The 3rd largest remaining Roman Amphitheatre in the world, Verona.
Well Iâm pretty tired following last nightâs snore-fest as I stumble on to the 8.15 Regionale train to Verona. One plus for Italy so far is the cost of train travel. After haemorrhaging Euros for nearly a month railing around Europe (yeah, I know, I know I really SHOULD have got a Eurrail Pass) as long as youâre happy to stick to the slower Regional trains itâs cheap as anything. I slump down by the window. The man across the isle starts humming/ singing his morning Koranic prayers. This takes him a good 30 minutes but with my fatigued eyes closed it is a strangely soothing soundtrack to my mini-slumber.
I have one day in Verona and intend to make the most of it.
This is a really enchanting, romantic feeling little city with the river Adige weaving its way around the Old Town and other parts of the more modern city. There is a fantastic discount pass you can acquire at any major attraction called the Verona Card and I strongly recommend that you do. You can buy them for 1 day or to cover you for 3 days (8 & 12 Euros respectively) and will get you in to pretty much every point of interest within the city as well as unlimited use of the cityâs excellent bus network whilst your cardâs valid. This is superb value and a brilliant way to see the city as most of the âtourist attractionsâ are very close together in and around the Old Town area.
(Amphitheatre) Muju [www.mujuworld.co.uk]
For my 8 Euros today I got to enter the Roman Arena/ Amphitheatre (3rd largest in the world), the Casa di Giulietta (Juliet Capuletâs supposed balcony and museum), the Torre (tower) dei Lamberti, Museum of Castelvecchio, Basilica of Saint Zeno, Church of Saint Lawrence, Church of Saint Anastasia, the Teatro Romano (Roman Theatre remains) and Archaeological Museum.
Wow!âŚ excluding the bus travel (should you feel you need itâŚbut I always prefer getting to know a city by walking around it) thatâs about 1 Euro per activity. Great stuff!!!
Inside the Roman amphitheatre
Verona is very compact at its heart and the Old Town presents an interesting array of pretty roads and avenues to get lost in looking at the often very picturesque faĂ§ades of the buildings. Those surrounding the social hub of the city, Piazza Erbe are particularly note worthy. Standing high above Piazza Erbe is the Torre dei LamberdiâŚ again free to walk up with the Verona Card (extra if you wanna be lazy and use the lift) and this tower (85m odd at itâs peak and the highest building in Verona) offers a fabulous 360 degree panoramic viewing opportunity.
I am up there about 17:00 and whilst the day started overcast there has been no rain and the sun is now burning bright in the early evening. I love the views over Verona with the greenery-draped Roman ruins on the far side of the Adige river (near the Hostel) and the many terracotta tiled roofs stretching for miles with the odd church spire to break up the composition. I counted and itâs a killer 290odd steps to the main viewing platform (not for the faint of leg or heart!). You can ascend even further beyond the bells spiralling up to the pinnacle but I think Iâve pulled a calf muscle on the way up andâŚ more pertinentlyâŚ my mindâs just wrung out with all these death-defying heights itâs had to accompany me up so far on my travels and has had enough of taking it âto another levelâ for now.
Bridge over the river.
I had started the day in the other principle square of Verona, Piazza BrĂ where sitâs the focal point of the Roman Amphitheatre which is still used here regularly for concerts and plays (unlike itâs larger cousin in Rome).
The majority of itâs high exterior wall were destroyed in an earthquake in the past but this remains a large and fascinating structure whose inner corridors and original (for the most part) stone âseatsâ you are mostly free to explore. A concert stage is in the process of being erected today.
One of the largest tourist draws in Verona, predictably I suppose, is the Casa di Giulietta reached from the Amphitheatre down the lovely wide pedestrianised thoroughfare Via Mazzini, and then on to Via Capello. This is Julietâs supposed balcony. Ya know, the bird from the Shakespeare play? Well actually whilst of course the play is a complete fiction, and Shakespeare to the best of my knowledge never having left British shores (yeah Iâm sorry tâbreak this to American readers) this has become a site of mass pilgrimage for those smitten by either love or literature or both.
The house itself actually IS the historic residence of the Del Capello (<-- read Capulets) family who DID have an infamous feud with the other principle family of the city and there is a strange stone balcony to behold (supposedly a reconstituted stone sarcophagus as it happens) but aside from that this has become a rather ghastly opportunity just to spin some dollars out of the star-crossed loversâ and their authorâs reputations.
Messages of love scrawled upon the walls approaching 'Juliet's Balcaony'
The sweet part are the doors and walls that lead to the balcony courtyard, these being festooned with an endless sea of graffiti or paper-sticker messages of love from one person to another. Inside the courtyard stands a bronze-cast statue of Juliet. Tradition has it now that touching her left breast (yeah, weird I know) will bring you good fortune in the search for a new lover.
Two odd things about this to me are 1) the concept of âtraditionâ this statue having only been cast in 1972 and 2) the irony that seems to be lost on most people more interested in the âboob gropeâ photo than the realisation that lovers touching the famous tit are actually making a declaration of dissatisfaction with their present partnersâŚ yeah, the ones taking the photo of âem! :D All good fun. I for one of course am chivalrous enough not to feel the need to touch the breast of lady stranger so proceed up to have a quick look around the small museum within the house that has a bunch of random art and illustrations inspired over time by the play plus some movie memorabilia from the more famous filmic adaptations.
Giulietta (circa 1972)
There is a rather peculiar room that contains a bank of computer screens.
Upon them are visualised âwritingâ parchment scrolls with the initial words âDear Juliet,â upon them. You are able to type messages of love or whatever you like to send to the lovely lady/ database. Iâm amused by this odd little setup and am unfortunately momentarily struck by a frankly bizarre instance of complete and utter, near inexplicable immaturity as, barely conscious of my giggling and typing, I merrily complete the message âDear Juliet, dost thou giveth goode heade?â. As suddenly as the red-mist of insanity settled upon my mind it lifts and Iâm left staring rather disbelievingly at the flickering screen. I've claerly been travelling alone too long already or am psychopathically bored! A small kid ambles (right on cue) in my direction and I panic and hit the big red button on the screen thinking that that must be âexitâ or âcloseâ or somethingâŚ nope.
âYou have correctly sent your message to Juliet. Thank you.â is the message that now sits before me. F**k! âOops!â I beat a hasty, yet gigglesome retreat. Yeah, she loves it. Yeah, I'm an idiot.
My moment of shame and immaturity recorded... may the lord strike me down etc etc ... ;D
Lots of lovely gelati (ice cream) later and some cool sights and exhibitions (some beautiful religious art within the Museum of Castelvecchio) I walk back across the river Adige in the direction of the Verona Hostel International. On route I realise I can still, even quite deep into the evening (19.00 by now) use my Verona card to enter and walk around the archeologically resuscitated stage and tiered seating arena of the ancient Roman Theatre on the hillside.
Iâm nearly the only person in the place except for some techies and a graceful Italian couple strenuously practising voluptuous tango dance manoeuvres ahead of this evening performance. The music reverberates around the Roman arena as I head up higher towards the ancient roman archaeological museum and rooms that also reside here. Worth a look. Very interesting and a terrace high up that gives you knockout views at dusk back over the city.
I freshen up at the beautiful Verona Hostel International. After the sh*te hole nightmare of Milan this is a staggering contrast.
This HI, or Villa Francescati is a converted 16th Century Italian villa with a beautiful, ornamental garden. Even has frescoed stairwells!!! For the usual membersâ 20 Euros although the breakfast in the morning is a pile of dross and there ainât no internet this is a fabulous, beautifully apt place to stay in such a picturesque city. I didnât know His came this scenic! The bathrooms and showers are also dreeeeamlike in quality after the relative discomforts of Milan. (Review + pics to follow...probably in about 10 years time! :)
The Torre dei Lamberti.
I love this place so itâs back in to town for a nice civilised meal sat down in Piazza BrĂ with the Roman Amphitheatre lit up before me.
Some peculiar late-night large-scale mini tour de Verona cycling contest has been set up and is just getting underway. Burning plates of oil set upon the ground of the cityâs streets mark the route the competitors must take. I watch and yearn for a large glass of deep red wine but am restrained, trying to keep to an unwritten budget and so deny myself once more. I shouldnât though as today for some reason, maybe just as a consequence of universal contentment in Verona I am remembering and missing strongly the small pleasures, comforts and luxuries of life back home where such things are always at oneâs fingertips. I donât know where this sudden need for ânormalityâ has sprung from. A delayed reaction to the Milan HI experience? Or maybe itâs the fact that today, having coughed up my 1 Euro public toilet entry fee I was faced with the fact of having to take my first ever sh*t standing up.
Looking down on Piazza del Erbe from atop the Torre dei Lamberti.
Well, that is to say the first one since I was a nappy-swaddled infant at which point in my life I probably committed such acts with an inconvenient frequency whether my parents liked it or not :) All part of the adventure of course. Greater toilet horrors than this no doubt await me the world over.
"AAAAAAAAAGHHHHH!" I've paid 1 Euro to face my first fully-standing toilet trauma of my journey. No backing out now, I've paid good money for this! LOL
Anyway. Less talk of crap. More sleep. âGood night all!â.