#5 Italy (final) June 27, 2017
What a drive over the mountains! We were on our way to Verona and went on the highway north of Partina, which I haven’t driven for probably 10 years. The scenery is spectacular, but scary to drive.
We found our B & B in Verona using our GPS (they’re MAGIC!) which was well located within walking distance to all the historic sights and to the Verona Arena, the venue for the opera. It was built by the Romans in 30 AD.
Our first evening there we took a long walk, looking at many historic sights, and ending up for dinner at the Torcolo restaurant. We had a delightful meal—-sharing three courses starting with an antipasto of carpaccio of veal with homemade mayo and caper berries; a secondo of rack of lamb; and a plate of grilled veggies; a Wonderful bottle of Valpolicello Ripassa red wine from the area, 2013 (not to put too fine a point on it!), all of which we enjoyed. We were slightly disappointed, though, as the specialty of Verona is bollito misto, which is ‘boiled meats.’ On Torcolo’s website, they showed bringing a big cart of many kinds of meats for you to choose from—apparently gone the way of progress.
After all that, we got a little lost walking home, but eventually made it back to our B & B. I forgot I could have used my iPhone—-next time!
We pushed on to Juliet’s house and balcony—- have you ever seen a better looking Romeo? With hat in hand, no less! The tourist brochures imply that the story is real, and that Capulets really did live in the house——in any case, it is a 13th century house.
We were fairly frustrated looking for Romeo’s house, which we finally located. The reason it was hard to find is there is nothing much to see!
After that we had to give up and go back to the B & B to rehydrate and cool off. The temps were 90 mid-day, going to 96 degrees around 5:00 PM.
Dinner, later that day was at the Ristorante Arche, which has been in business since 1879. Again, we shared three courses: Sarde in Saor (a way they packed sardines in Venice for the sailors); a Charcuterie (prociutto, two salamis, speck and lettuce); then a main course of traditional horse stew with polenta. Verona certainly does have its traditional ways of cooking!
Friday evening we went to the opera in the Verona Arena. What a spectacle! The production of Nabucco was enormous with a 180 piece orchestra, at least 300 people on stage, wonderful singers, fun costumes, 12 horses, lots of ‘gunfire’ and ‘cannon fire.’
I think I bought the second to cheapest seats and thought we would be sitting up high where there are just stone seats, but no, we were taken to the second row from the stage on the side. We had bought seat cushions from a vendor outside at the suggestion of a woman who had been here before. But our seats were ordinary plastic auditorium seats, so no problem! We also thought that the voices would be amplified but they were not. I wonder if the people way up high at the end could hear them well—-we certainly could. Originally in Roman
times this arena held 30,000 people, but now they say it holds 15,000, and it did seem full!
The sets were marvelous, especially the ‘opera’ scene. The orchestra was wonderful (4 harps!), the director was totally animated and fun to watch, and the gunfire was terrific! It was scheduled to start at 9:00 PM (long security lines ahead of that) and it did start, Italian style at 9:20. Intermissions were loooong, and so it ended at 12:50 AM. During one of the intermissions we shared a Pepsi to keep going!
We had a nasty surprise after we walked back to our B & B. We had been given a key fob to use to open the outside door, which you hold up to a spot, it buzzes and you can open the door. Well, it wouldn’t open! We had used it many times with no problem. By now it’s 1:20 AM! My phone doesn’t work to call here—-I’m sure it does, but I don’t know how (somebody TELL ME) so we walked back to a sandwich shop and the man called Stephano. Luckily he answered, said he was at the Arena and would be along shortly. In the meantime two other women that we had met earlier arrived home from the opera and their fob didn’t work, either. Finally Stephano came and unlocked it with a key. Apparently somebody had locked it from the inside—-what a system!
After our morning cappuccino and corneto at a coffee bar, as usual, we just went back to our room (with A/C) and rested until lunchtime. Verona has several museums, art galleries of interest, but with the opera lasting until 1:00 AM, and the weather so hot (95 degrees and humid) we felt we had to conserve our strength and not sightsee all day.
We did have a terrific pranso, though at Ristorante Locanda Castelvechio, which did have the bollito misto (boiled meats). While they didn’t bring them on a cart, the waiter made a plate of them to bring to us with four sauces, all of which were wonderful.
Preliminary to that we shared an antipasto of beef carpaccio and a primi of gnocchi with shrimp and zucchini, both of which were excellent. The waiter had brought an anti-antipasto of cold grapes and warm hard- cooked egg with olive oil and he brought a bowl of pitted cherries at the end.
Again, back to the B & B to rest and rehydrate before going to the Arena that evening for our second opera, Aida.
And again we walked to the Arena (30 minutes) in 95 degree weather.
The inside was fun to see, too. And again, it appeared to be completely full. People around us were speaking many languages—-our next-seat neighbors were from Norway—-and the announcements were made in four languages, including English. The supra titles were in Italian and in English—-lucky us!
And again, the production was marvelous, using the whole arena to advantage with huge sets.
One very engaging thing was that during the second act, they built a huge structure while the opera was in progress. There were high-wire construction people with ropes and pulleys on their bodies doing this ‘construction.’ Unfortunately I was so nervous for them falling, or for the parts in the construction falling on the singers that I couldn’t concentrate on the singing. Eventually it was ‘built’ and portrayed the tomb in the last act.
The next day we drove back to Partina, using my iPhone to guide us on the ‘fastest route.’ This took us past Florence and then routed us over the ‘Consuma,’ which is the way the bus goes to Florence over the ‘spine’ of the mountain. It is a beautiful, if challenging, drive. However, there was a race in progress and so we were detoured to Valimbrosia, which went on a tiny road through a mountainous natural park. It took us a long time to travel those 15 miles!
The next day we drove to Rome, turned in our car and stayed overnight in the airport hotel, leaving for home today, Tuesday, June 27th. It was a wonderful month, as you can see from these emails (if you’re still with me!) and we hope to return again.