“Ciao, bella Verona!” –Victor in Letters to Juliet
Here in Italy, I decided to bypass the larger cities like Venice, Milan, and Rome for a quieter change of pace. Verona fit my bill perfectly: touristy enough to have plenty to do while still full of local Italians going about their daily happenings.
I arrived in Verona – home of the tragic teenage infatuation story, Romeo and Juliet – and walked from the station to my bed and breakfast. Naturally, I was expecting a more American bed and breakfast, perhaps a free standing old house with a lawn and matronly owner. B&B Castelvicchio was completely different, but still charming. It was on the second floor of a tucked-away apartment building, and my room (my OWN room!) was right outside of the kitchen in all its double-size bed with ceiling fan glory. You know you’ve been in hostels too long when…
Giulia’s assistant gave me a paper map of the city and showed me where I should go. If it hadn’t been for this tutorial, I might have only seen Giuletta’s balcony and eaten gelato! And that would have been the real tragedy of Verona.
After getting myself all moved in (and by that I mean dumping my backpack onto the extra bed), I left the small side street for the main piazza of Verona – Piazza Bra. Here, one can tour the Roman Arena, sit in a small park (with free wifi!), and get a good pizza. Knowing the arena would be closed this late, I found the main shopping street that would send me towards Juliet’s house.
This site wasn’t on my radar until Amanda Seyfried’s movie Letters to Juliet came out. In it, women come from all over the world to write letters to the Shakespearean character, Juliet (though she was fourteen and very likely could not read), and pour their heart out about romantic problems. Then the women of Verona answer the letters. I was a bit disappointed to see that the wall is actually roped off, meaning people can’t leave letters, but I did see a few cramming pieces of papers between the bricks on the side wall. For a fee, people can go up onto the balcony and pretend to be Juliet, and others pose by Juliet’s statue. Good thing to do once and then go get gelato.
I finished the day eating gelato and pizza in the park and FaceTiming my mom back in my bedroom. Lovely first day in Italy.
The next day was just as enjoyable. I started off lazily eating breakfast before walking down to the Roman Arena for a quick peek inside. It was disappointing to see that permanent seats and a stage had been installed within the amphitheater. But when I walked high enough, I could sit on a stone step – the very same step another Roman man or woman would have sat on to watch a gladiator fight or wild animal hunt, or another townsperson would have watched an opera centuries later. I was reminded again of the enduring presence of history throughout Europe.
I found the Civic Library and walked about for a little while in there, though it was much more modern than the libraries I’ve fallen in love with so far. From there, I walked across the river to the Teatro Romano – a high walkway up on the mountain from which I got a wonderful panoramic view of old Verona. The adjoining castle was unfortunately under repair.
The only church on this leg that I toured was St. Anastasia’s. The English-language leaflet guided me around the Dominican Church to its various altars, statues, and chapels. I liked its quieter beauty compared to the grand churches I’ve been in so far (with the exception of St. Vitus’. I have yet to be so astounded by anything else so far).
I came back to my room for a siesta – and yes, I know Italians don’t practice siestas, but I wanted to escape the heat for a while and take some time to relax. Assured that I had seen all I wanted to, I climbed into bed for what ended up being a three hour nap. I had a moment of panic when I woke up that it was the next morning, but my watch is in military time so I knew it was evening.
Dinner was in Piazza Erbe – the piazza where locals go for a drink in the evenings. I could tell I was in a local establishment because twice someone would call across the tables to a friend they saw with a “good evening!” I had mushroom risotto, and it was one of the best dishes I’ve ever had. Followed up with some more gelato, and I was very content with this branch of my trip.
Verona was the perfect taste of Italy to convince me I will be back again for an extended trip many more times in my life. I don’t know if I will come back to Verona in particular, but I’m excited to visit other Italian towns, sit in their piazzas, and eat their pasta and gelato. Ciao!