In Fair Verona

Our last stop on this Italy train, before we return to German programming next week, is Verona, an old, richly historical city most of us English speakers know through Shakespeare, or more precisely, Romeo and Juliet. (Of course while it’s the latter’s balcony that is one of the city’s biggest tourist attractions, we would be remiss to forget The Taming of the Shrew and Two Gentlemen of Verona.)

We were Verona-bound due to a birthday gift of two tickets to Eros Ramazzotti’s concert at the Arena, courtesy of SG’s father. Eros Ramazzotti, you ask? Only one of Europe’s top-selling love ballad crooners ever. Ask Nicole Scherzinger. No, I hadn’t heard of him either until SG’s father, wide eyed in disbelief, extolled his virtues. The day before we left for our drive down south, a CD arrived in the mail – a compilation of Eros’s greatest hits, according to Papa SG. It was on repeat the whole week. What a smoothie.

The city of Verona is about a 30 minute drive from Lago di Garda, the lake itself a part of the province of Verona. SG took the wheel and guided us through some uncomfortable traffic moments – I mean what do they do at roundabouts? It’s madness! – depositing us safely in a public car park a short stroll from the old centre. From there we sauntered in through the stone arch, and bäm, the two-thousand-year-old Arena. Just like that.

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But we had nine hours until Eros would take the stage in that very arena, so we strolled on. Past Vespas and expensive boutiques, suave Italians and overweight tourists, cameras dangling from necks. Past markets and overpriced restaurants serving only lunch, please leave if it is a mere drink you are after. Down slim, stoney alleys, past tiny shops selling strange homewares. Into an atmosphere-less cafe that served The World’s Worst Bruschetta. Past a cafe, metres away, that served pizza, atmosphere and free wifi. Didn’t want to throw a tantrum at all, the bitter taste of dried basil and unripe tomato on thin, white sliced bread, still on my tongue.

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Back up to a cafe that served good coffee and had both splendid waitstaff (faith restored) and people-watching capabilities. Back into the winding fray, en route to find Juliet’s Balcony, black and white mode truly on.

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We found the balcony, the little post box that ferries your letters to the tragic lover, the ghastly souvenir shops that revel in their ghastliness, the wall covered in messages. We also found half the world’s tourists snapping pictures of people posing on the famous stone. I bought Nana a postcard of the balcony – she loved Letters to Juliet.

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Down to the river and into a wine bar for a couple of glasses of red wine and reading. Up onto the bridge for numerous photos. We were drawing it out as much as possible, the hours passing slowly. Into a restaurant by the river for another Aperol Spritz and, after a while, dinner. A slow walk back to the Arena, which was already beginning to buzz.

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Then it was time; we bought cushions for our bottoms (the old stone gets hard) and found seats in an ancient arena full of screaming fans, the men as loud as the women … indeed the men in our row singing along to every single song. There was a woman in front of us who couldn’t, for the life of her, figure out why her iPhone kept photographing a big, thumb-like obstruction, instead of Eros. There were flashing headbands, Eros bandanas, parent/child outings, Eros to these kids presumably what Cat Stevens was to me.

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And there was Eros.

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And then were was me, losing my shoe, as we shuffled out, and a row of people not understanding SG in German or English as he yelled out, ‘shoe! shoe! Schuh! Schuh!’ Finally, after a lot of fossicking, it was found and ferried along the row, back onto my foot.

Then we drove home, Eros still ringing in our ears.