On our first ever European road trip we stayed in Verona for a few nights and really fell in love with the place. We had been here before for a day trip and were impressed, but something about settling here for a while, or maybe just doing it as part of that road trip adventure changed it for us.
Whenever we are subsequently in the area, we always make a point of visiting now. This time though we had also planned to see a show in the Arena. That didn’t start till 10pm so there was no point in getting to Verona early today. We needed to pace ourselves.
Just chilling out in the apartment allowed us to explore the immediate area. The gardens of the block for example were filled with olive trees, pomegranates and other fruits. The olive groves stretched for what seemed like miles up the mountain side.
I nipped out to the supermarket to get stuff in for breakfast – opting for a bacon and egg sandwich. Marcus has been watching the Lion King a lot and I can’t get that song out of my head “Are you achin’, yup, yup, yup, for some bacon? yup, yup, yup”
Verona is only about 50 minutes drive away. We set off after lunch and park up no problem. There is only one mad section of road in Verona – it’s a bit like the Arc De Triumph, but there are lots of lanes that cross over one another and then narrow down onto a dual carriage way that leads into the centre. You’ve got to have your wits about you and own your space!
Maybe it was bouncing the pram up and down all of those bridges yesterday, but somehow one of the wheels is broken this morning. Oh no. How is this going to work for the rest of the holiday. I think one of the springs has snapped, but a hair bobble comes to the rescue and holds it in place. Disaster averted.
Our first mission today was to buy Marcus some toys. He had some gifted spending money and we knew that he would get something here. At the very least, there is a Disney store here. I also like having points of interest to aim towards. Knowing that we were just wandering today and then killing time for the concert to start, we could get bored easily. But having one to two things to look out for meant that we had a sense of purpose.
From the car park the first section of Verona that we hit is the main Piazza with the arena set proudly at the bottom. It is very impressive. A row of shops and restaurants curve towards it. There is a large cobbled area in front of it and then a small park to the right. It builds our anticipation for tonight.
On reflection, the streets are a little like in Brescia. The pavements here are marble. Streets are much wider than in Venice, but still quite neat. Even though there are a good few people about, there is more of a relaxed feel to the place, more locals going about their business.
We get to the toy shop and Marcus empties his pockets for Cars merchandise. He is happy now! Gradually we make our way to another of the Piazzas where we are going to eat. It’s just up from Juliets balcony. Well it’s not really her balcony, it was made about 70 years ago. But it could have been and Romeo knocking on the door and chatting isn’t quite as romantic. All around that attraction is grafitti from lovers over the years, it’s starting to spread up the street now and around shop fronts. Some of it is so old that the city has installed perspex covers to protect it.
We stop for a while in a shop that engraves onto gifts while you wait. The lady takes a shine to Marcus and engraves his name on a silver card which is is very happy with. Charlotte buys a necklace.
Now for a rest. A while ago we had discovered a little cafe in this square. I’m sure there are other better ones, but it became the place we visited for often. It is nothing special, but does nice food at nice prices and has a good view. We rest up here and get cheeses, meats, tiramisu and our favourite wine – Amarone.
On the other side of the square is an artist painting tiles and mounting them on glass. This has promise for our wall back at home. We um and ah about them, we both like them but they are fragile and big. Eventually, we settle on one and get a photo with the designer. He makes a mould out of copper, sets the tiles in it, fires them, hand paints them and then arranges them into little streets and then frames them.
What do you think?
Not quite having slated their lust for sweet things, we pop to an ice cream shop that sells loads of flavours and makes the cone look like a rose, with each petal being a different flavour if you want. Avoiding the heat of the day we stroll down a back street and head towards the river.
Everywhere here is just steeped in history. Money and effort is put into all the buildings.
Even the really old ones – this dates back to something like 60 BCE.
On the river side is the Castelvecchio Museum. It has grounds that are free to look around and access to a very pretty bridge that crosses the river. It is part of a medieval castle that allowed the villagers to flee to Austria, which is not far from this area.
The exhibitions in the grounds change. It is always a nice place to sit for a bit. The kids can run around and play with the water fountains. It strikes me just how grown up Charlotte is looking now. [Insert old man comments here]
Before long we circle back round to the main Piazza and do a quick change over in the car to drop stuff off and get dressed for the Arena. Just an hour or so to kill now before the gates open. Time for McDonald’s.
As we sit on the steps of an old grand building, we see people start to turn up – all dressed up for the event. The sun starts to drop, the lights go on. There is definitely an atmosphere building. I wonder if it has been like this for hundreds of years.
We hear and announcement that the gates are now open and we make our way into the Arena. We have the cheap seats at the back. On the original stone terraces. We settle in, cosy to our neighbours. People have brought little picnics and drinks. Wendy flags down a seller at the end of the section for some bottles of wine and just like you would see at an American football game, he passes them along the rows of people, one bottle at at time, then a glass at a time, then the money goes to him, then the change comes back. Everyone is amused.
There is a tradition here that as the lights get dimmed, everyone lights a free little candle that they give you. So one by one 15,000 little candles all appear. Its quite beautiful really.
And then the performance begins.
OK. Let’s put it out there. I didn’t enjoy it. But I can understand why people would. For a different performance I think it would have been great, but I just couldn’t get into it. I spent parts of the performance checking out other people. There appeared to be a real mix – the passionate ones who were loving it, the people who were there for the ride and committed to it, and then those like me who were taking photos, looking around and checking the news on their phones.
That said, I would go again and if you like that sort of thing this is the venue for you. Sitting under the stars, in all that history, amazing acoustics. What more could you want.
And then it was over. We savoured the atmosphere for a bit, then headed out with streams of other people. Within a few minutes the main Piazza was empty as people filtered off into the side streets. Back to the car and home.
Oh, and more snacks on the balcony.