Verona and Venice (Italy)

August 7, 2010 (Saturday) – August 14, 2010 (Saturday):

In fair Verona, where we lay our scene…What to do here for a week??  Years ago, having gone to Florence, Rome and Tuscany…something new is now what we seek. (ok, that’s it with the “rhyming”).

Miriam’s been to Venice before, so instead of staying in someplace where either of us has already been, we stayed in fair Verona, a short 2-hour train ride from Venice, with the hopes to just relax for a week, in a B&B.  So Miriam found a nice B&B in Verona, just outside the main city center.

The B&B was great.  With only four rooms, which were not always occupied, it felt like we had the whole hillside villa to ourselves.  Breakfasts (consisting of croissants, sometimes prosciutto, yogurts, cereal, and fresh fruits) were served on the outside patio area, which our host, Marco, prepared graciously everyday.  On another side of the villa, there were additional patio seating where we could read and take care of trip planning, all the while enjoying a beautiful view of Verona.   At night, we would utilize the large dining area to continue to do more trip planning, while enjoying the bottles of wine we purchased from Germany and from our wine tasting trip in nearby Valpolicella (more on that later).   All in all, we thoroughly enjoyed our stay (especially the air conditioning), and the comfortable B&B a perfect escape from the wretched heat and humidity.

Yup, the European summer heat had finally found us.  After a month in Europe, we’ve mostly been greeted with mild climate and occasional rain.  But in Verona, the temperature would hover around 30-35 degrees Celsius (or 86-95 degrees F), not temperatures we would want to walk around all day in.  So luckily, we had a whole week to explore Verona.

My basic impression of Verona was….very Italy.  Small town, narrow streets, vibrant market squares.  Aside from the heat, walking around the town and taking in the surroundings was very enjoyable.  Reminded us about everything we love about Italy.  Much like Rome with its Coliseum, and Tuscany with its Duomo, Verona had its Arena — enormous structures situated in the thick of the city.   The Arena is an open-air coliseum, which during the summer months, is used to house the summer opera season.  Lucky for us, we’re in Verona….and it’s the summer. So, let’s watch an opera.  The opera we chose was Aida.  The Veronans?…Veronese?…Veronians?…let’s just call them Italians.   The Italians in Verona take their summer opera season seriously.   There are certain ways they like to enjoy their opera at the Arena.  For instance, many purchase the unreserved “seats” in the upper parts of the Arena.   I say “seats” because really you’re just purchasing an area in the upper parts of the Arena and sitting on the hard stone.  Knowing this, there are opportunistic vendors outside the Arena selling cushions, which we bought two of the inflatable variety.  Luckily we did, because not only did the cushion provide comfort from the hard stone, but also provided protection from the warm stone that had been baking all day in the hot weather.  Another fascinating practice the patrons of the unreserved section of the Arena do is to hold up candles throughout the beginning of the opera.  And when you’re in the upper sections, with the open air and the sky as a backdrop, it makes for a wonderful scene.

So that’s basically the most touristy thing we did in Verona.   Like I said, it was hot so we really didn’t want to walk around too much (and one day towards the end of the week, it actually poured, so we didn’t want to walk around too much then either).  Mainly we just did some light walking around the town and relaxed at the B&B.

As for day trips outside of Verona, we took a nice wine tour in the Valpolicella region to taste some Amarone wine, and also spent a day in Venice.

Without even knowing, Verona is quite close to the Amarone-producing wine region of Valpolicella.  We found a tour operator that gave semi-private wine tours of the region.  To me, next to Brunello and Barolo, Amarone wine comes a close third among favorite types Italian red wines.  After explaining the wine-making process of Amarone wines, the tour guide took us to the Campagnola and Brunelli wineries.  Two very different wineries in terms of size.  Both are family-owned and run, but Campagnola is much larger in scale to Brunelli.  Whereas Campagnola has a state-of-the-art assembly line production and bottling facility, Brunelli has a single (maybe two) production farmhouse.   But both wines were very good.  We bought a couple bottles and enjoyed them back at the B&B during the evenings.

As for Venice, it was my first time and Miriam’s second time there.   Having gone to Venice now, I must agree, it’s not really worth staying there . It’s probably better just visiting on a day-trip.  We got in most of the sights and did a walking tour around the city.  We found a restaurant (Do Spade) for dinner that served cichetti (Italian tapas).  We got there as it opened, and there was another couple, a Japanese couple, also waiting.  We got seated and then another small group of Japanese tourists arrived in the restaurant.  A few minutes later, another Japanese couple came in for dinner.  What’s going on?  We noticed a few of them had either a Japanese guidebook or some printout.   This restaurant must have been featured on some Japanese guide, because when we left after dinner (which the food was quite good by the way), all the patrons were Japanese except for probably two tables of Italians.  It was quite odd.

So that’s Verona (/Valpolicella/Venice). Next up, a 7am (12-hour) train ride to Zagreb, Croatia.

To view more pictures from Verona / Venice, visit the Photos.

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