VeronaSeptember 2, 2017 in Italy
Wonderful wide boulevards, Roman Arena in amazing condition, old city wall and many, many balconies. The arena can seat 30,000 people and it's now used for the Verona Opera season and also other concerts.
Wonderful wide boulevards, Roman Arena in amazing condition, old city wall and many, many balconies. The arena can seat 30,000 people and it's now used for the Verona Opera season and also other concerts.
Verona provides a stopover only 2km from the city centre at the reasonable price of €10 for 24 hours. Arriving just before 10am we took the penultimate spot and set off on foot to see the sights. Although there were cycle tracks, we had so little distance to cover getting to and around the places of interest it was hardly worth getting the bike down.
Passing by the ornately castellated Castel Vecchio we came to the River Adige that curves round the historic centre. Taking a few minutes we looked out over the water and watched dull coloured Sand Martins darting adeptly over and under the bridge arches. Verona had signposted its sights well and a nearby notice invited us to look around the Chiesa di San Lorenzo. It made a nice change to see a church such as this that was well used, in contrast to some of the large cathedrals that have appeared preserved as museums.
While our Three data SIM works in Italy, it doesn't in Slovenia and as we have less than a week left here, we didn't top up when it ran out. We were therefore pleased that Verona provided a good free wifi zone in the centre of town and logged on to upload, download and catch up with correspondence.
Our next visit was to the Old Market courtyard standing at the base of the Lamberti tower and whose staircase, with its elegant stone pillared banister led up to the Gallery of Modern Art. Here we each bought a 24 hour Verona card for €18, allowing us entry to 8 different attractions, including the gallery. After the huge and heavy going Uffizi gallery in Florence, the relatively small collection was an enjoyable contrast. It displayed and told the stories of classic paintings from the 19th century through to contemporary abstract images, as well as containing an atmospherically decorated chapel.
Close by was the Lamberti tower. We needed to wait in a queue that snaked out onto and across the street, effectively blocking it. We left space for people to pass through and tried not to get frustrated when those queuing behind us insisted on squashing closely up against us, frequently bumping in to us. Once inside the 84m high tower it was far less crowded. We'd chosen to climb the metal stairs that were affixed to each of the 4 walls instead of taking the lift, as it seemed most people preferred to do. The view from the platform was good but we were disappointed that the spiral staircase that led past the huge bronze bells to the top of the tower was shut off.
Picking up some slices of pizza for lunch we braved it through the crush of city centre crowds to the Arena, a large Roman amphitheatre dating from the 1st Century AD. The outside had been damaged by an earthquake but the tiered seating within was very well intact and it was great to see that it was used regularly for opera performances, with a mix of ancient stone steps and new staging, lighting and metal seats. At this point we had an impromptu video call from Vicky's Dad. It was a real treat and we were very pleased the city wifi was up to the job.
Our last port of call was the 'Casa di Giulietta'. A house that had no link to Shakespeare's fictional character of Juliet but had been chosen to represent her residence. We'd been past a couple of times before but the tourist melee was so dense we'd chosen to return at a later time, hoping it would be less busy. It wasn't. The entrance was an archway that led into a little cobbled courtyard from where you could see a small first floor stone balcony. The inside of the archway was covered in graffiti declaring 'undying love'. This had been covered with plasters and post-its bearing the names or intitials of lovers or suitors. There seemed to be a system whereby visitors entered on the right and exited on the left side. We shuffled in with the majority while a few selfish people pushed past on the centre line. Once in the courtyard we couldn't face going into the house itself and so snapped a few photos of the balcony and took our leave on the opposite side. Some more selfish people had chosen to enter via this side and aggressively barged into us when they found there wasn't enough space. As you can imagine, we'd had enough of crowds at this point and retreated towards the safety of the van. Easter Monday was obviously a busy day and we found the density of people unpleasant around the tourist attractions, but you didn't have to go far to find a quiet street and our overall impression of Verona was a good one.Read more
Driving down the east side of Lake Garda we both felt we should want to go sailing but neither of us actually did. Parking had been a major difficulty and the number of people on the shore and on the water seriously detracted from the appeal. We came to the conclusion that a stay and activities at Lake Garda needed proper planning and for us, a quieter time of year.
At least the road was easier to drive on the eastern shore, with no difficult tunnels and we still appreciated the incredible natural beauty of the setting.
Our next stopover wasn't too far to the South East. Aquardens was a large thermal baths that provided a seperate and free parking area for vans. There were about 40 already there when we parked but space for many more and we easily found a spot with no near neighbours. On two sides of the gravel parking area were large commercial orchards. One of them with peaches and the other cultivating some unidentified trees, possibly kiwi.
The thermal baths was a landscaped set of pools, mostly outdoors. It looked nice but was expensive and they hiked the prices for weekends and holidays. There were hundreds of cars in the car park plus the vans and with the prospect of the so many people in there we chose not to visit.
On our first night there the temperature hadn't dropped below 18°C. In the morning the air was humid and the skies grew increasingly dark. A powerful thunderstorm was brewing for a while before it broke with long lasting rumbles reverberating off the hills and huge rain drops clattering down on the van roof. We took the opportunity to do one of the things we love best; sitting snugly inside with a nice cuppa and a slice of cake while watching the weather outside after Vicky had had a quick dance in the rain.
We celebrated Easter Sunday here with an dark chocolate egg and some Easter cake. There hasn't been a hot cross bun to be found anywhere but all the shops are selling cross shaped cakes. The one we had was a bit like panatone with orange peel inside the sponge and a toasted meringue, almond and sugar stick topping. Needless to say it was scrumptious. The chocolate eggs available had mostly been wrapped decoratively instead of being presented in boxes and some were as heavy as 10kg in weight! Others had gone in for colourful edible decorations on the chocolate and we'd enjoyed perusing the different designs crafted and displayed in the small pasticerias.Read more
Our destination today was Verona, home of Romeo and Juliette. Brad drove again and we were doing alright until we got to Verona and could not find where to park the car for Europcar. A couple of awkward intersection cross overs (who knows if we were in the right or not) and we finally found out we had to park in a car park about 10mins from the Europcar office itself. Something that they could have told us when we picked up the car. Anyway we made it.
We checked into our room, very nice but with an extremely narrow bathroom, and then headed out to explore the area for the afternoon. This was only an overnight stop so we hit the ground running. I had completely underestimated Verona when planning as it was such a lovely place we would have liked to stay a little bit longer. We were pleasantly surprised.
We checked out some of the major sites and enjoyed walking in the older part of Verona. The first piazza we came across was Piazza Bra, the largest piazza in Verona, Italy, with some claims that it is the largest in the country. The piazza is lined with numerous cafés and restaurants, along with several notable buildings and is a very picturesque site.
It is also the location of the Verona Arena, originally an amphitheatre built nearly 2000 years ago. The building itself was built in the first century AD on a site then beyond the city walls. While it can now host crowds of up to 22,000, the original amphitheatre could seat 30,000 spectators. This is now a world-famous music venue with regular operatic and contemporary music performances including Pink Floyd, Rod Stewart, Elton John, and Muse. Unfortunately because it is a commercial venue it was covered with advertising signs and scaffolding.
In the centre there is a lovely garden, which offered some shade on this very hot day, the fountain of the Alps and a bronze statue of Victor Emmanuel II. This monument to the first king of Italy, in which he is sat atop a horse, was inaugurated on 9 January 1883, five years to the day after his death.
It was a lovely vibrant piazza to start our mini tour of Verona and we were already in love with the city. We spent the rest of the afternoon exploring more of the sites while trying not to get too hot. We were just not prepared for the heat here. Luckily, like most Italian cities, there are fresh water fountains throughout the piazzas to refill our water bottles.
We finished our night with a very delicious dinner at Locanda degli Scaligeri, a restaurant not far from the hotel. Not sure if they had their translations right but there was gnocchi with overcooked horse meat on the menu. Needless to say, I did not order that. After dinner we enjoyed another stroll into the main square to admire it at night.
The only thing that could have improved was the weather. It was very hot and humid, not what we expected for this time of year. What a lovely stop on our way to Venice.Read more
One of the sites we visited today was Sant'Anastasia, a Gothic style church of the Dominican Order. The current church was started in 1280 and completed in 1400. It took its name from a pre-existing temple built by King Theoderic the Great upon which was built the actual church. Since 1307, it is in fact co-entitled to St. Peter of Verona, martyr and co-patron of the city.
The 72m tall belltower had four bells in 1460, the fifth was added in 1650. In the 1839, the 9 bells were cast and tuned in C; they are rung in Veronese bellringing art by a local team founded in 1776.
While this church isn’t that exciting or elaborate on the outside, the inside is pretty amazing. The arches and the ceiling are stunning and it always amazes me how these intricate paintings and patterns are created. Even the floor was interesting with many different patterns created using the same tones of marble.
The walls still display some of the original frescoes created in the 15th century as well as terracotta statues from the same era. There are two stoups before the first two columns that stand on two hunchback figures, which aren’t the usual things you see in a church.
Overall this was worth a visit and once again we were impressed by the history of this church.Read more
Verona is known as the home of Shakesheare's Romeo and Juliette and you can't visit Verona without visiting Juliette's balcony. While Shakespeare never went to Verona and the actual site wasn't the inspiration for the setting of the two non-fictional characters' balcony scene, it is the city's top attraction. It was also made famous in the movie, Letters to Juliet, and as a result the courtyard was packed with tourists, us included.
In 1905 the municipality bought the 14th century Verona home from the Dal Capello family because of the similarity between their name and Juliet's family name. And so the house was marketed as the Capulet family home, Home of Juliet – and a new tourist site was born.
A narrow archway leads into a small courtyard where you can admire the small stone balcony on one of the walls. There are many traditions/superstitions associated with this site, ways to ensure your love lasts forever or help you find your true love. As a result of these traditions though, the historic building has been damaged and steps are being taken to stop some of the traditions from occurring.
As you walk through the alleyway into the courtyard, visitors have left notes attached to the walls, the notes bear the vow of eternal love made by lovers and the wishes of singles seeking love. Legend has it that if you leave your note here you will stay together with your partner forever. Because these notes were often attached with chewing gum and the likes, the mortar was being damaged. The notes and letters have since been removed and replaceable panels now cover the alleyway walls. Visitors are allowed to write their messages on these boards. Not quite the same thing but people are still doing it.
It is also a tradition to put small love letters on the walls (which is done by the thousands each year), which are regularly taken down by employees to keep the courtyard clean. For some reason this has been replaced with just putting your chewing gum on the wall and writing your and your loved one's initials on that. Gum is being put everywhere in the courtyard, even on the trees.
Another tradition that occurs in Juliet's courtyard is writing your name and that of your loved one on a lock and attaching it to a large ornamental gate in the back left. The gate is overwhelmed with locks that hold hope for lasting love. These are also now attached anywhere they can be attached, not just on the ornamental gate.
In the courtyard there is a bronze statue of Juliet and legend states if you touch her right breast you will find your true love. The original famed statue, which stood in the courtyard since 1972, was pulled from its Verona home due to cracks and wear from the touch of thousands of love-seeking tourists. A crack in the fair Capulet’s right breast and right arm alarmed locals, who petitioned for the statue to be saved. The statue was moved to Museum Castelvecchio where it was restored and now displayed. An exact replica now stands in her place and tourists are continuing the tradition.
There are so many traditions for such a small courtyard that it is really quite bizarre what people will do, thinking this will ensure their love forever. It is a bit tacky and very touristy and probably not a place I would really recommend to visit as it is "just a balcony".Read more
In our wanderings we came across Piazza delle Erbe, which was once the town's forum during the time of the Roman Empire. This plaza was buzzing with the centre filled with markets surrounded by cafes and restaurants. It has a real vibe about it and the surrounding buildings were beautiful.
The northern side of the square is occupied by the ancient town hall, the Torre dei Lamberti, the Casa dei Giudici ("Judges' Hall") and the frescoed Mazzanti Houses. The western side features the Baroque Palazzo Maffei, decorated by statues of Greek gods. It is faced by a white marble column, on which is St. Mark's Lion, symbol of the Republic of Venice.
The north-western side occupies the site of the ancient Roman Capitol Hill, which looked towards the forum. Many of the buildings facing the square have maintained façade frescoes. On the southern side is the Casa dei Mercanti ("House of the Merchants", also known as Domus Mercatorum), now the seat of the Banca Popolare di Verona. Other buildings, the tall houses of the Ghetto, are reminiscent of medieval tower-houses.
The square's most ancient monument is the fountain, built in 1368, surmounted by a statue called Madonna Verona, which is however a Roman sculpture dating to 380 AD. It was so hot even the dogs were sitting in the fountain to cool down.
Also in the square is the medieval Arco della Costa, Arch of the Rib. A whale rib has been mysteriously suspended from the arch since at least the 1700s, though some estimates suggest much longer, possible since the 15th century. And with Verona located about 120 km from the sea, no one is quite sure how it got there. The arch is the entry point between Piazza Erbe and Piazza dei Signori.
In the Middle Ages and Renaissance era, the walkway above the arch provided a safe passage for judges and magistrates between the city hall and their living quarters, so that they needn’t associate with the common or “corrupt” people below. This may be the ironic origin of the myth of the whalebone’s magic: It’s claimed that it will fall on the first innocent or truthful person to walk under the archway. Yet another interesting sight to see and story to go with it.
There was so much to see and photograph here and we happily bought a cup of delicious fruit for our lunch (it was a nice change from pasta and pizza - not that we haven't been enjoying that) and sat on the ancient steps of one of the buildings and watched the world go by.Read more
We left beautiful Lake Como today and made our way by bus to Como where we picked up our hire car. This was Brad’s first time driving on this trip and we were both a little anxious Driving on the other side of the road in a manual car, which means the gears are on the other side, was daunting but Brad did a great job. In all my research I hadn’t read anything about road tolls but we managed to get through the ones we needed to.
Our location for our next overnight stay was Spiazzi, a small town in northern Italy, about an hour from Verona. Thankfully most of the driving was on major roads but the drive up the hillside closer to Spiazzi was a bit scary, amazing views but scary none the less. One thing we have noticed is there has been a real haze over the area due to the heat so the sky hasn’t been as blue as we expected. Hopefully it will cool down and the haze will disappear.
With my “brilliant” navigation and Brad’s amazing driving skills we found our accommodation without too much stress. While our accommodation at Hotel Serena was pretty basic, it was clean and had what we needed for a quick overnight stay. And amazing views from the veranda.
The town itself was gorgeous and had a real charm about it. It was a town full of colour. Set high in the mountains there were views 360 degrees - only problem was the haze made it hard to see too far.
Still a lovely spot to sit and enjoy a refreshment after our visit to the sanctuary.Read more
We took a detour on our way to Verona after I had seen an image of this on the Planet Go instagram and I am so glad we made the trip.
After checking into our accommodation we made the walk down the side of the mountain to visit the Madonna Della Corona Sanctuary. Along the way were huge, very detailed bronze statues detailing Jesus’ death and resurrection set against the gorgeous backdrop of the mountains and views. Quite spectacular!!
The Sanctuary’s location was even more spectacular! It is built into the side of the mountain at 774 meters above sea level, overlooking the valley of the Adige river. The church itself started originally as a monastery dating back the the early 13th century and has been expanded and rebuilt over the years whilst preserving the original structure.
The walls along one side of the church is the actual mountain side - totally unbelievable.
The saddest part of the sanctuary is in the oldest part where the walls are lined with hundreds and hundreds of photos of men, women and lots of children that have passed away. Lots of memorabilia from the dead has also been placed there. It is a place of sadness and loss.
Below this was an ossuary that we were not expecting and on display were a couple of mummies and some skulls. This actually felt different to the bones we have previously seen as they weren’t just bones, there was more substance to them. It felt a bit eerie.
Overall it was an interesting place to visit and the location was amazing. Thankfully there was a bus we could catch back up the hill as I don’t think we could have walked back up as easily as we walked down.Read more
After enjoying some time in the Piazza we decided to check out the Torre dei Lamberti, the Lamberti Tower, and see how we could get to the top. The Lamberti Tower is a 84m high tower and the main attraction in the Piazza delle Erbe and is attached to Palazzo del Commune.
Construction of the tower was started in 1172 as part of Palazzo delle Commune’s original four towers, of which only the Tower Lamberti remains. In May 1403 the top of the tower was struck by lightning, but the restoration works didn't start until 1448 and took 16 years. During that time, the tower was enlarged: The more recent sections can be recognized today by the use of different materials (such as marble). The large clock was added in 1779.
The tower has two bells: the Marangona signals fires, work times, and the hours of the day, while the largest, called Rengo, is used to call the population to arms or to invoke the city's councils.
Thankfully there was a lift option and we didn’t have to climb the 368 stairs to get to the top to admire the views. It was way to hot to be climbing stairs. It was amazing how far we could see and I loved seeing the odd “terrace” on the rooftops, especially the one with the blow up pool. What a great way to make use of your rooftop.Read more
You might also know this place by the following names:
Provincia di Verona, Vérone, Verona