On 27 September the seven of us boarded a water taxi to the train station for the next leg of Tina’s 60th birthday trip. Verona, a UNESCO world heritage site, is a city in northern Italy with a medieval old town along the beautiful Adige river. It is famous for being the setting of Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet. Highlights of the city are the magnificent Piazza delle Erbe and the Verona Arena which is a huge 1st century Roman amphitheater.
Being the romantics that we are our first stop was the casa di Giuletta with the famous balcony which features in Shakespeare’s play Romeo and Juliet. This is probably the number one tourist site in Verona. It was quite crowded and people left notes in the crevices of the walls of the house. Lovers wrote their names on the wall.
Verona was also the setting for Shakespeare’s comedy Two Gentlemen of Verona. While in London we attended the Globe Theater and saw a performance of As You Like It. It is interesting how our travels have overlapping themes in different countries. Despite the fact that Shakespeare’s two plays are set in Verona it is unknown if he ever visited Verona or Italy. After arriving in Verona we all met for lunch at Trattoria al Pompiere which had been recommended by our Airbnb hostess. We had one of our best meals of this trip here and it will go down as highly recommended. We attempted to make reservations for dinner but they were fully booked for all three nights. After lunch the group split up and we visited the magnificent cathedral Santa Maria Matricolare dedicated to the blessed Virgin Mary which is the Episcopal site of the diocese of Verona.
After the cathedral we crossed over the Adige river and walked along the northern bank and then took off up many flights of stairs to Castel San Pietro. These former Austrian barracks are now closed but the architecture and the amazing view of the town below were worth the climb in the afternoon heat. In addition this strategic point played an important role in the history of the city as this was the place where Verona was founded.
Day 2 our group took the train to Lake Garda and got off at the small town of Desenzano. From the train station it was a short walk through the city to the lake where we ambled along the beautiful boardwalk enjoying vistas of the mountains of Lichtenstein, Switzerland, Austria and the Italian Alps.
We attempted to walk from here to Sermione but when it was apparent that it was too far we decided to take a bus but when it never arrived we ended up in two taxis. The resort town of Sermione is on a peninsula sticking out into the southern end of the lake. It is known for its thermal baths and Rocca Scaligera which is a medieval castle overlooking the lake.
We ate a wonderful lunch and then took the ferry across Lake Garda back to Desenzano.
That night we shared our last birthday trip celebration meal together with Peggy, Tina and Margaret who were leaving for Milan the next day then catching a flight back to Boston. It was a very low key meal just down the street from the ladies hotel which had been recommended by the concierge at their hotel as very local. It was definitely a local hangout as no one spoke English and there were several meal options offering horse and donkey. Jim had to try the horse-meat stew.
Henry, Andrew, Sandy and Jim spent an extra day in Verona exploring. Highlights include a visit to the monastery of San Francesco Al Corso where Giulietta was allegedly buried. We saw an open empty sarcophagus which makes sense as she never really existed except in Shakespeare’s mind.
After this we wandered up the river until we found a charming backstreet cafe where a bride and groom chose to have a photo shoot.
We have to agree that Verona is the city of love.
While writing this blog Sandy was reminded of a movie we watched starring the actor Amanda Seyfried who lived upstairs from us in Henry & Andrews condo while filming Ted 2 with Mark Wahlberg. It is called Letters to Juliet and was filmed in Verona. We highly recommend watching it. There are some wonderful scenes of Verona.