip, Via Turazzo hides three local gay options. The Flexo Club (Via Turazza 19, Padova; +39-049-807-4707) warmly announces "Not Just Cruising" on its website, and you might catch drag opera if you're lucky. At the same address, you'll also find the Metro Sauna and the cruisey Hot Dog leather bar.
Boys, girls, and booze aside, Padova also packs in some of the loveliest wandering streets, gelato, and art in Italy. Check out the Cappella degli Scrovegni (Piazza Eremitani 8, Padova; +39-049-201-0020; 11 EUR), which houses Giotto's legendary mural of Christ's life. Reservations are required and tickets must be collected one hour before entrance.
A pleasant, coastal train ride from Venice lies Trieste, a lovely port city that bears the cultural stamp of sitting within walking distance from Slovenia's national border.
In 2001, Trieste's unique cultural shape inspired transsexual writer Jan Morris to write Trieste and the Meaning of Nowhere. The city, which has changed national hands too many times to count, has drawn travelers, ex-pat strangers, and misfits for centuries -- a little bit of everywhere and nowhere like it.
There's plenty of lovely shopping to do here, with miniature piazzas and boulevards hidden all over. With a good wander, you'll find some of Italy's best gelato, antiquing, and seafood.
Zampolli (Via Ghega 10; 2-5 EUR), on the main drag from the train station, has long been considered the best gelateria in town. Weekly flavors have included ginger and pomegranate, both surprisingly delicious.
Most of Italy's Arabic coffee also comes through Trieste's docks. Watching the adjoining piazza fill up early in the morning from Caffe degli Specchi (Piazza Unita d'Italia 7; +39-040-365-777) is absolutely magical. The coffee's really good, too.
A short bus or ferry ride down the coast, you can visit the imposing Duino Castle (34013 Duino; +39-040-208-120), where the German poet Rainer Maria Rilke wrote his Duino Elegies. Photos of the Triestine Riviera from the Castle never fail to make folks at home jealous. In Duino, yo'll alsofind Triest's gay club, Nepenthes (Road 14, Duino).