Published: June 9th 2012June 8th 2012
Last day in europe today. Had a light sleep on the train, and awakened to a lovely morning in Milan for our 5:30 departure from the train. 24 hours later, I still have the illusion of the sway of the train as I lay here in bed. And no, I did not have two bottles of wine to myself at dinner.
There was some debate as to where and how to spend our last day. Our hotel tonight is the Verona airport hotel because we have a 6:30 flight to Frankfurt, then a five hour layover in Frankfurt, which may just be enough time to rapidly jog from one end of the terminal to another. When our train got into Milan this morning, the plan was to board a train bound for Verona and perhaps get off at another small town and explore. In the end we chose to spend the day in Verona, leave our luggage at the luggage check at the train station, walk into the city, and at the end of the day get our bags from the train station and take a taxi to the airport.
Because my parents have been in Verona several times
and my mother lived here for a month, there was some concern that between us there was so much knowledge and experience about the city that there would be nothing to see or do.
First up was some breakfast, which inspired the list below Things I miss about France when I'm in Italy
--The pastries - most french patisseries have a huge selection of delicious pastries for breakfast
--The language - I can kind of spread french, I have no Italian Things I missed about Italy when I was in France
--Aperitivos - afternoon snacks that are assumed to be necessary and included when ordering an aperitif drink like a spritz Things I won't miss about either place
--Super potent French urine
--Squatter toilets. Either European women have really strong thigh muscles or really strong bladder muscles to shoot their pee out like firehoses before their legs give out
--Weird electrical outlet plugs. Why as a planet can we not agree on how these are going to work?
Bottom line from breakfast today? Italian pastries aren't as good.
I really wanted to hike up to that monastery I
keep taking photos of in Verona, which is the highest point I the city. My patents agreed, and we set off in that direction. On the way we came across the only church in all of Italy my mother has not yet visited, so naturally we had to go there. It had begun to rain and I was only too happy for some sanctuary. My mother seemed delighted with the church, as it has a Tintoretto and a Veronese she has been longing to see. Here is a little bit more about it: San Giorgio in Braida is a Roman Catholic church in Verona, northern Italy. It was built in the 16th century in the medieval quarter of Veronetta. The 12th century bell tower is what remains of a monastery built in the eleventh century. The facade is marble white with two rows of pillars. The statues of St. George and St. Lorenzo Giustiniani are on sides. The interior has a single nave built between 1536 and 1543, and contains key works of art. Above the main door is a Tintoretto painting depicting the baptism of Christ. The church houses Paolo Veronese's masterpiece, The Martyrdom of St. George. In 1540
Michele Sanmicheli built the dome of the church. In 1776 were casted the six bells, on which was developed the Veronese bellringing art.
After experiencing all the delights of the church, and outlasting the Italians who'd gone there to do something as outlandish as pray, we started up the hill towards the Santuario della Madonna di Lourdes. The Santuario della Madonna di Lourdes, which is now a church, was an Austrian fort used to incarcerate and torture allied troops, Jews and anti-fascist suspects especially after 1943, when Verona became part of the Repubblica di Salò or "Social Republic". In 1958 it was transformed into a sanctuary. This history was not known to me at the time I was there, and it's pretty shocking given how beautiful and peaceful it is now. The view is the best in the city.
The weather continued to be completely unpredictable, with a mix of sun and rain, and so we decided to bide some time in that beautiful place and follow the sign we had seen to a cafe. I suppose it shouldn't be surprising that monks have a fairly spartan concept of what constitutes a coffee shop. The coffee machine was
not without it's perks, however. It cost only 50 cents, did not raise one eyebrow in confusion when I placed my order, and was fast and quite tasty. All in all successful enough to splurge on two.
By the time we had walked down the winding little road to the river, it was time for lunch. We went to a delightful place where we sat outside, had a terrific server and excelled at eating Italian style. We had swordfish carpaccio (some confusion as we couldn't tell if our server was saying "sole fish", "swordfish" or even, as my mother suggested, "soul fish", an entirely different kind of experience), two types of lasagna, and caprese salad, paired with a local white wine apparently produced 30km from where we sat drinking it. A trip inside the restaurant to use the "toilettes" traversed a glass panel in the floor which revealed the ancient roman structure underneath the building. And then I used the ancient roman squatting toilet that appears not to have been modified for approximately two thousand years.
As my mother pointed out, you can't see a church in the morning and NOT see one in the afternoon, or you
risk having an unbalanced day. In a successful bit of bargaining we agreed to see the coliseum first, and I'm glad we did. Much smaller than the roman coliseum, this one is still a working venue for opera, which my parents attended the last time they were in town. In the bowels of the place it is dark and dank, and I got a shiver thinking about the fact that I was standing where the gladiators stood thousands of years ago as they listened to the roar of the crowd and waited to go out to die. Perhaps the puddle I'm standing in is the last pee of a terrified and condemned man that hasn't evaporated for thousands of years. Or the coliseum was used as a fruit market. I'm no historian.
On to the next church, the Anastasia, which is a pretty fascinating mix of a bunch of stuff (I'm no art historian either). There is a really amazing fresco inconveniently located about five stories up, so they have a television screen showing images of it at floor level so it can be properly appreciated. There were also all sorts of other paintings and statues, and we were
all amused by the harmony of the schizophrenic real man next to the rough looking statue man who must shoulder the big holy water bath-thing for all eternity. They looked like they might have been friends, and it appeared this had occurred to the schizophrenic also.
Obviously at this point a lot of refreshments were needed, so I had a cup of fresh fruit, and then we went for spritzes after an exhausting wander in search of bank machines. We had our spritzes in my mother's favorite little bar in Verona that overlooks the river. Unlike the last time we were there, my father didn't break anything with his mind. We had a spell of sun while we sat and rested our stumps in preparation to walk back to the train station, and I finally got some better photos of the view from the bar.
The walk back to the train station was uneventful, the taxi ride fine, and the hotel very comfortable. Tomorrow we have to get up at four to catch the shuttle to the airport at five, then take a short flight from Verona to Frankfurt, and after a five hour layover in Frankfurt to
It is amazing to me the trip is over, and I'm so glad that apart from the odd minor hiccup it went so well. I am very grateful to the following people:
--My mother and father, for bringing me here, and putting up with me, and showing me such wonderful things and a wonderful time. It was a spectacular way to celebrate graduating from medical school
--My uncle Geoff, for letting us stay with him in Torrie in Sabina, for being such fun to spend time with in Torri, Rome and Paris
--Anybody who read my blog and especially those who left comments. Over 32,000 words, over 600 photos and around a hundred hours went into the blog in the hopes to share my appreciation of the gift of this trip with other people.
--Braedon, for letting me out of the kitchen and laundry room long enough to go.
Thanks again everyone.
There are more photos below