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Published: June 17th 2018
15 June - Our group traveled by bus to Verona, setting of Romeo & Juliet. The city is divided by an S-shaped River, Adige, crossed by several bridges, the most striking of which is Ponte di Castelvecchio. Like so many Italian cities, there are remains dating back to Roman times visible in random archeological digs spread around the town. Verona was a strategic location along trading routes going both east-west and north-south, so it changed hands several times, from Romans to northern Barbarians to an independent city-state , to Venetian control, to Austrian takeover, to Italy today. So there is a lot of German/Austrian influence in the culture and food here in Northern Italy.
On this Friday the city was quite crowded, but our group managed to follow a local guide through the cobblestone streets and plazas to view the old churches (e.g., Basilica Anastasia and Basilica Zena) and the city market, now largely occupied by souvenirs from China! We ended the tour at the major landmark, the Arena, resembling the Colosseum, which is still used for operas and concerts. Our Hotel Giberti was a short walk from here. We rejoiced in
their excellent wifi, which is how we managed to upload our blogs! Wayne and I found a place called Saos where we could get big salads for lunch, again in our quest for not-so-heavy foods in our meals apart from the tour.
The afternoon was dedicated to doing our laundry, since we still have a couple of weeks of traveling left and are running out of clean clothes. We loaded our dirty clothes into one suitcase and took a taxi to the one laundromat that we had found by researching on the Internet from home. Laundromats are very rare in Europe! We were surprised to find there were only six working machines total and no detergent available, so we found a little grocery store with a small box of what we hoped was reasonable stuff. There was a small danger of mistaking the function of each machine, and we were the only people there, but fortunately we did not end up dumping detergent into a dryer. We were definitely in the non-tourist part of town, and an older resident wandered in at one point to "borrow" a magazine. She told us a very funny story, apparently, with great gusto,
and we understood not a word but nodded and laughed at appropriate points (we hope).
June 16 - Our 39th anniversary! A great day with a day trip by train to Mantua from Verona. Again a very old city dating back to the Romans, at least. Here our guide brought us to Basilica St. Andrew, built in the 14th century. The story of this church is that the soldier who stabbed Jesus on the cross experienced an instant conversion and collected the blood and soil under the cross and saved it in two vessels. He later came to Mantua and witnessed to the people there and was persecuted and died, but not before burying the vessels. 900 years later a man had vision of St. Andrew telling him where to dig to find them, and now they are the priceless relic of this church. Nearby is the Rotunda Church in a very different style from the eleventh century. A thousand years old - What??
Have you heard of Gonzaga University in Washington state? It is named after a Jesuit son of the Gonzaga family who ruled here in Mantua for 400 years from 1328. The son died at
age 20 after trying to help victims of the plague. The Gonzaga family lived in the main attraction here, the Ducal Palace with over 500 rooms containing many works of art by Mantegna and other artists. Most notable room is the bridal chamber with a 3-D effect in the ceiling like looking up through a skylight. There are also room-sized tapestries woven from paintings by Raphael, depicting stories from the book of Acts.
We all ate together a lunch of traditional food from the region: pumpkin ravioli - yum! Next we visited Teatro Scientifico Bibiena where Mozart first performed at age 14. We had the place all to ourselves so could pose in the balconies and try to look regal! Train back to Verona about 3:30, and Wayne and I went off on our own during free time to view yet another Basilica, San Zeno. I loved one painting there (sorry, don't know the artist) that is more modern but shows Christ as from the bottom of the cross, with actual iron nails scattered on the canvas.
We went non-Italian for dinner again with an all-you-can-eat sushi meal at Sun Restaurant. Hey, it's our anniversary; we can do
The legend of St. Anthony's Basilica
See Roman soldier collecting Christ's blood
what we want! A relaxed walk back to the hotel past Juliet's house.
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