My latest (and last – sigh) escape of the summer was to the beautiful city of Verona with my lovely boyfriend – it was also probably the holiday I’ve been most looking forward to.
Tom and I had said all summer that we wanted to go away together, but didn’t until a few weeks ago actually decide where, when and for how long we wanted to go for. I’m not sure how exactly we came up with Verona but it was cheap, accessible and looked right up our street.
We arrived in the so-called City of Love (which, I always thought was Paris?) early on a Sunday morning. It was bright, sunny and stiflingly hot!
We were staying in an airbnb apartment just off of the Piazza delle Erbe – Verona’s most popular square, full of fancy cafe’s, markets and shops. It’s also just next to Juliet’s House – but back to that later.
After settling in, and our airbnb host telling us EVERYWHERE in Verona we had to see, and all of the restaurants we had to go to, we went for a little wander to one of the places he suggested.
We decided to go up a hill nearby that our host had suggested, he told us the views were spectacular (they were!)
It’s also the site of one of the theatres in Verona, the one that shows Romeo and Juliet, which you can just about see it in the photo below.
However, I will add, that walking up a tonne of steps in 35 degree heat isn’t exactly the most comfortable thing in the world. The view, however, made it all worth it.
We went for a drink and snack in the restaurant at the top, before deciding we better go home for a nap – we’d been up since 3am and we were gonna be at the opera all evening, so a little cat nap was needed.
Next – the opera!
We were very lucky in that while we were there, we were able to see one of the opera’s shown at the arena. Unfortunately, the last show was on the first night we arrived – obviously we knew we HAD to go, but it was a shame it was going to be when we were so tired from travelling (and lack of sleep).
We’d read online that although the show started at 8.45, you needed to get there early. We reached the Piazza Bra, (the square which housed Verona’s renowned arena), at around 7.45, hoping to grab some dinner and then make our way into the arena – however we got there to see that there was already (!!!) a queue outside the standard entry doors. So reluctantly, I began to queue and Tom went off in search of sandwiches.
My parents, having visited the opera in Verona on their honeymoon, told us that we MUST buy cushions as for the lowest price seats (which, we, unfortunately had..) you’re sat on stone steps, which unsurprisingly are a) the most uncomfortable seat in the world and b) boiling hot from a day of 38 degree heat. There were a few stalls outside selling them, and although we knew we could rent some inside, we didn’t want to risk there not being any left so we bought a couple before we went in.
When we did finally get inside, an hour or so later, we were greeted with what can only really be described as something of a spectacle.
It was bigger than expected, easily seating around 10,000 people and it filled up quickly. There was still an hour or so until it actually started – so we ate our sandwiches, bought a couple of glasses of wine, took a few pictures and settled in for what was going to be a very LONG night!
We were seeing AIDA, which for anyone who doesn’t know (myself included) is an opera based in Egyptian times and it’s a forbidden love story of a slave named Aida and the soldier she’s in love with. You can probably guess the storyline. It was 4 hours long, with 20 minute intervals every hour and 10 minute scene changes every half hour – I won’t do the maths, but you can see that this was one bloody long show.
When the sun set, the candles came out and the show began:
Now, confession time… We couldn’t make it until the end… The thing was, we had barely slept, we’d already been there for four hours (and it was only halfway through), Tom was too blind to read the subtitles and it was extremely uncomfortable and frankly, a little boring.
It was one of those things that I’m really glad I did but I’m in no rush to do again. However, I will thus share my top tips if you’re ever planning on going to Verona Arena to watch an opera:
- Don’t pick AIDA. It’s long, it’s predictable and if you don’t speak Italian it’s pretty boring.
- Take a cushion, buy a cushion, rent a cushion – just take all the fucking cushions because that stone (as you can probably imagine) is the most uncomfortable thing in the fucking world.
- If you’re in the cheap seats – sit on the row below the one they keep clear for people to walk along. If you go, you’ll see that they shift everyone off this one row about halfway down the seating area, if you sit below this, you get a back rest – makes the whole thing a hell of a lot more bearable – especially if you followed No.2 and brought a shit load of cushions.
- Bring your own food and wine AND WATER – it’s fairly expensive inside and you’re likely to want it once you’re in there – they also run out of water v quick so make sure you bring your own.
- Turn up at least an hour and a half early if you want decent seats.
- Bring a lighter so you can actually light your candle.
- You can actually go and and come back in, so if you’re getting fed up, maybe go for a drink and then come back – just make sure you get the stamp or whatever they give you so you can get back in.
- Actually stay until the end – we missed out on this – but apparently everyone throws their cushions at everyone in the posh seats when the show finishes and I hear it’s a bit of a spectacle – I’m pretty gutted we missed out.
- You don’t need to dress fancy, most people just go in whatever they were wearing during the day.
- Read the subtitles or you won’t have the faintest clue what’s going on.
The next morning we woke up fresh and raring to go. Tom’s friend was staying with his girlfriend near Lake Garda and were passing through Verona on their way to the Alps, as the coincidence was almost too much, we obviously met them for lunch – and there was no better place to meet than the most touristy place in Verona – Juliet’s House.
If you’ve ever seen the film Letters to Juliet, I’d just like to point out that Juliet’s house isn’t anything like the way it is portrayed in that film. The reality is not crying girls writing letters to Juliet but more tourists fighting to get a picture holding the statue’s boob. The place is also COVERED in graffiti – the story behind it being that if you wrote yours and your partner’s name on the wall outside the house, Juliet would put her spell on you and your love will last for eternity. The problem is that the site is protected and anyone found trying to stick anything to the walls or consuming food (they have a chewing gum problem) gets a 500 euro fine – no thanks, I’ll take my chances.
We then went for a walk and a lovely lunch somewhere around the corner and did our best to keep out of the midday sun.
Later Tom and I went to a museum recommended by our host called the Castelveccio, which as you can probably guess was a castle.
And here is Tom in said castle..
It had some pretty beautiful views over the river…
And favourable photo opportunities…
And when we had sufficiently sweated our little bums off we headed back to the apartment for a little cat nap before dinner.
Again, we went to somewhere recommended to us, where we wined and dined on pizza, because what else do you eat in Italy? (GELATO!)
Later, a little merry on Italian wine and with full tummies we went for a little walk around the city, ending up back at bridge near the museum (pictured above). Before we knew it the sky started growling and was suddenly lighting up with great big purple streaks of lightning.
The next day was our last day exploring Verona, as we planned to visit Lake Garda before we left.
In the morning we went to the Basilica of San Zeno, which, if not the same as any other renaissance Italian church, was very beautiful.
It was then time for pizza in Piazza delle Erbe before visiting the Giardino Giusti (gardens), to again, escape the heat – a definite must see if you’re in Verona.
It was also home to a fuck load of terrapins – cause why not.
We then decided to have a little look around the shops before having an evening in of cooking and watching films.
We got up very early the next morning to get the bus from Verona to Garda, we got to Piazza Bra bright and breezy which was lovely because there were hardly any tourists!
We arrived in Garda and after a little bit of exploring, Tom thought it would be a good idea to walk around the lake to the next little town along. He claimed it was only about a mile. The thing was I already had a blister and I was wearing trainers. So when the path ran out and we were forced to walk across spikey rocks UNDERWATER barefoot, my patience started to wear thin.
We arrived at the next town drenched, in pain and pretty grumpy so we decided lunch was probably in order.
As I was hobbling around with a blister on my little toe, we spent the rest of the day at a beach (apparently the best one on Lake Garda) reading, sunning and having a little dip. If you’re heading to Lake Garda and looking for a nice place to relax (with facilities!) this place was pretty fab, it’s in the town of Punta San Vigilio just around the corner from Garda.
It was the perfect, relaxing end to the trip. We woke up the morning, got our shit together, swung by Romeo’s gaff – which is probably the lease inspiring place you will ever see…
Had our last lunch in the city of love, and made our way back to London.
All in all, it was a pretty special trip. It was the first holiday Tom and I have been on just the two of us and for that reason alone it will be one of my most memorable trips. I will however say that despite it’s name, The City of Love – for me that will always be Paris. But nevertheless, Verona (and Lake Garda) were beautiful and they’re definitely places I would love to go back to.
And now we reach the end of summer, and what has unintentionally become a bit of a travel blog – from now on there will be far less holidaying as uni starts again, and I really gotta knuckle down this year. So expect to see far more uni/london/general lifestyle posts as we approach my favourite season – autumn! Summer, it’s been a blast but I can’t deny I’m looking forward to getting back to the city and back to reality and wrap myself up in a big scarf! Lets do this!
Hope you’ve all had a lovely summer!