3 June, 2015
The second stop on Anna and Talia’s Big Girls’ Weekend was none other than the beautiful, the enchanting, the tragically renowned Verona. After saying goodbye to Venice at the top of the Campanile di San Marco (Saint Mark’s Belltower) and having our ears nearly blown apart when we failed to escape before the bells began to ring, we caught the train from Venice to Verona and immediately set out to find the B&B – a twenty minute walk from the train station, according to Google. With some confusion and twisty streets, we did manage to find the address and, prompted by a little sign by the door of what seemed to be a multi-purpose apartment block, pressed the round gold button for the intercom. At the same time, two people emerged from the door and we shuffled to let them pass as I began to introduce myself in Italian to the woman who had answered the buzz. But the two strangers, an Italian man and woman, had stopped and begun conversing with her too. As it turned out, they were to direct us to a different B&B due to a “bathroom problem” in the B&B which we had booked. Annoyed, bewildered and more than a little apprehensive, I translated to Anna as the two newcomers explained that the B&B had experienced some plumbing issues which had rendered all bathrooms unusable and that we would therefore be given a room in a different B&B owned by the same proprietor.
I was nervous and Anna was as calm as ever as we followed the couple through the streets of Verona in the hot afternoon sun. But once again, Anna’s cool and collected approach was entirely appropriate, because the B&B which we actually stayed in was ABSOLUTELY UNBELIEVABLY GORGEOUS. It was a massive difference from the dingy/ominous/worrisome room in Venice, and when I checked online we found that the room we were actually given was worth three times as much as the one for which we had paid! It was the cutest, sweetest room, with two large beds, lovely furniture, and even a sweet little balcony! Yay for ruined bathrooms and fortunate upgrades!
Revelling in our misfortune-turned-fortune, we jumped about wildly like little girls for several glorious moments before calming ourselves sufficiently to prepare to embark upon an afternoon walk. We had been provided with a map of the city, so marked out what we were most interested in seeing, and then set off towards Castelvecchio (literally, the Old Castle).
And my oh my, wasn’t it beautiful! The castle has been converted into a lovely museum, leading visitors through various rooms, gardens and walkways. The castle was built on a riverbank and the bridge which connects both sides of the river was teeming with people basking in the warm afternoon sun. Children scaled the walls, couples strolled by, and an elderly man sat strumming and serenading us all. Ah, Verona!
After a lovely dinner by the Arena, we decided to go for a little walk through the streets to become acquainted with the picturesque city. Every street seemed to be a postcard opportunity, with quaint side-streets, sweet little restaurants, and romantic flowers cascading from balconies. When we had been standing on the parapet of the castle, we had seen a small tourist train chugging through the streets and it passed us again during our walk. We glanced at each other and it was decided in very few words – we would catch that train! So we ended up running through the streets of Verona in pursuit of this cute train, then lost it, asked a nice barman to help us find it (and were subsequently laughed at, in good nature, of course), and then wandered up to the Arena to see if it had stopped. It supposedly embarked from this point, but we had been told by the barman that the company didn’t continue the tours into the night and it was beginning to get dark. Grasping onto our last hopes, we scanned the Arena desperately, looking for the little train.
“There it is!!!” On the other side of the piazza, passengers were disembarking.
We glanced at each other again. Then at the train. And then we ran. And you know what? We just made it for the last ride of the night, and it was funny and overpriced and so noisy that at times it was hard to hear the commentary, but we were giggling like schoolgirls and in some sweet way, that desperate sprint and that cute train ride made our night.
The next morning, we rose to a lovely breakfast served in the cute little breakfast room and then set off straight for the Arena. Ah, the grand site of both fierce gladiator battles to the death, and fierce screaming fan battles to the front of the mosh pit. With what appeared to be a prodigious lack of regard for health and safety regulations, we were able to roam pretty freely over the cables and temporary steps which covered the half of the Arena which we were actually able to access. The other half was “under construction” – a fact we discovered only after purchasing tickets, of course.
We paraded about for a bit, checking out the awesome views and posing as gladiators, and then it was on to the next stop of our self-created Verona walking tour: Juliet’s balcony! We posed for photos with her statue, read the love notes, rubbed the legendary golden boob, and then hit up the gift shop. And it was on this momentous day that my love affair with crema di caffè began. Under that legendary balcony, I had my first encounter with the heavenly cold beverage. Think slushie, think creamy, think coffee – and that, ladies and gentleman, is a crema di caffè a.k.a. the most deliciously refreshing treat ever! I immediately fell in love, standing there under Juliet’s balcony, in the warm Italian sun – such magic!
But there was little time to dwell on my new found soulmate – we were onwards, to the Basilica di Sant’Anastasia and then the Duomo di Verona, both of which were lovely. Then it was over the river, to the Roman Theatre! The remains of the ancient theatre are still in use today – a modern stage has been constructed and hosts performances throughout the year, surrounded by ancient artefacts and statues from the original theatre. There is also an archaeological museum on site.
After stocking up on giant bottles of water, we (tried to) make our way towards Castel San Pietro. After missing the walkway up the hill and walking instead up a windy street, we doubled back and began the arduous climb up the staircase, spurred on by the prospect of a beautiful castle surrounded by stunning views. Sweating and puffing in the sweltering heat, we reached the lookout at the top of the climb and the views were indeed beautiful! Though the castle was actually abandoned … Alas, the object of our climb had been futile! But nonetheless it was a gorgeous place to be, with the river winding below us and Verona stretched out in all her splendour.
We made our way slowly back to the city centre and chilled in the piazza, checking out some of the old buildings, wandering through the market and snacking on fresh fruit cups! Our last stop before we picked up our luggage from the hotel was the belltower. Once again we were treated to stunning views, the beautiful Italian city spread around us. We sat and relaxed, a lovely breeze tickling our skin. It was one of those poignant moments for me, one of those oh-my-God-I-am-actually-here moments. And really, with views like these, who wouldn’t be at least a little awed?