After a deliciously late breakfast where we stoically resisted the temptation of the Prosecco, we made our way to the Verona Arena, the Roman amphitheatre completed in the 1st century AD.
As we climbed to the very top row of the amphitheatre and sat basking in the sunshine, Gra and I talked about how little we really knew about Roman and European history in general. To be fair we did grow up on the other side of world. But after all the time we’ve spent in Europe over the last 10 years, particularly in Greece & Turkey we have both become quite fascinated with roman history in particular. After our Turkey visit in 2015, I threw myself into an historical reading frenzy starting with a “Roman History for Dummies”, followed by the Robert Harris “Cicero” series and finally Colleen McCullough’s “Masters of Rome” series…which was a bit of a mission, but after Verona, I’m finding my way back into now.
Verona, as well as being a military town protecting Rome’s northern borders, was very much considered a holiday resort where even Rome emperors came to vacation. The huge theatre and Arena were pivotal for the Romans “holiday entertainment”. Nothing like a few intellectual plays beside the river but then followed up with a gladiator or animanl massacre or two at the Arena into the evening!! The theatre on the banks of the Adige has not survived well but the Arena is amazingly preserved especially considering the number of battles and occupations the city has survived during the last 2000 years. Here’s some photos and a little clip of our walk around the corridors of the Arena this morning. It’s fantastic to think that the Arena is still in regular use with the Opera season and other contemporary concerts…it will help it survive for another 1000 years!
Next stop, the famous but fictional Juliet’s house and balcony. I guess some of Archangel’s cynicism for this “tourist attraction” rubbed off on us. We were both much more interested in the “real” history of Verona.
“Casa di Giulietta” is a courtyard house located off one of the main shopping streets. For €6 each we could have entered the house and stood on the balcony and seen Juliet’s bedroom. But we opted to just stand in the courtyard and do a bit of people watching. The house was actually owned by the “Cappello” family back in the 13C as there were no “Capulet” or “Montague” families in Verona. But the name “Cappello” was close enough to qualify and so the house of Capulet was born!
Aside from the centuries thick graffiti on the walls of the courtyard, and the highly polished breasts on Juliet’s statue, a more interesting phenomenon for me was the proliferation of “lovelocks”. Not only were these “lovelocks” thick on the gates of Giulietta’s courtyard, we’d also seen them on many old bridges and fences of the monuments around Verona. When I googled “lovelocks”, I found that actually they’ve been around for a long time, but they have become more prevalent since a 2007 Italian film called “I Want You” which depicts lovers inscribing their names on a padlock, then tossing the key off a bridge to symbolize their unbreakable love. Huh? I’m Gen X…I don’t get it?
In fact, lovelocks have now become a real problem. Especially in romantic places like Venice & Paris. Venice now has a €3000 fine for anyone fixing a padlock to any bridge or structure in the city. I guess Gra and I will need to figure out another way of symbolising our 25 years of marriage when we visit Venice in February. A nice glass of champagne sounds fairly harmless to me? Or maybe matching tattoos?
For us, it was still much more fun wandering the streets of Verona as evening fell.
And finally, to celebrate our last night in Verona, we treated ourselves to a delicious modern Italian meal at La Canonica. Of course, I’d love to tell you that we had planned to go here, but rather we’d stumbled upon it as we wandered the streets. Delicious food, attentive, patient waiters and a fantastic wine list…we had a lovely meal. Graeme even found they had a bottle of wine from his year of birth on the shelves! Display only, as the sommelier advised. “Only good for cleaning the drains now, signor. Definitely, not for drinking!” Gra quizzed the sommelier on his thoughts about the best Amarone wine. He advised: “Guiseppe Quintarelli Amarone” was one of the very best. This wine maker does not do any advertising, handwrites his labels and you have to go to their winery to buy…they don’t ship! Their latest release 2007 retails for about €200 a bottle and the older vintages…well it just keeps going up from €500. Needless to say, no bottle with Guiseppe’s handwriting made it to our table!
Our last day tomorrow….shame. We love Verona.