Friday, 13 June 2014

Days 444 to 447: Verona

Many years ago in Verona, a young couple in love died through a mixture of unfortunate circumstances and misunderstanding, in a tragedy to resonate through the ages. Their names were Romeo and Juliet and they are entirely fictional. Fortunately, their lack of actual existence is no obstacle for the modern day visitor to Verona, as the city has set up some "historical" landmarks to visit. Want to see (the fictional) Romeo's house? Why, there it is. How about Juliet's balcony, where the (fictional) couple pledged to be married? No problem. And what about Juliet's tomb, where the body of Juliet, and possibly of both Romeo and Juliet (both still fictional, of course) may lie? A sarcophagus is waiting for you. Verona is a strange place.

It's also a lovely place, even allowing for the Juliet merchandise pouring out of the souvenir shops. It has an ancient history, pre-dating the Romans, but the Romans took over about a century BC and duly did their "Roman upgrade" on it, giving it the facilities befitting a city of the Empire. Some of their work can still be seen today, notably the still-in-use Verona Arena, and another theatre built into a hill. For many centuries after the Romans departed, the city was bounced around various empires and kingdoms, until coming under Venetian control (for the second time) in the 17th Century. The city thrived, and much of the beauty of the city we see today dates from then.

For Danielle and I, Verona was notable for two other things: my mother and my sister. I shouldn't really call them "things", should I? They had decided to join us for a few days, choosing Verona as my sister had been a couple of times before and had always enjoyed it, and my mother likes Romeo and Juliet, in particularly Franco Zeffirelli's 1968 film version and had always fancied visiting the city. It was perhaps a little unfortunate that they chose to visit when temperatures were soaring to 35C.

Our days therefore centred around a morning activity, an afternoon siesta, then an evening walk and dinner. Verona is well suited for leisurely tourism, with plenty of cafes and restaurants and gelateries, and pleasant streets to wander. There were plenty of tourists, but nothing at the level of Florence, and the pace was a lot less hectic than Milan. On our first day, we visited the Arena and then some pokey little museum full of old Greek inscriptions, had lunch then a siesta. The evening plan was to get my mother drunk. She's a notorious lightweight, and so a few glasses of Prosecco had her hungover by the next day and vowing never to drink again (she later had a single glass in the evening). We went for a lovely walk along the river, and along the 14th Century Castelvecchio Bridge. Kind of 14th Century at least - retreating German troops completely destroyed it in 1945, so what we see today is a 1950-51 reconstruction.

The next day was Romeo and Juliet day. We witnessed the pleasure of Juliet's balcony, overlooking a small courtyard jammed full of tourists.

What an enchanting area. One wall is covered in chewing gum.

So poetic. Another wall is covered in graffiti, which I guess is supposed to be of a romantic nature rather than a deathly ugly scrawl.

And there's a statue of Juliet herself, in which tourists are supposed to grope her breast (yes, seriously) when getting a photo. I submitted under peer pressure, but refused to sexually assault the statue. Danielle was less discerning. I will repeat my opening photograph.

On my sister's advice, I didn't go into Juliet's house, which is no more than a bunch of bare rooms. But my mother and Danielle did, and emerged victorious on the balcony.

Astonishingly, Juliet's balcony appears to be Verona's number one tourist attraction. What is wrong with the world?

Far better, and just up the road, is this big tower.

It's the 15th Century Lamberti Tower, and we were virtually the only people there. If you don't fancy walking, a lift takes you right up, where there was a cool breeze - Verona was still in the 30s - and a great view.

Lamberti Tower is on the edge of a wide piazza, which has a bunch of stalls for tourists set up. Look what we found!

Anybody who knows the story of my brother and the flail will know what a discovery this was. My mother immediately bought it for €6, believing that my brother's years of pain would be over. Finally he had a flail!

Alas, perhaps not. About a week later I received this email from him:'s a MORNING STAR! It requires more than one head to be a flail.
I feel you and mum have done this to further my anquish and upset me further. This has continued my 20 years of hurt and is similar to England's world cup hurt and almost as long, it has been rumoured the lightening seeds are writing a song about it with baddiel involved.

However, he later followed this up with a few pictures of his youngest daughter clutching the miniature morning star, in joy. While his eldest prefers pretty dresses, his youngest appears to be well into her medieval weaponry.

We went for a walk to Juliet's tomb after all that. This took us past another highlight from Shakespeare's famous play (which, we needed to keep reminding ourselves, was made up and not real), Romeo's door. Um... great?

In defence of my mother, this is not a regular pose for her.

Juliet's tomb took some finding, but to our delight we were able to view Juliet's skeleton, which DNA testing has proved belonged to the real Juliet herself. Perhaps not. Instead, we found ourselves in some family's crypt, with a stone sarcophagus in a separate room. Apparently, some people get married here. In a tomb! That purports to be of a fictional character! And I think we must just have missed such a ceremony - just outside the main gate were a bride and groom and a few friends and family drinking champagne.

It was a siesta, then some ice-cream, and a final evening's meal in Verona. It wasn't quite goodbye to mum and Morag quite yet though, as we were heading to Venice the next day, a day-trip for them, and the beginning of four nights for us.


  1. I AM still upset, this is almost as bad as the time she (mum) threw the remote control at me.


    Oh and while we are at it she never let me have a dog either.

  2. Oh dear,
    Ian is never happy! However lovely photos of Verona and good to be reminded of the heat as here it is less than half what it was there!

  3. The story of my child hood, nev got axes , shotguns, drugs ,booze what ever he wanted , Morag the same , all I got was denied the only thing I wanted in life and told to shut up and go to your room which was a cupboard with no window.
    Despite all this I am quite happy thanks mum.
    Oh and Verona looks nice Nev with the bridges any strategically placed bridge is likely a modern post war replacement as the German policy in Italy was one of total destruction when retreating.



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