Centrally Located Verona Makes Visiting Veneto District Easy

Text and Photos by P.J. Wheeler

The City of Verona, Italy has grown in popularity over the last few decades; not only for being the setting for Shakespeare’s famous novel “Romeo and Juliet” and many movies of the same title, but for flicks, such as, “Letters to Juliet,” and “Spartacus.” Also, the city has the best preserved Roman arena, which is even better than Rome’s Colosseum. While both of those facts are interesting, location is what brought me; it’s only an hour and half from Venice and fifteen-minutes to Lake Garda by train.

I am living as a nomad, but this trip was a vacation with a stateside friend who had never ventured out of America and didn’t want to tackle being in a foreign country alone. Needless to say, I happily volunteered my companionship and travel expertise. Verona’s public transportation is user-friendly and tickets can be purchased upon the bus, but by calculating how many tickets needed over our stay and purchasing at one time at the tobacco store cut cost. Exiting the train depot we saw the station and located #51’s stall. Twenty-minutes later, we were deposited 300 feet from our vacation rental. Elena cheerfully greets and showed us our accommodation, the “Merlot.” The tastefully decorated all-inclusive room: kitchen, dining and living space overlooked the small family vineyard.

Down the hall is a bathroom and large bedroom with a queen size bed and dressers. I offered to sleep on the sofa bed, I’m a sucker for a view. The apartment size and set up is perfect for two, yet can accommodate three comfortably.

Wandering Venice

We had three days to investigate the Veneto Region; Venice was scheduled enroute to Verona, since train change happened at Venenzia Santa Lucia and the depot offers bag storage, visiting the timeless city was a no-brainer. Catching the 8 a.m train from Trieste, we arrived before the crowds. Exiting the station, we crossed over the Bridge of Liberty into central Venice, our first goal was to find a cafe for a panini and coffee off the main pedestrian route. With quest obtained at Majer, we settle in and enjoy. It’s amazing how Italians can take a few ingredients and turn them into something so spectacular that you cannot help but close your eyes and sigh.

A chorus of bings and bongs from the nearby church deafen out all table chatter and replaced it with bell song. Joyfully we listened. Expecting chimes of eleven, indicating the hour, the symphony continued well past the number, proceeding into the “this is getting ridiculous” stage and wondered what time the church woke it’s citizens.

Weaving our way through narrow alleys, following arrows to the Rialto Bridge and Piazza San Marco many homes seemed abandoned, yet their unkept appearance made them alluring; with numerous photo opportunities of romantic facades and trademark gondola’s streaming through peaceful canals, it’s futile trying to put the camera away. Occasionally, a store front beckoned to check out their wares, but most offered the same as the next.

We were delighted to find prices consumer favorable. Murano glass trinkets, authentic handmade mask and Italian leather purses become memento’s. Scores of tourist announced we had arrived at the oldest bridge in Venice, the Rialto Bridge, that spans the Grand Canal. It is one of seven bridges around the world that includes boutiques. Italy has two of the seven distinct structures, the Rialto and the Ponte Vecchio in Florence.

Emerging into Piazza San Marco we joined the horde of bystanders and stand in bewilderment. The astrological clock, St. Mark’s Basilica and Doge’s Palace all command applause. The grandeur of it has my mind drift to a bygone century. I inform Corinne that the interior of the basilica produces jaw-dropping wonder and awe. She eyed the significant line and was content not entering, onward we proceeded.

Strolling along the Grand Canal, stopping briefly to snap a photo of the Bridge of Sighs, we approach the Hotel Daniali, a “must-see” for me. I explain my lust for travel was inspired, back in the 1990’s, by the movie filmed here, “Only You.” Escaping the revolving door, we survey the reception room and from my numerous DVD viewings, I felt welcomed by an old friend. Behind the reception desk, rows of room keys attached to red tassels are hooked.

I want one! Trying not to seem like an imbecile, I tell the five-star hotel clerk that the movie brought me in and asked if he would play along by handing me a room key, as if I was checking-in. To my delight he found it a fun idea and we posed for pictures. It’s early evening and the sensuous wafting aroma of herbs and garlic from trattorias can no longer be ignored.

We chose to take advantage of the air conditioning and sat inside and ordered a round of refreshing mojito’s and a pizza to share. Draining the last of our drinks, we spoke of satisfaction of the meal, sights seen and accumulation of souviners; we decided to grab a gelato then make our way back to the train station.

Ferry on Lago di Garda

It’s a short train ride to the Pesciera del Garda station, then a ten minute walk to Old Town and the ferry dock. Our itinerary was not set; we let the incoming ferry select our destination. Selecting seats up top under the canopy, the motion breeze was a welcome relief from the August heat. A gang of jet-skiers crisscrossing the ferry wake provided entertainment. The view was enhanced by gently sloped hills, decorated with olive grooves and vineyards and rows of cypress trees that filled the landscape between colorful communities. The second stop was ours, Bardolino. There’s not much to do than eat and shop, which was dandy with us, since we granted the day as one of ease. The vibrantly alive alleys and boutiques held our attention for a couple of hours.

Hopping on the next boat back to Pesciera we were told that we got on the wrong ferry, because it had additional stops, that we didn’t pay for, before arriving at our port. Graciously we are asked to disembark at the next stop and then board a direct craft.

The bonus of seeing another village was not overlooked. Lazise seemed a duplicate of the other two villages we roamed, but with a little more appeal. I made a mental note to check online vacation rentals for future use. The temperature is ninety-six degrees with forty-nine percent humidity, we decide to call it an end and head back to the dock. While we waited I inquired if my travel mate would like to see Sirmione, my favorite lakeside village. Knee surgery ten months prior has Corinne feeling the miles we’ve covered, so cooking Italian cuisine at our property rental was voted in.

Verona is more than Romeo and Juliet

With miraculous luck, the 30,000 seat Verona Arena, that was built during the first century in Piazza Bra, withstood the 12th century earthquake and surprisingly its still in good shape. Opened year round, the best time to

 
  
 
  
 

visit is the summer months during opera festival, which runs the end of June until September. Stage props are sectioned off in the piazza and are changed out via crane; it’s a sight watching them being hoisted over the lip of the arena. The majority of the arena is open to the public, allowing significant insight to day’s of old.

It is unbelievable how many people flock to Verona to see Juliet’s balcony. The structure isn’t authentic; the city enhanced a courtyard with the balcony and bronze statue of the young girl to cash in on Shakespeare’s love tragedy. For editorial purpose we added the coordinates into my phone and made our way to the site. The crowd was thick, yet current flowed smoothly as we passed by love letters that are tucked and stuck to the ancient wall. Clustered around the statue, people wait their turn to pose next to Juliet, placing a hand upon her breast. Legend has it that rubbing her bosom will change your luck in love; knowing Juliet’s fate, I laughed at this notion.

With no interest in the ongoing circus, we snapped photos, declined paying to step foot onto the balcony and entered the gift shop to make our escape. Everything Romeo and Juliet can be found within, even “love locks” for the collection in the courtyard. Verona’s streets are lined with stores that vary from lowcost souvenirs to high-end merchandise. Interested to see if the prices mirrored Venice, we popped into leather and clothing boutiques only to back out in horror at the price increase, which is double at best. Venice is the place to shop and save.

Square, is a welcomed site with its authentic towers, fountain, palace and statues. During the Roman Empire, the square was the towns forum; today it’s bustling with tourist and vendors. There’s an array of diverse structures within the piazza; the oldest monument in the square, the Fontana dei Madonna Verona can be found in the middle of the market.

Torre dei Lamberti, the clock tower, offers a birds-eye view of the city for those who want to climb the 368 steps, or take the alternative elevator. Palazzo Maffei, designed in Baroque style, has six statues of divinities on top the balustrade: Hercules, Jupiter, Venus, Mercury, Apollo and Minerva.

Verona was once nicknamed “the painted city,” because facades were decorated with colorful frescoes. Casa Mazzanti gives a spectacular glimpse into the past. The multi-story building was constructed in the Middle Ages and Renaissance with arched porticoes and elegant balconies.

Currently, private residences whose prideful owners enhance the yellow stucco building with matching burgundy colored flowers and drapes, along with window shutters painted forest green. The colors dramatically magnifies the splendor, especially with sections of exposed brick and the top floor fresco.

Ending our city tour we stop to marvel the Castelvecchio’s red-brick walls topped with M-shaped merlons. The castle was built in 1354 along with a fortified bridge over the Adige River, to aid escape north to Tyrol if needed. Both structures have been damaged by war and have been renovated; the castle now houses a museum.

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P.J. Wheeler

Paula Wheeler has been living a nomadic life, since June 2017, as a freelance writer and videographer. You can find her adventures at www.atravelerspostcard.com

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