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Sculpting and Paintings and Frescoes oh my!

Verona Edition

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[Note: This is very long and I apologize, but the good part is at the end] Verona. For most people the mention of this small Italian city evokes visions of star crossed lovers and William Shakespeare. I must admit that when I first decided to visit, I was one of those people. I had seen Letters to Juliet (and cried during the previews) so I figured what better place for a hopeless romantic to take a trip? Bright and early on Friday morning (perhaps too bright and too early for the group of us that went out the night before) we boarded the train. During the 2 hour train ride I came to realize just how much more Verona had to offer than the balcony of an overdramatic teenager. What most people (aka me) don't know is that Verona has the most Roman ruins second only to Rome itself. This quickly became clear as the train arrived and we began our journey. Our first stop of the day was La Chiesa (church) di San Fermo. Originally built in 765AD to house the remains of St. Fermo and St. Rustico, the church had been rebuilt twice since then to become the Catholic church it is today. While that's all well and good, one thing that Italy is certainly not lacking is churches. What really drew me here was the lower church, a beautifully restored Roman church from the 9th century. The walls were covered in thousand year old frescoes and Roman statues were littered across the lawn and cloisters. After a beautiful introduction to Verona, we decided it was time to visit "la casa di Giulietta". Now I should mention that from the start my expectations were not high for the tourist attraction. I had been warned that the house was nothing like the delicate stone wall portrayed in the Letters to Juliet where troubled lovers leave hand written notes to the historical figure. Instead overly excited teenagers leave Sharpie marker graffiti on ugly white walls. Even better, tradition states that it is good luck to grab the left breast of the Juliet statue...romantic right?IMG_1418


The house was exactly what I expected it to be with tons of tourists scribbling graffiti on the walls and lining up to grope the statue. I think the best love note I saw written on the wall was a gigantic heart that read "I LOVE THE JONAS BROTHERS". I'm sure this is precisely what Shakespeare had in mind for Verona when he wrote his story. After a quick tour of the house and some obligatory pictures on the balcony we moved on to one of the most important destinations of the day, lunch.

On the way to lunch we encountered a large crater in the street surrounded by a railing. When we peaked down into the hole we were surprised by piles of Roman ruins. It amazed me that these people go through their daily life surrounded by ancient structures. Cars sped past the hole and people walked by completely unfazed. I'd like to think that if I lived near something of such significant historical value I would cherish it every day, but seeing as America is a baby compared to Europe, I guess Ill never know. As we continued out walk we decided to stop at a trattoria that seemed to be very popular. There were possibly 20 tables outside in the piazza and almost all of them were taken. We sat down famished and tried to decide what to order. I settled on a pizza with a cream cheese base tops with smoked salmon. No big deal...welcome to Italy. By the end of lunch we were positively stuffed and so decided to work off some of the calories by climbing the clock tower in the middle of Verona. It took 389 steps to get to the top and it was outrageously strenuous...so obviously I paid a euro and took the elevator (i'm sure no one is shocked). The view from the top was breathtaking as you could see the entire city and the rolling countryside beyond it. Castles were sprinkled along the hilltops in every direction. The clock tower was also a bell tower and rang every half hour. We found this out the hard way when at 4:30 the bell (which was 2 feet from my head) rang loudly. I swear I almost jumped out of the tower. A bit shaken we all decided the elevator was probably the smartest way to go down. From there we moved on to the Scalegieri tombs and then to my favorite stop of the day La Chiesa di Santa Anastasia. Of all the churches that I have visited during my time in Italy (12 so far) this one was by far the most breathtakingly beautiful. A basilica, the church was covered in frescoes. In fact, the entire ceiling was covered in a lattice design with flowers and various Saints surrounding. Again I couldn’t imagine going through my day-to-day life in such a beautiful place. If I ever attended mass there, I can’t imagine I would listen to a word the Priest said, I would be too occupied analyzing the different paintings and sculptures. After Santa Anastasia we walked over to Il Duomo, the cathedral of Verona. While it was absolutely beautiful, I’m not sure another church will ever come close to the beauty of Santa Anastasia in my eyes.

It was just as we left Il Duomo that the rain began. While we wanted to see the Arena, the 2000-year-old Roman amphitheater in the center of Verona, dinner won out. It was there, in the Osteria di Ducal that I ate my best meal in Italy. We had read about the tiny family owned restaurant in a Frommer’s “Italy on a Budget” guide. For 15euro, we were given a first course pasta dish followed by a second course meat dish. For the first course I chose the paparadelle pasta with duck sauce (no not Chinese duck sauce, duck sauce as in a meat sauce…made of duck). No sooner did I begin to eat did I realize how full I still was from lunch. But that obviously didn’t stop me. I continued to eat until almost all of the pasta was finished. For the next course I ordered polenta (kind of like grits) covered with Gorgonzola cheese, mushrooms, and soppressa (salami). Again I was full but the food was too good for me to stop (I now realize this is where my problem is hahaha). Finally we ordered desert. I know, I know I was full…but Frommer talked about their homemade tiramisu and I simply couldn’t pass that up. When I finished up the tiramisu (which was worth the gut wrenching stomach ache I had after) I excused myself to use the bathroom. And then, I had the most mortifying experience of my life.

I understand that sometimes Americans are used to certain luxuries that we can’t find here in Europe. Ice water for example, or toilet seats. But never did I think I would see the day that the luxury was the toilet itself. It seemed that at Osteria di Ducal I was expected to stand over a hole in the ground and well you know. Now I would have held it and waited until we found another place to go but usually in Italy you’re expected to pay to use the bathroom if it’s not in the restaurant where you’re eating. So there in a quaint little restaurant in beautiful Verona, I closed my eyes, took a deep breath, and peed…all over myself. Mortified all I wanted to do was get out of that bathroom, wash my hands, and flee. But there seemed to be a problem, the lock would not budge and I was locked in the bathroom. For 5 minutes I yelled and banged on the bathroom door to no avail. After a wonderful day I was locked in a tiny bathroom, with a hole in the ground, covered in my own pee. Not exactly how I imagined my picturesque day in a romantic city ending. Finally after one last desperate attempt the lock loosened and the door opened. The rest of the night went on, it rained, the train was half an hour late with no explanation, and our friend got sick waiting for the vaparetto. But regardless of the rain and my wet pants the day really was successful and I absolutely loved Verona. We plan on going back to see the Arena and to eat at Osteria di Ducal again. (Of course next time I’ll go to the bathroom before we get there.)

Posted by laurenp319 06:46 Archived in Italy Tagged verona

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