2005 Letter from Verona: Next stop, Verona, where we spent two days. The drive there took us through the craggy limestone Dolomite mountains. Very pretty. When we registered, we were given a list of the operas being staged in the Roman Amphitheater. The scheduled performance that night was Verdi’s "Aida". Did we want to go? The price of tickets included a bus ride to the theater and back to the campground. We had come during the Opera Festival. After due consideration, we decided that we couldn’t miss this opportunity. That meant that we couldn’t go into Verona for the afternoon, because the bus was scheduled for 5:15. At that time we were standing at the gate with a large number of other campers waiting for the bus. Ron brought a backpack with his cameras and our sandwiches, and I had an umbrella because the sky looked dark. It was quite warm, so we didn’t bother with our raincoats.
 
Big mistake. The bus was over an hour late –but that left plenty of time. "Aida" didn’t begin until 9pm, as we discovered when we arrived in the town. We got to the arena before 7 and picked up our tickets. The clerk assured Ron that the gates would open in about a half hour. In that half hour (which turned out to be considerably longer than 30 minutes), the heavens opened with a vengeance! We were grateful for our umbrella, but it really wasn’t enough. We were soaked to our skin long before they opened the gates. It was a real crowd scene. Indeed one young lady fainted and was carried out. And what a crowd. Absolutely soaked no matter what rain gear they had come with – and cheerful right up to the time the amphitheater opened the doors. We were in the first wave of people to get in.
 
We were sitting in The People’s Seats – marble bleachers from the first century. We therefore opted to rent cushions. We could not believe how many people streamed in after those who had been standing in the rain with us. We decided that there were thousands. Uneven steps – some so high that when Adelle tried going down to leave, she could not do it without help. Yet people much older than either of us were going up higher into the theater. It was absolutely an amazing experience – to view an opera with 15,000 other people. That’s how many were there. The acoustics were good enough so that there were no microphones. We were very high up and we heard it quite well indeed. The cast was almost 300 strong and they made a hellofa great chorus. The scenery, the staging and the lighting was spectacular.
 
Although the sky was certainly threatening, it never rained once the performance began. As night fell, it began to get cold, and we were shaking. We knew that the last act would not be over until 12:15 because that was when the bus would meet us. But we decided to leave at the second intermission, missing the last act. We thought that there must be open cafes and if not, walking around on ground level was certainly going to be warmer than sitting still, way up in the stadium.
 
We left and found ourselves walking through the main streets of the town with hundreds of other people. It is a pretty long street opposite the Arena, lined with restaurants and cafes. In Verona, everyone comes out to walk around, have coffee, gelato, a drink, or sit and talk in the late evening. The procession even has a name – passeggiata. We ordered hot chocolate to warm us up – and it was delicioso. Then we walked around the way we would have done in the afternoon, walking around the old town. Eventually, we met our bus "hostess" and the rest of the operagoers, and were driven home. Even though we hadn’t seen the last act, we enjoyed the opera – especially the triumphant procession at the end of the second act.

The next morning we awoke to the sound of an incessant conversation in Italian. A couple in the next site started talking about 7 a.m. and still had a great deal to say by 9 a.m. They were talking and laughing at rather high volume. Italian is a lovely, musical language even though we could not understand a word of what they were saying. After listening to this couple for a day or so, Adelle decided that talking is an Italian National Sport, and this lady is a champion. It was amazing that they had so much to say to each other. That afternoon, a caravan parked on the other side of us. It was owned by a Dutch family with a young daughter. After their time in the swimming pool, they set out a table with candles – and they and a friend talked incessantly in Dutch until long after midnight. So we had point on one side and counter-point on the other, all evening long. Adelle had trouble falling asleep that night.

The following day we spent in the city – checking out the sights. It was a festival day of some kind, so very little was open. But it was enough. On Tuesday, we set out for Venice, stopping before we got onto the highway for fuel and groceries. We drove up to the Auchan Supermarket, a chain we knew from our first trip in France, and found we could not go into the parking lot because of a 2 meter high overhead barrier. We drove on until we found a smaller supermarket and did our shopping. Then we drove along the side road and found that we could get into the Auchan parking lot from a different direction.

 

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