We left Venice on the morning train to travel to Milan for our next four days. We planned to get off the train in Verona in an attempt to see more of Italy than just Rome, Florence, Naples, Milan and Venice. Some of the smaller cities interest me because I think that they be more authentic and less touristy. For these reasons we decided to explore Verona and the fact that it was another UNESCO World Heritage Site added to our desire to explore this city. The city has been in existence since 1 BC and has flourished for over two thousand years incorporating the old with the new.
We departed our Milan bound train car and walked into the Verona station. Our first course of action was to find the luggage locker area. At 5 euros per bag, we shoved as much as we could into our bags, checked the hours of the luggage locker, found out what time the trains to Milan (our destination ) were and then we headed upstairs and out of the train station to find the tourist information counter.
We really didn’t do any homework about visiting Verona and were traveling somewhat blind. As we waited for the bus to take us downtown, we were befriended by another American couple that were probably our age.
We got off when they did and were amazed when we saw a Roman amphitheater similar in appearance to the Roman Coliseum only much smaller. This was the Arena and it was located by the largest piazza in Verona, Piazza Bra, convenient to the buses and public restrooms. The Arena is the third largest amphitheater in Italy after Rome’s and Capua’s. The Arena could seat 25,000 spectators in the 44 tiers of seats while they watched gladiator shows. While we were walking around, we even saw a gladiator ourselves!
What was even more amazing to us were all the huge props outside the Arena. I never expected to see a huge Sphinx or Egyptian soldiers. I couldn’t stop taking photographs as I walked all around the Arena. What I found out is this is where open air operas are performed in the warmer months and they were getting ready to perform Aida about a week later.
Verona is the scene for three of Shakespeare’s play – Romeo and Juliet, Two Men of Verona and The Taming of the Shrew. The one thing that I really wanted to see was Juliet’s balcony. Before you get upset, I know that it is a work of fiction however there is Juliet’s Balcony and a statue of Juliet. With our map we were able to locate it. It was very crowded. I was somewhat upset that many, many people were all over the Juliet statue rubbing their hands on her breasts. To me they were sexualizing this innocent love story by what they were doing to her and it left me very unhappy.
By now it was getting hotter and we were thirsty and hungry. We headed off to the Piazza Erbe where we refilled our water bottles at the spigots by the fountain. It was Friday and the market was in full swing. We were lucky that we found cups of fresh fruit being sold. Each of us buying a cup of delicious melons, pineapples, and apples quenched our thirst and revitalized us. I’m sure we weren’t the only tourists at the Piazza but to us it felt more like a neighborhood than a tourist destination.
As we walked back to Piazza Bra to catch the bus to go to the train station, we saw the original 3rd century Roman gates in the original city walls. I am constantly amazed at the age of some of the structures in Europe even though I know logically that Europe is much older, at least in civilizations, that we are.
If you have an opportunity, explore some of these other Italian cities.