I will be travelling this month to my beloved Verona. This is a picture of Piazza Erbe, one of my favorite spots in Verona. Piazza Erbe has changed over the years. When I lived in Verona and was attending high school, I would walk through the crowded piazza where merchants had parked their semi-permanent structures and packed as much "stuff" as possible in their cramped "stores". You could find clothing, leather and non-leather bags, tourist trinkets, groceries, vegetables, ice cream, and my favorite, the "bomboloni". Fried donuts hot from the oil, rolled in sugar. Or you could get a square of sweet "polenta", a fried pudding, the yellow color of the real polenta. The smell of the fried goodies was irresistible and called you to the stand. You would wait for your turn as the old woman worked the dough and the old man handled the frying pans. The stand was always busy, and churned out orders at a steady pace You didn't mind waiting . In the winter, across the piazza, you would find an old man selling "caldarroste", chestnuts roasted on coals, handed out in cone shaped paper wrappings. The aromas of Piazza Erbe are unforgettable.
The timing of my departure (Friday Dec. 11) coincides, by design and not by chance, with one of the most treasured traditions of my childhood in Verona. On the night between the 12th and the 13th December, Santa Lucia (Saint Lucy) accompanied by her donkey and carrying a bag of goodies and toys, visits the houses of children, and if they have been good that year, she will leave them presents....or else a piece of coal. I remember waking up early on St. Lucy's and finding a "piatto" (a plate) of goodies, "pastafrolla" cookies in the shape of stars, a tangerine, an orange, some nuts, bars of "torrone" or "mandorlato", and chocolate. I would also find my gift, a baby doll I later named Susanna, or a play telephone, or a small toy piano.
This is a time of celebration in Verona, that marks the beginning of the Christmas Holidays season. Piazza Bra will house the St. Lucy market ("banchetti di Santa Lucia"), I understand starting on the 10th of December, and will be filled with the traditional and not so traditional goodies for children of all ages. The "Stella" will be on display in Piazza Bra, an artistic representation of the Christmas Comet Star. This is no regular star, it is built in steel, it is 70 m high, it weighs 78 tons, and it is positioned as if its tail is coming out of the Arena. At night it is particularly spectacular, as it brightly shines to light the entire piazza. I have heard that on December 23 there will be caroling by the star. I will confirm and let you know.
So, my trip was planned to make it just in time for the festivities of Piazza Bra and Santa Lucia, and ...my dear 79 years old mom, has confirmed that I was good this year, and a "piatto" will be there for me on the morning of December 13.
I will be posting updates to my journal/blog. Fill free to follow, send questions, and leave comments.