After two nights in Bologna and the same in Venice, it was time for our next train journey to Verona.
We soon concurred that our decision to skip a break in the journey to take in Padua/Padova was a good one as the rain started to fall. Any notion of a relaxing journey however was shattered as a large family from California got on at the small city.
They instantly reminded us of the Home Alone family as the kids squabbled and the matriarch struggled to keep control. There was even a Buzz type big brother!
We had taken the ‘slow’ train, which took a shade over two hours – only half an hour longer than the fast one costing three times as much!
It was still raining when we arrived in Verona so we abandoned all thought of taking a bus to our hotel and taxied instead. We were staying at the highly rated Relais Arena, a sort of hotel/AirBnB cross.
The family run accommodation was housed in an historic building, which had been very tastefully renovated. Internally the decor was bright & airy, the bedroom colourful & comfortable and the owners very helpful in recommending non rip-off restaurants & bars. Location wise we were spot on too, so it was easy to see how they have earned their 9.4 rating on travel advice sites.
The recommendations were Locanda Il Bugiaro & Taverna Via Stella to eat and Da Ugo for drinking wine. We tried none of them as it happened, but I would not doubt the advice as genuine. Whatever you do, avoid eating near the Arena unless you enjoy decidedly average food & service at way above average prices.
After a coffee it was time to explore, the rain having helpfully stopped, albeit the clouds remained to ‘grace’ our photos.
Verona is a stunning place, in a hard to explain way, too nice. Every building ancient & modern is a gem be it a shop, hotel, apartment, duomo or amphitheatre. The camera went into overdrive even though we saved the city’s highlights for the next day when we figured the Monday crowds would be fewer and the skies bluer.
Happily we were correct, so having just wandered and spent plenty of time at cafes on the Sunday, we started early on the Monday, having decided to leave on the 3.30 pm train to Como.
The star attraction is the world famous Roman Arena, the template from which the larger Colisseum in Rome was built. World class opera is staged there annually from late June to late August and would be starting with Carmen the coming Friday, to be joined by the likes of Aida, La Traviata and Il Trovatore. We noted the prices for future reference – €25-€360.
The most renowned diva of all, Maria Callas, had performed at the Arena on many occasions and we noted that the city had an exhibition in her honour in Palazzo Forti near the duomo. Sadly we did not have time to go, but have until 18th September if we ch0ose to shoot back!
Mrs Wilbur persuaded me that we should do the ‘choo-choo’ road train. Much against my better judgement I parted with €10 for a thirty minute whizz around the city with commentary in Italian, German, French & English. I was glad I did in the event as I learned a few things and got some good bearings for our own whizz by foot post lunch.
Juliet’s House was a must see despite its dubious claims to be the place that inspired Shakespeare’s classic love story. That lasted all of three minutes due to the crowds – just time enough to photograph supposedly the most renowned balcony on the planet, the doomed young lady’s statue and the love graffiti strewn on the entry walls.
I alighted the tallest tower (Lamberti Tower) in the city, whilst Mrs Wilbur took respite in a main square cafe. An elevator plus 125 steps for some splendid views.
How would I sum up Verona? A truly beautiful city who’s riches past and present are very evident. The Romeo and Juliette thing is a mite contrived, but who can blame them?
Shakespeare pinched the idea for the story from local poems and stories and like the Montagues & Capulets, there have been plenty of feuding families in the area as the wealthy and powerful of Venice & Verona fought for supremacy.
I thoroughly recommend a visit if you have not been. Choose your time carefully however, unless of course you intend to see opera at the Arena in which case you will surely see crowds.