Monday, February 23, 2009

Verona: Part Two

8:00AM February 20

As I had been the only one really able to see any of the city the previous day, we made sure we were up and ready for the start of breakfast at 7:30, and we would hit the road soon after, taking in the main sights before catching the train to Venice. The breakfast was actually quite good. They had a tasty fruit salad, rolls with ham and cheese, and best of all, the croissants. I've had some pretty incredible croissants here on a regular basis, and these didn't quite stand up to that, but I would match them against any I get in America, which is pretty good for a complimentary breakfast. We checked out immediately afterwards and decided to split a cab out to Teatro Romano, an old ruin I'd spotted from across the river the night before.

On the map I'd noticed this seemed like an interesting place with Roman ruins, a castle, and even an African Museum. Then, while I was walking around the night before, I saw this dark hill where the ruins lay, and although I could not really make out any distinct shapes, the sight only increased my intrigue. I'm so glad we went because it was probably the best part of our visit to Verona. The ruins were small and, well, ruined, or decrepit, but they were still really great looking in their old age. The real spectacle came from the hill, with some really pretty houses on its side, which revealed incredible views of the city as we reached the top (top). In the background, we could see the Alps, and in front, the city lay, silent, in all its glory, the river wrapping around it on all sides.

Teatro Romano

Houses on the way up the hill

San Giorgio, as seen from Teatro Romano.

From left to right: Yvette, Marielle, Kate, and Brittany.

Ponte Pietra

After we'd fully savored the gorgeous views of Verona, we walked back down the hill to the Ponte Pietra and headed towards the main tourist attractions. Our first goal was to see Romeo's house, but the location for it on the map was confusing, and we passed it, ending up at Piazza dei Signori. This square was comparable in size and shape to the one I live on in Florence, but the buildings on all sides had so much more character. The stucco of this city made Florence's never-ending stucco buildings look a bit dingy, and the balconies certainly didn't hurt their curb appeal either. We continued to search for Romeo's house, asking for directions from one shop owner and multiple policemen, and each one pointed us in a general direction, but nobody really knew where it was. We eventually ended up at a building that may have been it and seemed to have a bust of Shakespeare on the front, but we still aren't sure if it actually was the house or not. It really wasn't a big deal for most of us, so we kept on going to Juliet's balcony.

Piazza dei Signori

When we got there, the girls explained to me that you're supposed to touch the right breast of Juliet, on her golden statue, for fertility. I know I'd seen a few people taking pictures in this fashion the night before, and I found it a bit odd, so it was nice to have that cleared up. The funny thing is, her right breast is significantly more shiny than her left because people are touching it all of the time. The girls worked hard to get some pictures of the balcony without tourists in the picture--not an easy feat--and then we kept moving, as we wanted to have plenty of time in Venice.

We walked through Piazza Bra', running into a few other NYU students we knew at the top of the Arena di Verona, and then moved on to the Castelvecchio once more. This morning there was an accordion player on the bridge. I haven't seen many street musicians so far--it is winter--but it always seems that the ones I run into are accordionists, so now I have this association of accordions and Italy. It really added to our experience, giving the bridge a more inviting, homey, Italian character. Also interesting was the fisherman in the middle of the river. It is not a particularly deep river, so he went right out to the center with his pole and fishing trousers. I guess what I enjoyed about this so much was that the river was clean enough that he might actually catch non-toxic edible fish—being so close to the fresh water of the mountains—and the people here are in touch enough with the culture of fishing, even as city-dwellers, that they would go out and fish, not just from the side of the river, but amidst it. It showed to me that, at least this one man, still wanted to be in touch with nature, even in this urban environment.

Before long we headed off to the station, aiming to make it there before 11:00. As I'd noticed on the map the night before, Verona followed the typical medieval city format with a castle at the center for the ruling family, and around it, a town center which was all protected by a massive wall. For obvious reasons, all of the city center is quite developed, so the train station sits just beyond this great wall, in an area that was still free for modern developments. We didn't really notice the wall when we entered the city, as it blends in well with the landscape, but this time I made sure to take notice.
Sure enough, when we got out of the city center, there was a white stone wall around the outside, which is built into the physical barriers created by the ancient Veronese people. To compliment the wall, there was a trench in the front, which would have left enemies quite vulnerable, and then behind the wall was a bigger hill they erected to give the landscape some natural support to the wall. It would have been an imposing sight to attack with soldiers upon it.

When we reached the train station it was 10:50, and the next train we saw departed at 11:00, so we rushed to buy tickets and make it to the platform. The following train wasn't for another hour. Of course, I got in line behind a few Germans who were slow in buying their tickets and then abruptly left before they'd gotten anything. Because I didn't understand them, I didn't realize that they left because the money transaction part of the machine was broken. Fortunately, we did all get our tickets in time, and we safely departed to our next destination: Venice.

Outside what we think may have been Romeo's house

Piazza dei Signori

The center of Piazza Bra'

Below the middle of the Ponte Scaligero, this sliver of beach could only be accessed by birds.

The fisherman we saw from Ponte Scaligero

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