Thursday, May 26, 2011

May 26: Verona is Fair, Frommer's Notwithstanding

May 26

Today was seriously a chill day with no incidents. No one vomited, nothing significant was lost, and we had a minimum number of U turns. The only blog fodder I have for you is the usual travelogue type stuff: seeing the sights, eating the food, driving the roads, washing the underwear, etc.

Speaking of washing the underwear, when I got up I did all the dishes, all the laundry, and cleaned up the kitchen. When the laundry was drying on the line and the dishes were sparkling on the shelves, I finished up the book I was reading, An Irreverent Curiosity, which had been such an interesting book about church history, hill towns, odd relics, and Italian culture. However, it ended on a little bit of a low note. No matter, I am now free to read The Wings of the Dove again, which I intend to do tonight. By this time Dan was home, and I fed him eggs, prosciutto, brioche, and we got on the road for Verona.

Verona is a city that the Frommer’s Italy guide regards with scorn and distaste. Scoffing at the faux literary relics, and comparing it to its detriment to the nearby and more romantic Venice, Frommer’s gives nothing in Verona more than two stars for tourist value. However, since I am a literary nerd and since there is a statue of Juliet with a shining right tit, and since we are sooo close, I felt like we had to go.

Boy am I glad I didn’t listen to Frommer’s underwhelming evaluation! Verona is awesome, perhaps my favorite place in Italy so far. I don’t know what it was about the city – the marble streets in the shopping district, the ornate and decorated arches over even the humblest garage, the profusion of flowers, the statue of Dante, the many little alleys and byways leading to interesting little piazzettas and churches and facades, the winding Adige river snaking through town… it was all excellent. It was a city to explore – ducking down small streets, following a sign or a distant tower or just a whim. I loved Verona!

We started out at the Castelvecchio, a 15th century castle on the river. We walked through its main gate, strolled around the inside (but skipped the museum) and then went over the bridge that was part of the castle. On the other side of the river, we walked down the waterfront to the next bridge, which we also crossed. Back on the Southeast side, we cut through to the Piazza Bra where we saw the arena, a very well preserved Roman “coliseum” which miraculously survived an earthquake in the 12th century with two rings intact. Nowadays they stage operas and concerts there. The space is big enough that they can do Aida with processions of elephants and huge armies – we saw pictures of them doing it! And the acoustics are so good you don’t need microphones.

We walked all around the arena and headed down Via Mazzina, a glittering shopping street with literally sparkling marble all across the road. Beautiful! Fancy shops interspersed with Gelaterias. At the end of Via Mazzina we turned on Via Capella and entered the courtyard of Casa di Giulietta, or Juliet’s House. Now Frommer’s will be happy to tell you that this is most certainly NOT any sort of actual historical residence of any Capulet. In fact, in the 19th century, it used to be a brothel. However, in the little tunnel leading to the courtyard, bazillions of people have graffitied their names in hearts, and looking up at that little stone balcony, you can use your imagination to recreate the whole “but soft” scene. And what the heck! Why not?

We made our way to Piazza del Signoria where we ate dinner at a cafĂ©, watching people strolling around the marketplace. Then we headed north toward the river again, finding the legendary home of the Montagues (Frommer’s: “NUH UH! MONTAGUES ARE LIKE TOTE-LY FAKE!”) and also a statue of Dante, who was a professor at the University here in Verona, along with Galileo! We found the river and wandered down it to Ponte Pieta, where we turned into the byways and found the Duomo, a medieval masterpiece.

Winding our way through the super-charming, super-awesome, super-renaissance streets, we got back to the Piazza and then with a much-needed, much-anticipated stop for gelato, we found the arena again and then the car. It was so easy to imagine Shakespearean action going on – Mercutio and Tybalt skidding across the cobblestones, Juliet gazing out her window at the morning sun, Romeo kicking a rock along the river, lovesick always.

I cannot emphasize enough how much I liked Verona. Maybe it was because it felt more inhabited than visited. Maybe it was that there weren’t walls of souvenir shops, but rather florists, groceries, Dolce & Gabbana, cafes, and actual homes. Do not miss Verona, if you’re near it. Head to the old town, where the river snakes around. I was charmed to the pit of my literary gizzard.


  1. Lucy Honeychurch eschewed Frommers. She had a Baedeckers, and SHE got unrepressed in a sea of violets. I bet Beadeckers would never poo poo Verona!

  2. Sorry to hear about the low note at the end : (

    david farley

  3. David, you should know that while I felt a little bit of "sad trombone" at the very end, I was completely spellbound throughout the rest of the book, and learned so much. I realized that when I was done, I didn't know what I really expected, if I thought you and your curiosity could really thwart the Vatican and its agenda of secrecy, and that you'd creep down some sort of dusty steps at the end for a big unveiling scene of... something? But now we're in Rome for a week and we're absolutely going to Calcata and I'm going to fangirl the book, see if I don't.

    My favorite part by the way was the invented Faliscans history that the guy made up. I had faithfully reported it to my husband as I was reading it, and then had to go back and report that it was imaginary!

  4. Ah, Roma....if you have time, and can manage it, go to the Villa d'Este outside the city. It's a wonderful garden with lots of fountains, I mean lots! The kids will love it. And don't forget to climb to the top of St. Peter's. Oh, and the new MAXXI gallery.
    S. Swan
    VA Cycling