Chasing Romeo and Juliet: Our Travels in Verona

Recharged, next stop, Verona. I insisted that this was a place I would like to see in Italy, and probably for the most touristy reason of all – because it was the setting for Romeo and Juliet. I know, it’s a hopeless romantics dream and is one of the most silly reasons to visit a city, but no matter why we decided to go, it was worth it! Verona was a much quieter town than many we had visited, and we welcomed the change. The buildings were simply decorated, aged by the elements, and homey. There wasn’t much of a hustle and bustle, but more the scenery of quiet old ladies walking home to make dinner, hands full of fresh food from the market. We got to our place, dropped our bags and headed out to find dinner. We stopped when we saw cheap pasta and pizza! Both dishes were great, especially my pasta carbonara. Yet we were quickly reminded that Italians like to charge for everything but air at restaurants. We ordered tap water, and got bottled, which we assumed might happen. At the end of the meal we also got charged for silverware! We had to ask twice to make sure that was actually what the cost was for, almost hoping it was mistakenly a bread or service charge. Nope, just $2 each for a fork and knife. We left dinner full, a bit sour, and mentally packing our water bottles and cutlery for our next meal.

The first day, we decided to get up early and see the Casa di Gulietta. It was a small courtyard with a balcony, straight out of the story, and a statue to Juliet. Along the walls, lovers wrote their names and placed hopeful letters. Locks were strung on every gate, tree and fence as another symbol of everlasting love.

There was also a large quantity of gum on the walls and trees, although I honestly have no idea why. Yet, there was a palpable sense of romance that filled the courtyard and made it magical. Of course, in tourist fashion, I touched Juliet’s breast in hopes that it would bring me luck in my love life. Call me superstitious, but I’m not taking my chances! We also saw Romeo’s house, the fortress Castlevecchio, and Guisti Gardens. We saw a wonderful arena, which looked like a small scale Colosseum without the scaffolding. It was converted into a theatre, and the massive scenes and props for upcoming plays were placed outside it. Gladiators, Egyptian sphinx, swords and chariots were just a few that we saw. That night we had aperitivo for dinner – $7 for 2 glasses of wine and 2 big plates of food! And, when in Verona, we finished our night with a large gelato.

The next day we went to Lake Garda. We had read that it was a popular vacation spot for Italians and had plenty of water sports, beaches, and wineries. We also found out that public transit would take us, so we didn’t want to pass it up. In hindsight, we should have stayed in Verona. Lake Garda could be reached by the city bus, but you needed a car to see many of the attractions there. We found 1 small wine shop we could walk to, and went. The owner wouldn’t come inside to help us, so we just helped ourselves to tasting the wines and the free samples laid out. The “beach” we figured we would hit, but unfortunately was just large rocks off the sidewalk, and the water didn’t look too inviting. Murky, overcrowded, and landmines of swan poop. After a mediocre lunch, we decided it was time to cut our losses and go back.

That night in Verona, we got tickets to see a play of Romeo and Juliet. We both imagined it would be the full length, Shakespearian play, but we were delightfully wrong! The play started in Juliet’s courtyard with free prosecco. On the billfold, there were only 4 actors – Romeo, Juliet, Mercutio and Mercutio 2 (speaking in Italian)? It turned out that the Mercutios narrated most of the play and larger scenes with the help of the audience. At the beginning, they showed us how to dance like they would in the Shakespearean era. While we were joyfully dancing and embarrassingly laughing, Romeo and Juliet slipped in for the meeting scene. It was as if we were part of the story, setting the scenes for the actors to perform. From there, we moved all around the town of Verona, acting out some scenes as an audience, watching the Mercutios’ monologues or viewing scenes with the lovers. We ended up at a Theatre for the epic final death scene. While this version skipped some of the plot points, it turned out to be a fantastic show! I got a picture with the cast, and then received free ice cream as we left! It was a magical night, and the perfect end to our stay in Verona.

If you would like to see the play mentioned above (seriously, I recommend!), here is the website for information and tickets – https://www.teatronuovoverona.it/event/romeo-and-juliet/

Matthew & Stephanie

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