Verona

Verona is a 45km drive from Desenzano along Highway A4, or a total of about 170km from Italy's fashion capital Milan.  The drive was a quick one and the entrance into Verona, after paying the toll was a dramatic presentation of views of ancient buildings littered all along the Verona hillside. Most of Verona is off limits to vehicles, apparently to preserve the medieval feel and precious historical buildings and roads of the city. Registered visitors (at their hotels) however, are allowed to drive around the cobblestone lined city and park at the different sights considering that the public transport wasn’t easily available.  This, I found to be a little strange given that tourists normally make the most amount of damage to the city historical sights, being unfamiliar with how sensitive or fragile things are. 

With clear sign postings all around town to tourist hotels, our hotel was found quickly although one needs to be extra careful navigating through the narrow city streets.  Hotel Bologna was only 200 meters away from the “Arena di Verona”, where gladiators and slaves used to face hungry lions on the order of the Roman emperor. Today, the arena is in ruins but the malls which abutt it and the sidewalk cafés which joins it offer a breathtaking view of the arena itself.  The closest car park where we can park our car safely is about 1km away in the opposite direction of the arena. At 24°C, it wasn’t too difficult to walk to the destinations.  We were told that pickpockets and petty crimes are a commonplace in most of Italy.

Situated right in the middle of shopping and touristic Verona, we only need walk a short distance to most of the sights.  Our walk from the hotel in Verona brought us to Casa di Giulietta, where we can see the famous balcony where Juliet leans to greet Romeo in the famous story depicted in a play by William Shakespeare. I actually thought the play was fictitious but how Romeo and Juliet’s celebrated in this city makes us think otherwise. There were so many tourists wanting to take pictures with the statue of Juliet that there was hardly any room to move, however the entrance to the courtyard where the famous balcony scene is portrayed offers something different – love notes, not necessarily to Romeo or Juliet. As there is a Casa di Guilietta, there is most definitely a Casa di Romeo! Well, it’s actually called Casa di Cagnolo Nogarola (ditto Romeo) and is the present home of Romeo’s descendents. It is a private dwelling and not a designated tourist attraction, although one can easily find the address on Verona’s touristy websites. We stood outside these doors for a couple of minutes and then suddenly, 20 Japanese tourists armed with cameras at the “ready” descended upon us. At that point in time, the doors of Casa di Cagnolo Nogarola opened, allowing a vehicle to exit. That presented the opportunity for these snap happy tourists to give their gear a workout … myself included, of course!

 


Tourists scurry to check out
the balcony made famous by
Juliet in Shakespeare's play.

 


We had great fun in Verona looking for
masks which were used at the annual Carinvale Verona

Piazza della Erbe (Erbe Square), several hundred meters away was a scene of a weekend market.  It  rests upon the former Roman forum and is home to the city produce market.  Apart from the normal sale of fruits, vegetables, home made jewellery, there were also sales of decorative masks from the Carnivale Verona, an annual celebration in February, just at the end of winter where a street party adorns the city. People dressed in these medieval masks and costumes have great fun with other “strangers”.

The festival dates back to 1615 and is held on Shrove Tuesday or Fat Tuesday. Apparently, during this festival, more than 500 floats participate in the parade and about 15,000 kg of sweets are thrown into the crowd.

The Carnevale di notte a Monteforte, which is held on the last Saturday of the Carnival period is held at night with lots of floats and masked participants.

The piazza itself, like many other places around the city of Verona offers breathtaking views of its medieval architecture.

Dinner, at a nice sidewalk café nearby (about 200m from the hotel) was of Vegetable Soup, a Prosciutto and Melon starter.  You know the saying, "While in Rome...."  Jeanette had spaghetti with oil, olives and chillies while I and mum enjoyed the Spaghetti Carbonara washed down with a drink of Chinotto and mineral water, finishing with a cup of cappuccino freddo (cold capucinno).  With great food, friendly service and a pleasant climate and atmosphere, it was a great experience to sit right in front of the café, watching the hundreds of people walking by “Areana di Verona”, although I am sure it was quite a sight for the locals to see two Asians enjoying their food right in full view of their Arena.


Verona continues to offer excellent views.  The Adige River with Castlevecchio in the background.

Castlevecchio, which means Old Castle in the native language is Verona’s medieval castle built in 1354 and is a short drive away from the Arena,  It sits along the Adige river. The Castle has suffered many modifications. The many invasions this city has suffered have left their fingerprints in this construction: the Visconti, the Venetian, the French and the Austrian domination changed parts of the castle. Napoleon constructed a courtyard inside its walls.  There wasn't any time for us to admire the castle from within.

We did stop alongside this bridge on Adige river for photographs of Castlevecchio, with some other views including that of the Archaeological Museum built on top of a hill offers some pretty spectacular shots. As we say goodbye to Verona, we hardly had time to cover 20% of it but enough to say to others that this is a city we would love to return, some time in the future.

Jeanette and Raymond
May 26th, 2007


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