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Published: September 8th 2013
The A4 motorway took us to our next stop in Lake Garda, as we motored we noticed that Italian drivers don’t indicate and as we stopped for coffees we noticed that Italian drivers stand at the counter in the fuel stations for a glass of white wine! How very different from South Mimms, the wine that is, not the lack of indicating. Coffees in Europe are so small too, is it just Britain and America that serve coffee in huge cardboard buckets?
I wasn’t overly impressed with Lake Garda when we arrived, the area we stayed in was dominated by theme parks and was quite over developed but in fairness we didn’t really explore the other shores of the lake as our main reason for choosing Garda was its closeness to Verona. Stepping off an extremely crowded coach at Verona’s bus station, we walked towards the city down Corso Porta Nuova taking us through two sets of old stone city gates. The outer city walls and gates were built by the Romans, then further along the street, in to the centre, there is a second set of walls built in the 12th
century that include a double archway of pink
and white stone, topped by brick crenulations; the Portoni della Bra which leads in to the Piazza Bra. Verona was originally a Celtic settlement but from the 3rd
century BC it became a Roman trade centre, the Piazza Bra presents a fantastic amphitheatre that was built in the 1st
century, the structure, built of pink marble, is huge and nowadays the venue for open air opera performances that seat up to 30,000 people! Although dominated by this awesome structure the Piazza became a square in much later years by the building of Gran Guardia in the 12th
century, a huge imposing stone building opposite the Arena, the City Hall and other palaces were added from the 15th
century. Piazza Bra is also home to the pretty public gardens where you can sit and admire the different period buildings that surround it.
We hopped on a tour bus that drove us up to Santuario Madonna di Lourdes, once an Austrian fort, now a church perched on a hill north of the city, and from here, looking South, we could see for miles across the low rise city that sits either side of the Adige River, the terracotta roof
tops towered over only by high church towers and palace domes.
Heading back down towards the centre we stopped off at Plaza delle Erba to wander around and get lost a little bit. There is a buzzy atmosphere in the Plaza, it was once a Roman forum and has since continued to be a bustling market place. The square is now surrounded by a mix of medieval and Renaissance buildings. The 85 metre high Torre dei Lamberti cannot be ignored, a striped red brick and white stone watch tower! The Palazzo Maffei, nearby, is an ornate building with topped with statues of Hercules, Jupiter, Venus, Mercury, Apollo and Minerva. There’s also a fountain whose central statue of the Madonna apparently dates from Roman times. The cafes surrounding one edge of the square are built in to the ground floor of some old houses that still have patches of the original frescos along the upper walls.
It looked a great place to stop for a lunch of pizza and a glass of Soave, the local vino bianco! Turns out, it was!
We only had a short day in Verona but couldn’t leave without seeing Casa di Giulietta. The
story of Romeo and Juliet was set in Verona, although apparently Shakespeare ‘borrowed’ the story from someone else but made it his own by adding the suicide. Although the story is fictional, there are records that show a Capulet family lived in the house in Via Cappello and hundreds of tourist arrive at the house every day, duck under the archway and in to the courtyard to see the famous balcony. There is graffiti all over the exterior walls in the courtyard, messages of love that visitors have left, it’s become a tradition but I think it’s a shame the walls have been made such a mess of. ‘Giulietta’ also receives letters from people across the world who write to her for relationship advice (quite ironic, aside from the fact that she’s fictional, her relationship wasn’t the most successful) and a group of volunteers ensure that every letter is answered. Steve tried to get some pictures of the romantic balcony but found that the crush off 299 other sweaty, noisy tourists was quite unromantic so took a quick snap and beat a hasty retreat!
As mentioned it really was a flying visit and it’s a shame we didn’t have
longer to spend admiring the architecture and wandering the streets, there are some fantastic sights and a very chequered history, there’s nothing else for it: we’ll just have to go back another time.
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