Up and at ‘em as we are on our way to our next location. Just about the time you get comfortable in your place, it is time to go. But while the views and location of the Hotel Cipressi are fantastic, the bed was a little hard, so I think we are ready to try something new.
We begin with our bus and our driver Michele, a young handsome Italian who handled the bus very well so far. The bus is about 50% bigger than our group, so we all had plenty of room to move around. We drove along the east side of the lake with hit after hit of breathtaking views, then finally pulled into the more industrial city of XXXX and hit the main highway. After about an hour and half we had our first expereicne at an Autogrill, a facility along the highway for bus drivers and auto folks to stop and fill up with gas and get refreshed. Susan and I have had experience with truck stops with our large RV, and this is like a very nice truck stop that caters to the auto crowd. They had an expresso maching going full blast and plenty of pastries and snacks to choose from. It was a little chaotic, but Donald helped us navigate through the maze. I discovered that while there is such a thing as a café doppio (a double expresso) there is no such thing as a cappuccino doppio. When you order a cappuccino doppio, you get two cappuccinos. Well, yes, I did feel like a doppio, but I drank them both anyway (and they were both excellent). Best of all, they only cost 2.80 Euros total. Less than I would pay for a medium cappuccino at Starbucks and frankly better.
From there we drove into Verona. On the way we passed some very interesting and no doubt ancient structures. I took a few pictures through the bus windows that don’t really do them justice. We passed through Brescia, a large manufacturing town where Beretta and other gun manufacturers make some of the firearms that we see in the U.S. Unfortunately I did not have time to stop, but I at la=east acknowledge I was near them and will know where they are if we come back.
Outside Verona we passed the wall of the city built during the Renaissance era (at least a piece of it) and came into the city. Verona’s original city was established by the Romans in the bend of the Adige River. The river defended the city on three sides, leaving only one where a wall was needed. The bus stopped along the wall that surrounding the city during Medieval times and we walked down to the fairly large Piazza Bra, which in the local dialect means “open space.”
There we met Valeria, our tour guide for the city. Donald is more like our tour manager, but in Italy only a tour guide licensed for that city can officially guide us. Valeria was a tall, thin blonde woman with lots of energy and a good command of English. She was knowledgeable about the city and provided us some interesting facts. We started at the Roman built Arena, which was built in 30 B.C. and is still in use today as an opera and other entertainments venue. The opera is very popular here and people drive in from Austria and Germany, which are about a 2 hour drive away, to attend. The arena has been restored, but the original walls are largely there except that the façade around the arena, which provided the upper tier of seats, collapsed a long time ago. We saw a little evidence of the original façade on one side where a small ortion had been preserved.
The center of the Verona, the old town, is much like other medieval cities with tight streets and 3-4 story buildings on each side. We were surprised at the number of shops there were. It was a Sunday, so when we first started the tour in the late morning hardly anything was open, but that changed after lunch.
We walked to the edge of the old city, the River Adige. This was a beautiful sight in both directions. To the south was a medieval castle (Castelvecchio)and private bridge to the castle built by the Scaligeri family in the 1300s. To the north is a pedestrian footbridge built with the stones from the original Roman bridge that was bombed during WW II. High above it is the Castello San Pietro, which was built by the Austrians when they occupied the city.
We walked to an old Roman-built gate that had been preserved called the Porta Borsari. The gate had writing on it that was our equivalent of “This gate brought to you by your good friends at …” Apparently people sponsored the gate and in return got their names on it. Valeria tried to convince us that she was one of the sponsors since Valerian was one of the names, but we weren’t buying.
We carried on to Piazza Erbe, the large central marketplace for Verona and the place to see and be seen for young Veroni. We learned that Verona was for a long time part of the Veneto, the power of Venice. The Piazza has a prominent statute of a winged lion, the symbol of Venice. It also has a fountain that has been used in that piazza for 2000 years. If you look close in the middle of the big picture of the Piazza you can see it.
From there we walked to the Piazza Signori, locally known as Piazza Dante because it features a statue of Dante in the piazza. The piazza looked like a perfect rectangle that had been built that way, but it actually was built up in that form over the years. The oldest building was built in the 1100s. It also was interesting because some of the winged lions were erased from the building. Apparently when Napoleon came through and conquered Verona he decided he didn’t want any reminders of others before him.
We finished the tour at Juliet’s balcony. This is an area that has been promoted by the Veroni as the real balcony where the fictional Juliet was wooed by Romeo. It features a pretty real looking balcony where, for a fee, a lady can stand and pretend to be Juliet. It also has Juliet’s statue, where a tradition is for those seeking their lover to put their hand on Juliet’s breast. It is well-worn. I have my lover already, but I still participated in the tradition. One of the first movies Susan and I saw together when we were dating was “Romeo and Juliet.”
We ate lunch in Piazza Erbe at one of the cafes on the piazza. We ate outside bt under some large umbrellas. Good thing too becasue while we were there a tremendous rainstorm came up and dumped rain all over the piazza but our umbrella spared us.
We returned to Piazza Bra and toured the many food vendors who were offering their wares. We bought a slice of 20 year parmesan cheese that I have been carrying around ever since just in case we get hungry. We met up with the group and boarded the bus for our trip to Bolzano, near the border with Austria.