Returning from holiday, the slump has kicked in. I don’t actually want to do anything I previously did. Prepare lessons, write articles, or read through my manuscript yet again, among other things. So, I’ll write about Verona instead …
Sitting on the balcony at Albergo Aurora, a thousand conversations rise up from the streets below; I peruse the cafes covered with giant sunshades to protect their customers’ food from the harsh afternoon sun. Ahead is a muted terracotta building with shuttered windows, a lone bird perched on a log. Right, are more buildings, one of frescos and numerous baskets of summer flowers, fuchsia, and vermillion. To the right in the middle of Piazza delle Erbe is the Torre dei Lamberti, Verona’s tallest bell tower, offering a 360-degree panoramic view of terracotta roof tiles, churches, and the river Adige flowing green to the lagoon in Venice. It was used to call council meetings and to warn of fire; it has also been struck by lightning. Verona, the city of love, lays claim to the tale of Romeo and Giulietta, the star-crossed lovers of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, probably adapted from Dante, a tale of love and politics in the days of the Holy Roman Empire. There is plenty to fall in love with despite the crowds who flock to the statue; most have never seen or read the play.
A few minutes walk away crowds fall upon Juliet’s house, Giulietta’s Casa, for that selfie moment, leaving love notes attached to walls, caressing the statue’s right breast to bring luck in love. All singletons or those seeking true romance are keen to superstitiously touch her, cross their fingers and hope. The Casa belonged to the Cappelletti, the Capulet family of Shakespeare’s play, with the balcony set for the famous scene. Elsewhere in the city is Giulietta’s tomb, not terribly exciting in itself, and far less popular, but sat alongside a gem, the Cavalcascelle, an astonishing museum of frescos set within a thirteenth-century convent. Everyone loves a good romance, however, so there is no likelihood of Giulietta’s attraction waning any time soon, as people seek out her balcony, not her tomb. The idea of death fascinates more than the reality.
Verona is a compact honeyed city of around 260,000 inhabitants. It is dominated by a beautifully preserved amphitheatre, once used for gladiatorial combat but now as a stunning historical setting for opera and other musical/performance events. The cheap seats involve sitting on stone steps, even the young standing and stretching during overlong intervals, but whatever price you pay, if rain starts, the opera stops. Orchestras cannot risk rain on their instruments, but seeing all of the tempestuous opera, Carmen, bar the last act before thunder and lightning halted the performance on an otherwise balmy July evening, was not to be forgotten. The pink-tinged marble of the arena glowing in the clearest sunset adds its warmth to the city. This is a superbly preserved building from the first century, predating the Colosseum no less. God knows how many people died building it.
Not too far from the Arena, the Museo di Castelvecchio has seriously ornate fishtail battlements creating a castellated monument, with views to the River and beyond. Although originally fourteenth century, it was badly damaged by both Napoleon and the bombing of World War II. Now home to statues, paintings, and frescos, it is surely the views to the bridges over the jade hue of the River Adige which are its crowning glory.
Churches, with Christian iconography of the highest order, the sounds of bells, cicadas, and city hubbub, the sight of frescos, terracotta, and the greenest of rivers, are the fabric of Verona. The people are friendly, too; it feels safe and maternal. Female. The churches have an open door policy. Santa Anastasia impresses first. The church dedicated to Anastasia, saint of potions, is an overwhelmingly eclectic collection of art, fresco, and rich terracotta sculptured wall panelling. The frescos adorning the columns especially worthy of attention, the church is awesome in its true sense. It stops you in your tracks, invites attention. The cathedral is also suitably impressive with many stories narrated in paintings, portrayals of the crucifixion at every turn. No nails used here but barbs, the suffering graphically omnipresent. The churches are welcoming, the bells call the faithful to mass. They are a huge part of this place, more vibrant than many English churches.
Verona, Verona – a beautiful city of statues, fountains, clay tiles, and ornate ceramics, forming visible layers of history. Walls painted the rich baked earth colours of ochre, teal, terracotta complement the iron balconies and darkened shutters, essential in the heat of the day. It is beautifully alive.
Well, I never finished it, but you get the gist…and it beats the chores and labours I have returned to …