Verona – Playing to the Gallery

We book-ended our tour of Northern Italy with visits to Verona. Most people are aware, if only from their schooldays, that Shakespeare set his play, Romeo and Juliet, in Verona, though there is no historical evidence that either of these star-crossed lovers ever lived there or, indeed, even existed. They are just fictional characters, after all. However, this has not stopped the wily Veronese from putting up signs all over town pointing to Casa di Giulietta. It’s right in the centre of the shopping district and all you have to do is follow the crowds into a courtyard covered in lovers’ graffiti, crane your neck and stare up to ‘the balcony’, which will invariably contain some young (and not so young) lady pouting for the cameras.

In actual fact the balcony is an old sarcophagus which some enterprising resident found hanging about and stuck onto the side of a fairly ordinary looking, albeit old, building. There is also a bronze statue of Giulietta and it is supposed to bring good luck if you rub her left breast. (I’m not making any kind of comment here but bear in mind that Shakespeare’s Juliet was supposed to be about 14). Plus there are hundreds of padlocks, both here and at other points in the city, where lovers have painted their initials and messages on the barrel, locked it to a suitable bit of ironwork and thrown away the key. Presumably they are now locked together forever. Somehow, it’s all so kitsch that it is almost brilliant. And, not only that, but we are going to be seeing the real Romeo and Juliet (the play) at Stratford next year so we just had to make the pilgrimage.

To be fair, Verona isn’t all just about trading on a Shakespeare tale. It’s a medieval town set on the meandering Adige River which protects a good three quarters of the heavily fortified city.

There are beautiful squares filled with frescoed buildings, towers and palaces.

It’s also quite a sophisticated city with some excellent bars selling quality wine. This is a wine producing region and the bars are packed with locals and tourists alike sampling the varieties on offer. There are also plenty of restaurants offering not only the usual fare of pizza and pasta but local delicacies such as horsemeat.

From Verona you can visit Lake Como and other lakes quite easily on the bus or train. We would have done this on our last day but the weather really didn’t make it worthwhile. So we just contented ourselves with wandering around, going for a walk up into the hills and generally relaxing before our flight home.

As a stepping off point for visiting Northern Italy, Verona is well placed and has very good transport links. We had a great break, ate some lovely food, drank some excellent wine and visited some wonderful places. I’ve a feeling we may be revisiting the Italian Tyrol in the future for some more hiking in the high mountains.

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