On the way from the Cinque Terre to Venice, we stopped in Verona for two nights. Verona is charming, beautiful, and clean, and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.
We arrived in the mid-afternoon on Wednesday, after driving for four hours through mountainous Northern Italy. The October 2011 floods in Monterosso and Vernazza wiped out many of the small roads in the northern end of the Cinque Terre, and the Garmin GPS kept trying to take us on roads that dead ended in a pile of rubble. We thought we’d never get out of the Cinque Terre!
When I think of Verona, I always think of Shakespeare’s Two Gentlemen of Verona, but we instead found an homage to Romeo and Juliet, which was also set there (as was The Taming of the Shrew). Our first stop on the afternoon we arrived was the alleged house of Juliet (Casa di Giulietta), complete with a beautiful balcony and what looked like a romantic courtyard, which was MOBBED with tourists! At the back of the courtyard is a bronze statue of Juliet, and everyone was waiting to rub Juliet’s breast for good luck in love. Also in the courtyard is a red mailbox for mailing letters to Juliet, and nearby is the headquarters of the Juliet Club, where volunteers answer a deluge of letters addressed to Juliet, Verona, Italy. Who knew?
Although it would have been fun to see an opera while we were there (the company staged Aida our first night and Don Giovanni our second night), we didn’t make reservations ahead of time, and we were too pooped to even consider getting tickets when we arrived in Verona (I almost fell asleep in my dinner the first night). Covered in pink marble, the Verona arena, where the operas are staged, is the third largest in the world and dates from the first century AD. In addition to the summer opera festival, the arena is the site of many concerts and shows throughout the year. Fodor’s Italy 2012 says, “Even those who aren’t crazy about opera can sit in the stands and enjoy Italians enjoying themselves—including, at times, singing along with their favorite hits.” Sounds like great fun to me! If we’d been in Verona one more night, I would have tried to get tickets for my favorite opera, Carmen. Next time!
Julie and I went shopping Thursday morning, while Jenny, Steve, and Cade saw the sights. We stopped in every Via Mazzini shop that sold women’s clothing, shoes, or accessories! It was really hot in Verona (have you heard me say that before on this trip?), so at 12:30 or so, we decided to stop for a cold drink. Then we decided that since we were getting hungry, we’d have lunch as well. We wandered around and ended up in beautiful Piazza dei Signori, which boasts buildings spanning five centuries. A statue of Dante, who took refuge in Verona after fleeing from his hometown of Florence, stands lost in thought in the middle of the piazza, and local wags say that he’s wondering why Juliet gets more visitors than he does!
We chose La Locanda dei Capitani, which had outdoor tables in the shade, and we each enjoyed a caprese salad. As we began eating, we looked up, and saw Jenny, Steve, and Cade walking up the alley toward us. They were surprised to see us, too, but they joined us for lunch and caught us up on their sightseeing.
After lunch Julie and I continued shopping, but most stores were closed for the afternoon siesta, so we called it a day and headed home. My only regret about not sightseeing is that I missed seeing the Church of Sant’Anastasia. Inside the church, trolls hold basins of holy water on their backs. You can see photos of them at here.
In Verona we stayed at the Hotel Milano, a block or so from the arena and from the main shopping street, Via Mazzini. The rooms were lovely and each had an ultra-chic bathroom. The shower in Julie’s and my room flashed colored lights! Cade loved that, of course. In most hotels in Italy accommodations include breakfast, and this breakfast buffet was superb! We all recommend this hotel.
In addition to our lunch on Thursday, we ate dinner at Ristorante Greppia on Wednesday (I couldn’t tell you what I had—I was too tired to finish my wine. I’m not kidding!), which the receptionist at our hotel recommended and which was really close to the hotel, thank goodness. On Thursday we had a delicious dinner at CanGrande. For an appetizer, Julie and Jenny shared a generous pecorino cheese and balsamic vinegar platter that was one of the most beautiful I’ve ever seen (and delicious as well). Steve and I had roast suckling pig for our secondi, and it was good. CanGrande is near the arena, and we liked the restaurant (and the owners) very much. We also had excellent gelato at Venchi on Via Mazzini. Stop there if you spot it.
I must go back to Verona—perhaps to see opera there next summer. It’s a wonderful town!