{Travel Tales: Malta & Italy, Part Twenty – Two Households, Both Alike in Dignity}

“Two households, both alike in dignity,
In fair Verona, where we lay our scene,
From ancient grudge break to new mutiny,
Where civil blood makes civil hands unclean.
From forth the fatal loins of these two foes
A pair of star-cross’d lovers take their life;
Whose misadventur’d piteous overthrows
Doth with their death bury their parents’ strife.
The fearful passage of their death-mark’d love,
And the continuance of their parents’ rage,
Which, but their children’s end, nought could remove,
Is now the two hours’ traffic of our stage;
The which if you with patient ears attend,
What here shall miss, our toil shall strive to mend.”

-William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet

Our last full day, and our much anticipated trip to Verona, arrived.  We had the day trip planned for months, much like our trip to Positano.  The Shakespeare nerd (as well as the fifteen-year-old obsessed with Baz Luhrmann’s version of Romeo and Juliet), was insanely excited to get there and see the literary references in person.

The day got off to a slowish start though.  We had breakfast, and then walked to the bus station to meet the tour group.  There were six other people besides us, an American family and two other women (I never found out where they were from).  We quickly befriended the American family, which consisted of two parents and their college-age daughters.

The day started with a drive to Verona, with a random stop at rest stop that seemed completely pointless aside from the fact that I was able to go to the bathroom, and I happened upon the largest package of Pringles I have ever seen in my life.  With this stop and the traffic we met along the way, it was a solid two hours before we stepped foot in Verona.

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We met our tour guide at the top of the city’s overlook, where she gave us an idea of what we would be visiting throughout the day.  I was so antsy from being in the car and wanting to start seeing some cool things that I was barely listening to this explanation.  I can tell you that Verona, much like Valletta in Malta, is a UNESCO site.  Actually, now that I’m writing that down, I’m not sure we were technically IN Verona at the overlook, since the city is supposed to be a completely walled city.

We walked down the winding path to the main bridge leading into the city, crossing over the river.  Immediately, you can see the Verona charm and, aside from the tourists in their modern day clothes, picture the Shakespearean scenes.

We walked over to our first stop: a church.  I have to admit, this was insanely disappointing as I had visions of a Shakespeare filled day.  This church had nothing to do with either William Shakespeare of the legend of Romeo and Juliet.  It was, however, a nice church.  Called the Cathedral Complex, it was made up of pieces from other churches which kind of got all merged together.

From this church we continued to the next church, still wondering when we would get to see the sights from Romeo and Juliet.  Truth be told, we started to get a little paranoid that we were on the wrong tour as the website led us to believe that it would be much more Shakespeare-oriented than it actually was.

The next church we visited was Sant’Anastasia Basilica.  We spent a lot more time in there than in the Cathedral Complex, simply because it was larger, and there was more to see and look at.  I kind of wandered around while the tour guide was talking about various things, taking pictures.  I probably make myself sound like a jerk for not really paying attention to a lot of the things the tour guide said.  I’m not an auditory learner.  I meant to grab a brochure at the end of our visit so I could read about it (I take in much more information while reading something myself), but I neglected to do that.  However, according to a Verona Tourism website, the church is “a Gothic church constructed between 1290 and 1481. Note outside the unfinished façade with the splendid Gothic portal.  Inside, you can see altars and chapels with works by Pietro da Forlezza, Cattaneo, Michele da Firenze, Liberale da Verona, Girolamo dai Libri, Giolfino, Brusasorci; the noteworthy fresco by Altichiero in the Cavalli chapel; the famous “Saint George and the Princess” painted by Pisanello; at the entrance the singular hunchbacks of the holy water stoup.”

After Sant’Anastasia, we were nearing the historic part of the city.  We walked up one of the main streets and saw the “supposed” house of the Montagues.  Our tour guide told us that there is not a lot of actual history to support the idea that Romeo and Juliet themselves existed.  The Montagues and the Capulets were real, but there’s no real proof that the love story was a thing.  What we know as the story of Romeo and Juliet most likely came from the Italian town of Siena, actually.

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The supposed house of the Montagues.

We crossed into a square and saw the statue of Dante, and this is where we were told to go off on our own for lunch.  Sarah and I opted out of lunch as we wanted to have a big dinner on our last night in Italy, but we did get our gelato and a small snack and coffee.

Once we had done that, we snuck into Juliet’s house a little early.  We had been told that we were visiting, but we wanted to be able to see it for as long as we wanted, and so we actually visited it twice that day.

Juliet’s house is through an entryway that opens up into a square.  Looking up, you see the balcony where she gave her famous “wherefore art thou Romeo” speech.  The main draws of Juliet’s house are this balcony and the statue of Juliet.  Legend has it that if you touch the breast of the statue, you will have luck (left breast for love, right breast for money).  This has been done so many times that the original statue was replaced with a copy so that it would not be worn down.  Also at Juliet’s house you will find messages and names written and stuck to the wall, which people did in really makeshift ways: there were tons of band-aids and I even saw a maxi pad at one point.

Though we visited twice, I’ll post the pictures from both visits at the same time.

We took the rest of the lunch time to wander Verona a little bit and do some shopping, and just general looking around.  I had seen a Toulouse Lautrec exhibit while we were walking and we tried to get back to it but were concerned we wouldn’t get back in time, being as neither of us knew the size of the museum we would be going to.

We met back up with the group and went to the scheduled visit to Juliet’s house.  We touched the breast twice for luck in love (hope that doesn’t cancel it out!), and then it was on to the Verona Arena, an amphitheater that resembles the colosseum.  This was one of my favorite spots of the day.  Inside, they were setting up the stage for the following day’s production of Aida, so large cranes were moving around a number of Egyptian set pieces.

From there our walk around Verona continued, with a final stop at Castelvecchio, stopping to look at more sights along the way.  The castle itself was built along the river, and was intended for protection and to give Adige by Cangrande II della Scala an easy escape should the castle ever be attacked.  At one point in history it had a moat, but that has since dried up or was drained.  We spent some time on the castle grounds, walking down the path to a scenic overlook.

After a quick walk to the square where we would meet a cab to take us to the train station, our final activity in Verona was actually a quick ice cream break.  However, as we had already had ice cream and wanted to get some after dinner, we got some water and walked to meet the guide.

We piled into cabs and then arrived at the train station about twenty minutes early for our departure back to Venice.  The ride was without incident (good or bad!) and we got back and began our journey from the station to the hotel to get ready for dinner.  While we away from Venice, there must’ve been one hell of a thunder storm because the skies were crazy dark.  I managed to get a bunch of pictures of it as we were walking back.

Thankfully the rain was over, and it left behind a cool breeze.  Our walk back was easy and pleasant.  We dropped off and things and walked across the Rialto Bridge to a row of restaurants we had seen throughout our days in Venice but hadn’t tried.  Dinner was a caprese salad and spaghetti with clams followed by dessert gelato (not at the restaurant).

It was actually starting to get dark when we finished dinner and walked to get our final gelato in Italy, and we were able to stop at the Rialto Bridge as we crossed back over to the hotel and get some pictures.  But then it was time to head back, as we had an early flight to catch in the morning.

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Our flight the next day was set to leave at 10:55, so we wanted to get there by 8:30.  Rather than struggle with the suitcases and the vaporetto, we paid for a water taxi.  It was expensive, but worth it, especially for the private escort, but also because the dock was right in front of the hotel.  As we were being whisked to the airport, I took some final pictures of Venice along the way.

The airport process was thankfully easy, and after a quick stop at the duty free shop (where I bought an aperol spritz kit!), we got on the flight.  Nothing excited to report there aside from the few pictures I got of the Alps as we were flying over them.

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We arrived home safely, and just like that our twenty-six day adventure went by in what felt like a week.  Until next time!

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