Amidst week three of classes, enjoying the almost 60 degree weather and bright blue skies (apologies in advance to all my friends buried in the New England snow), and packing to visit my parents in Rome this weekend, I’ve finally found some time recap my trip to Verona this past weekend.
Verona, for those who don’t know, is the setting of William Shakespeare’s play Romeo and Juliet. Every Valentine’s Day weekend the city hosts a festival called Verona in Love. Verona had been on Melissa’s list of places she wanted to visit while abroad, and after talking to my friend Carlyn who attend the festival last year, we decided to book the trip. We chose to go on Valentine’s Day, ensue cheesy awws, and while the weather didn’t exactly cooperate, it was an enjoyable day nonetheless.
We originally had looked into booking a train trip by ourselves to the city, but it was far cheaper to book it through a travel company. So, once again, we boarded a bus for the over three hour trek to Verona. We knew rain was in the forecast, but when we arrived the skies had yet to open up. When we first got off the highway, our tour guide was quick to tell us that we had arrived in Verona. As I looked out the window, I was quick to judge the city as it was far less than beautiful. It was dark and an odd cross between industrial and abandoned. It had me questioning the wonderful mind of Shakespeare and wondering how much creative liberty he took in painting the scene in his famed play. After another 15 minutes or so though, we arrived in the city center. This was the cute, cobblestone city I had imagined. After feeling much more at ease, our tour guide took us on a tour of the city, but it was less than thrilling.
We stayed around the city center and were able to see Romeo’s family’s house and crypt, as the play is based off of real people. We also walked around the festival, but because of the impending weather most of the focus was on the vendors who hid under covered tents that protected their artisan crafts and touristy souvenirs. Throughout the whole tour though, everyone, including Mel and I, were impatient because all we really wanted to see was Juliet’s balcony. My favorite part of the tour was seeing the different apartment balconies, with overgrowing vines and finely trimmed flowers. Appropriate for the place we were in.
Our tour guide dropped us off in front of Juliet’s family’s house, and told us that we were here. My jaw almost hit the ground, as I thought the street itself, filled with commercial stores, was where the famed balcony was. Luckily though, we had to walk into an alleyway, which was anything but deserted and through that passageway we arrived in a courtyard with the balcony. The alleyway was plastered with letters to Guiletta in many languages on everything from receipts and paper scraps to stationary. Melissa and I pushed through the hoards of people until we emerged into the garden. While the balcony was there and the area was well maintained for it’s age, it was a little underwhelming.
I consider myself someone who enjoys having a mix of touristy and authentic/local experiences when visiting new places. But when visiting a place where the one, and somewhat only, attraction is a balcony situated in a small garden, it kind of lessens the experience. My only priority was snapping a good picture of the balcony and to get a photo with the Juliet statue; the former being easier than the latter.
One thing the Italians are irrefutably horrible at is queueing/lining up. Yes I know that this is a British phrase, and yes I know I’m not in the UK, but it’s my new favorite phrase. Instead of making an orderly line that would not only speed up the process, but make it far less stressful, everyone mobs around the area of interest, pushing and shoving until they reach the front. While it was kind of comical in the beginning, after about 15 minutes of waiting, I switched on the New York City attitude I gained last semester, and pushed Mel and I to the front. We finally got our photo opp where you are supposed to rub Juliet’s right boob for good luck, we just went with it, and got the hell out of there.
We seeked refuge in a local restaurant as the rain began to fall. We ordered a glass of wine and a tapas platter while waiting for our late lunch/early dinner. We decided to be adventurers and got the mixed tapas platter. This included simple, yet delicious bread with the normal toppings such as salami and pepperoni, to unidentifiable meats and cheeses. The worst one though was the anchovies. Mel and I both tried it and I promptly spit mine into a napkin after tasting the fishy/salty nature. I’m glad I took a risk and tried it, but that was the first and last time.
After lunch we headed bad towards the festival to look at the different stands, and purchase some postcards. After finding what we wanted, we headed back to Juliet’s house to leave our letters on the wall. I wasn’t originally keen on the idea as I wasn’t sure what I wanted to write, and almost decided to forgo the plan. But, I figured I’m only going to be here once, so why not participate. It suprisingly ended up being my favorite part of the day. While most people’s letters featured their lovers names in big hearts, it was nice to feel like I left my mark on this wall of messages from people all over the world.
After that we headed back to catch the bus and got home relatively early for a change, which was a pleasant surprise. While Verona was a quiet, peaceful town, I definitely preferred Venice, but I’m still glad I went. The Shakespeare nerd inside me was alive and well and now I can say I saw fair Verona, where Shakespeare laid his scene.
Ciao for now,
All Photography by Emily Houston