Monday, 17 September 2012

Days 80-83: Verona

First let me say you may have noticed a discrepancy in the days, well for the week between Barcelona and Verona we were in Lyon, we were sick one after the other, and didn't manage to go out or do anything, so there is nothing to say about that time.

What can I say about Verona? It was my first time in Italy, somewhere I’ve always wanted to go, but wanting to go to Verona specifically is only a recent thing.

We decided to go to Verona based on a movie. It’s a trashy-girly film called Letters to Juliet. From the film we discovered that in Verona is a house where, supposedly, Juliet once lived, and people from all over the world go to this house and leave letters to Juliet, and if you leave an address, every single letter is answered by Veronese volunteers who call themselves The Secretaries of Juliet. This appealed to me, and when I heard about it, it was immediately added to my mental bucket list. I knew I had to go there, not because I’m some love-struck girl in need of advice, but because the idea of receiving a letter supposedly from a fictional romantic heroine seemed like too good an opportunity to pass up.

Luckily for me, the idea appealed to M as well, thus Verona was added to our itinerary. I’m very glad it was, not because of the Casa di Giulietta, but because Verona is a very beautiful city with lots of amazing things to see.

On our first full day in Verona, we took the bus into the centre of the city and walked aimlessly enjoying the scenery. The owner of the B&B where we were staying had given us a tourist map, with instructions on how to get to different places of interest. M needed to buy a birthday present for her sister so we decided to go to some of the shopping areas to see what was what. The centre of the town, just next to the main shopping streets, is a big square named Piazza del Arena, due to the large gladiatorial arena in the middle of it. It was unbelievable to see a place that had once been used for gladiator fights, and what’s more, is still being used today, albeit not for fights. Instead it is used for Opera and Rock music.

After walking around for a bit we found a nice little market selling all sorts of Italian things, masks, glass, lace Pinocchios, etc where M found many things that her sister would like. We had lunch, I had Spaghetti alla Carbonara, and M had Fusili di Basilico, and we discovered our (so far) favourite Italian drink: Spritz Aperol. Spritz Aperol seems to be served most places in Italy and is absolutely delicious, it is a very refreshing cocktail made from 2 parts Aperol, 3 parts prosecco, soda water, and a slice of orange, and should be served with an olive. Aperol is an alcoholic drink made by Campari, and tastes very like Campari, only slightly less bitter, and much less alcoholic. So if you want to try one yourself and can’t get aperol, Campari will do.

The second day, we needed to find out about trains for the rest of our time in Italy, so we went to the train station. After we’d got the tickets sorted, which I might add took a ridiculously long time, we were going to catch a bus back into town and do some more aimless walking, when we saw a tourist sight-seeing bus, which we decided to take instead, after all we’d enjoyed the ones in Barcelona and learned so much from them. Again something I’m very glad we did. We learned so much and we got to see some things we wouldn’t have seen otherwise.

One of the things we learned is that Gnocchi was invented in Verona, and that some guy, I think his name was Zeno (or maybe that was the church), died leaving all his money to the church so that all the poor of the parish would be given wine and gnocchi. This has turned into a tradition that continues today, now on the Friday of Carnevale in Verona, they have a big parade led by Papa di Gnocchi, with everyone in their Carnevale finery. The parade ends up at the Church of St Zeno, and then everyone feasts on free flowing wine and Gnocchi. Isn’t that a lovely story?

On Sunday, we went to the Teatre Romano, another thing we discovered from the bus tour. A roman Amphitheatre built sometime between 90 and 40 BC, and again it is still used today, in the summer months it hosts a Shakespeare festival, and I think also hosts concerts from time to time. Unfortunately we couldn’t see much of the stage because it was being set up for a show that evening, but we did get to sit on some stairs that were over 2000 years old, which is kinda mind-boggling. We also got admission to the archaeology museum which was very cool. Archaeologists and collectors from all around Verona donate, or lend, their stuff to the museum. There were some really cool things there; some beautiful little statues for the household alters, some lovely carvings and busts, and some beautiful mosaics.

After the museum, we walked back into the centre of town, across a bridge that we had both fallen in love with. The bridge was partly Roman, and partly more modern due to a giant flood that struck Verona in the 19th century, knocking down half the bridge, and flooding most of the city centre. You can see the difference in the two styles, the big white blocks are the Roman construction, and the rest is the modern rebuilding.
After lunch we went to the Casa di Giulietta. This is supposedly the house where the Capolli family lived during the twelfth century, and it is they that are supposedly the inspiration for Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, although he was by no means the first to write the story, but was probably inspired by an earlier telling of the story written by an Italian. We had our letters prepared and ready to leave with her. When we got there, it was packed, as it is one of the most popular tourist attactions in Verona, but we patiently stood in line to have our photo taken with the brass statue in the courtyard. The bus told us that it is said that if you rub Juliet’s right breast it is said to bring you good luck, the lonely planet guide said a new love, either way we wanted in.

Inside the house is a museum dedicated to Juliet. I’m not sure that it was worth it to be honest, but if you want to give a letter to Juliet you have to go in, the movie had lead us to believe that you could just attach them to the walls in the courtyard, but this didn’t seem to be the case. One cool thing about the museum though was that you got to stand on Juliet’s Balcony. Even though this was a 16th century addition to the house inspired by Shakespeare, and thought to be part of a sarcophagus, rather than a balcony where once Juliet said “Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo?” it still felt cool. The rest of the museum, was just paintings of Romeo and Juliet, and sets from a movie, personally, I think it would have been more interesting if it was about the Cappolli family. But at least we got to send our letters to Juliet. 


  1. I;ve just stumbled across your blog as myself and my partner are staying at the Berjaya in Langkawi in a couple of weeks time but I've got totally engrossed and read all your posts. It's really interesting to see how someone sees your country (the UK) with different eyes, and I've enjoyed reading your Malaysia posts in anticipating of our trip. I look forward to reading about where you went after Verona back in September!


    1. Thanks Lucy. I know it's been a long time, but I hope you enjoyed your trip to Langkawi.