Italy: Verona

Next up after our Italian adventure: Verona, the city of our favorite star-crossed lovers. Rewatching Baz Luhrmann's iconic recreation for inspiration as we speak.

In fair Verona, where we lay our scene. Get used to the Shakespeare love - references to the bard and his most famous play are littered throghout the literary city.

In Verona, the train station is separated from the main part of the city. You walk along an open park and some shops and then you'll see this gate. And that's your cue that you are about to transport back three or four centuries.

The Arena di Verona, a first century arena, one of the largest in Italy. Verona is called little Rome for many reasons, this among them. Today, it is still in use during summer months when it houses an opera. When I visited, somewhat early on a Sunday, the line was already quite long. I stood in line for maybe half an hour, waiting to pay and enter the arena itself. There are some combination passes you can get to skip the line. That being said, once inside, the place was large enough I felt almost isolated.

Inside the arena. Walking to the top of the seats is a bit of a walk, but the view is worth it. It's easy to walk along the upper rim of the arena, giving you a great view of all the different aspects and corners of the city. You can also explore the spaces underneath the seats, though, spoiler alert, it's not quite as interesting as Rome's Colloseeum. 

Next up: Shakespeare stuff. "Juliet's House" is off a side street. But don't worry, there will be a crowd to guide you. Be wary, those who are afraid of crowds or small spaces. To visit Juliet's balcony, you pass through a small arched gateway. It's littered with a variety of unique love notes. These were all dated within a few weeks of my visit, so they must not last long.

Once you push and shove your way through the gateway, here is Juliet's balcony! This fourteenth century home had nothing to do with Shakespeare or his fictional characters and is mostly a tourist notion, but still, have fun with it! You can pay to get in and walk through the house. More importantly, your ticket includes picture opportunities from the balcony itself. Personally, I skipped this endeavor. As always, I prefer Baz's balcony anyway. Just to the left of this photo is a very crowded gift shop where you can basically buy anything with Romeo and Juliet or a quote from the play on it. The steps served as a brief respite from the crowd. I didn't buy anything, having gotten my Shakespeare fix from the Globe Theater in London a few weeks prior, but it's there if you're interested!

Piazza delle Erbe, near Juliet's house. I stopped here for lunch. It's a nice place for food - there are plenty of options. More importantly, there are plenty of outdoor tables. Because you're gonna want to people watch here. I had a lovely pizza and some wine at one of the restaurants, the first of many, many pizzas of my Italy week.

For our first Verona church, we have San Pietro da Verona, a Gothic church completed in 1400.

And here is the interior, which doesn't quite match the simplicity of the exterior. 

I literally stumbled upon this guy while walking from one tourist destination to another. This is one of the five Scaliger Tombs. And it is picture-worthy. These tombs celebrate the Scaliger family, who ruled Verona in the 13th and 14th century. This particular tomb is in regards to Cansignorio della Scala. It's the fanciest of the bunch. Also helpful FYI - he orchestrated the assassination of both of his brothers to ensure his succession. Paging Shakespeare, anyone.

Across the river from the Shakespeare and churches and tombs is the Palazzo Giusti, featuring this lovely Italian Reniassance garden, built int 1580 and considered one of the best examples of an Italian garden. 

Another view of the gardens. There was also a bit of a hike on a large-ish hill that offered a view of Verona. I really recommend checking out the garden. The garden itself was lovely but it was a nice break from the crowds and the ornate architecture of the old city.

I had to cross the river again to get to Castel San Pietro, but luckily the slight detour offered me this lovely view of the complex. Located on a hill, the military complex provided defense in the Roman times and Middle Ages. Napoleone destroyed much of the structure in 1801.

View of the ampitheater within Castel San Pietro. I sat here and listened to a podcast for a bit because I was tired. The more you know! Travel insights!

Just a pretty view along the river.

The Ponte Pietra in Verona, straddling the Adige River since 100 BC. The bridge was largely destroyed in WWII but was later rebuilt with the original materials.

Back to where my day in Verona began! I had dinner at a nearby restaurant, watching the sunset on the Arena, watching the lights come on and the structure to take a very different look. When I first sat at the restaurant, of course sitting outside for people watching and arena observing, I realized I was sitting next to a table of Americans, who were discussing the election (this was the first week in November, mere days before Trump would become our next President and I would lose faith in, among other things, math). So I moved and nestled myself among people who didn't speak English and had no thoughts about Clinton's email security. It was a more peaceful dinner.

But it was a lovely day in Verona. When in Italy, I was trying a new thing - staying in one central place (for northern Italy, Bologna) and doing day trips to various cities. This allowed me to have to find/deal with only one Airbnb and keep my suitcase in one place, venturing across northern Italy with only an over-packed purse as opposed to my whole luggage. And honestly, for Verona it worked out great. I feel like I got a great overview of the city. That being said, there were definitely things that I missed and I could have spent more time in the garden and at the Castel and explored more churches. Overall, Verona was lovely but crowded and touristy.

Overall - I see Queen Mab hath been with you. Run free.