I played, albeit only for a short time during preparations, Romeo when I was a young man. I would take the stage opening night as Tybalt, as I was the fight captain and we had a person who would join if only he could play Romeo and I couldn’t be bothered to recognize the arrogance of it for a community theater production at the time.
Northern Italy is chockablock full of smaller cities with infinite character, and Verona is a great example of this. Along with Cremona, Padova, Modena, Palmonova, Vicenza, Bergamo, and the larger cities of Turin, Venice, and Milan, Verona is a lovely place to visit. A little touristy, there is a lot more to see then just a stone balcony in a house that belonged to a family with a similar last name to Capulet. It’s also one of the most conveniently-shaped cities in terms of visiting for pleasure, as the bend in the River Adige has nestled nearly all the old UNESCO World Heritage Site architecture within the horseshoe-shaped turn. The UN declared it as such on account of its resplendent architecture and layout, and it’s no wonder Shakespeare decided to stage a street-fighting drama there, because they are nothing if not as narrow as they are charismatic. Home to one of the 4 great Flavian amphitheatres in the Roman Empire, Verona has beautiful sites from all the principle periods of Italian history.
Known as the “Arena” the amphitheatre has been used by virtually every strata of society for 2,000 years, but has remained intact to such a degree that it is not an archaeological site, but a proper concert venue. Capable of seating 20,000 people in the Roman era, the Arena is immaculately preserved, and the three amphitheaters I’ve seen could not be more different from each other. The Colosseum is enormous, filled with tourists, and strange for several reasons, while the amphitheater in Pozzuoli, which I write about here, was empty, and hauntingly reminiscent of its time as a stage for gladiatorial duels. In the Arena on the other hand, there were cables and fire extinguishers, bathrooms and merch booths, cabs and roadies, lights and rigging. It’s a proper concert venue, restored and maintained in much the same way it was 2,000 years ago, and I can only imagine how amazing it would be to see a concert there.
The rest of the city, which is only an hour from Venice and 1 and a half from Milan, was everything I’ve come to expect of Italy – drop dead gorgeous old stone and brick buildings with plants dangling in unison from the balconies. Quant bars with barrel-tables or cafes with intoxicating perfumes sit next to chic Euro-fashion brands in lining the arcaded streets of stone so old as to feel like silk to the touch. Every wall is a different color. Every plaza has a beautiful church or monument of some kind dating back to before my country existed. There are castles too, and Italian leather shops, and stone bridges and everything about Europe that we Americans love and don’t have. Here are four pictures of the Piazza Bra, Piazze dei Erbe, and 2 of Piazza di Signore.
I really don’t have a lot more to say about Verona, there were no dirty. grungy underbellies that provoked Bukowski-esque characterizations, only charm and beauty and lovely weather and good food. One thing I realized was that of all the lands of the world, even the United States, I might have seen the most of Italy. I’ve seen a sack of towns around where I live, all but one of the major lakes in Northern Italy. I’ve toured the islands of Napoli, seen all the largest and most famous cities and several others of note like Albisola, Lucca, Pisa, Verona, Varese, and Pozzuoli. I’ve traversed many of the ski-towns of Piedmont, and gone in and about the borders of Vatican City. I’ve seen 8 of their impressive 55 UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
It’s a good place to live – not only for its beauty, but for its density; as if you had to try and visit here on holiday to see this much, you’d need to stay constantly busy for at least a year. Being able to take weekend trips around this beautiful country is a true blessing; made possible by my loving and extraordinary Milanese wife.