Visit Verona by Mouse
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Verona (Web site) (locator) on the Adige River is 323 miles north of Rome at nearly the same latitude as Milan, 107 miles to its west, and Venice, 73 miles east. Verona's Roman history is marked with violence and bloodshed from invading forces that included barbarian invasions, and later, Austrian and French armies, internecine battles among local princes and dukes that included slaughters of thousands from neighboring towns, and even fratricide. Its WWII era witnessed willing collaberation with fascists that included sending off Jews to Nazi concentration camps and a prison in which Allied soldiers, anti-fascists and Jews were tortured. But rest assured that today you will be as safe there as in any other safe European city. It is a beautiful city with many ancient structures that are the reason why Verona is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Verona was our first city stop after crossing the Brenner Pass from Austria. When we checked into our campground, the warden asked if we wished to attend the Opera that night. It was to be Verdi's Aida and it was to be performed in the Roman ampitheater which dates from 30 AD. It did not take us long to decide to attend. A bus would be there to pick up everyone who wanted to go, and bring us back. Perfect.
Well, not exactly perfect, as it turned out. The bus was late arriving at the camp. Then there was a huge thunderstorm and downpour as we waited to enter the ampitheater which soaked us thoroughly. After we climbed huge, irregular, ancient stone steps to get to our rain- soaked seats the rain let up. Soon we found ourselves seated in a huge ampitheater, called the Arena, with 15,000 other opera goers. We were pretty high up and were amazed to realize that we could hear the orchestra and singing perfectly without strain. The production had been designed by Franco Zeffirelli. The set was beautiful, the costumes glorious, and when it got dark, the whole stage glowed with warm, bright colors. Just as we were starting to enjoy the opera, it started to get very cold. By the end of the second act we were shivering in our wet clothes. Adelle was worried that the steps down might be dangerous, being very high and irregular, and that trying to negotiate them might prove a trifle dangerous with so many people behind and ahead of us who also must have been anxious to get home and warm again. We decided to leave while the leaving was good. Which we did, before the last act. Never mind, it was great while it lasted.
We had over an hour before we were to meet the bus. The plaza outside the Arena is the Piazza Bra, which is bordered by a curved street with many sidewalk cafes and bars. We ducked inside one of these and ordered hot chocolate. It was unbelievably good and warming. Shivering stopped and we thawed. Just before returning to the bus, we took a short walk down that curved street, joining many other people who also were walking. Without realizing it at first, we had just joined into the passeggiata, the name given to the liesurely walk that people do arm in arm in the evenings to socialize, or observe others doing the same thing,in many Italian cities.
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  The next day we bussed into the city center again and walked around. We visited the Castelvecchio, a fortress with a dry moat (once filled with water from the Adige river) dating from the middle ages, built on a Roman site. There are also three Roman gates, the Arco dei Gavi which dates from the first century AD with the original street under it, the Porta dei Borsari, also from the first century, and Porta Leoni, dating from the first century BC. There is a Roman theater, and a stone Roman bridge, the Ponte Pietri over the Adige river which retreating Nazis destroyed (now rebuilt). When we returned to the Piazza Bra, the plaza next to the ampitheater, we saw that a large area near the Arena was the storage area for sets and props used in operas performed there. We took some photos of these strange colorful objects and you can see them on the photos pages.
 
Rounding out the attractions are some very old churches, for example the Basilica of San Zeno Maggiore which dates from the 12th century, in which Shakespeare placed Romeo and Juliet's marriage. It has a very tall bell tower which is mentioned in Canto 18 of Dante's Divine Comedy. There are several other very old and beautiful churches as well. There also is a Natural History Museum which has one of the most valuable fossil collections in Europe.
 
Verona is, of course, the setting for Shakespeare's play, Romeo and Juliet. Some enterprising people have provided the venues for any tourist who do not want to leave Verona without seeing Juliet Montagu's or Romeo Capulet's "houses" or the tomb in which the two lovers are interred. For more about this see the Verona web site. The houses, at least, are billed as authentic, renovated 14th century structures. We saw the crowds waiting to enter and decided not to tour them.
 
We did walk down the Via Mazzini, a posh shopping street that runs from the Arena to the Piazza delle Erbe, once a Roman Forum, now an open market area. There are several beautiful, very old structures on the square and on streets going off it.
 
All in all, Verona is a very enjoyable city to visit.
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