Verona, Padua and environs: A break in Italy
Saturday 11 July AM :
Its a struggle to get the kids up this morning. Our dear daughter has arrived only last night, a 30 hr flight from Australia. She is, however, more awake than our boy, who is not a morning person. I drag them out of their beds and push them into getting ready. They are still sleepy-eyed when we leave at 9, and I am exhausted !!
We drive over St.Bernard Pass with its astonishingly alien landscape into Italy. The lake at the pass is tranquil and beautiful. We stop to admire the St.Bernard puppies in the museum and the beautiful little chapel in the hospice. We have been here before and seen the Roman remains. I want the children to see them too but they are not interested. Our young man seems to be sleep-walking 🙂
Saturday 11 July PM :
Our hotel, Verona House, is just beside the Castelvecchio. The garage is 500m away. Its a nice apartment, duplex, with a bedroom and a bathroom upstairs, two sofa beds and a kitchenette downstairs. All spotlessly clean. We leave our bags and go for a walking tour with our trusty Eyewitness Travel Guide, my favourite way of seeing a city. Our boy says ‘You know, not all families do this walking tour thing’ and I laugh, because of course they don’t !! Poor boy, he has just realised it 🙂 We all have our own tourism rituals. And this is our way. As usual, our map-loving son takes charge of the map and the guide book and we wander through the city, with him reading descriptions of the squares and buildings. We all take to the city at once; it has mood, atmosphere, history, a buzz..and it was very very alive. Instantly likeable.
We start with Piazza Bra, where the 2000 year old Arena dominates the impressive square. Seating 25,000 people, it is used as a theatre now. There are tourists milling all around and the restaurants lining the square are full. This is the opera season and the peak season for tourism here in Verona. We wander around, people watching and then head towards Piazza Erbe, the site of the ancient Roman Forum. It is very picturesque indeed. There are ancient fountains and beautiful mansions, many decorated with colourful frescoes. There are people everywhere as the market is in full swing. Its all very colourful and fascinating.
We then pop into the Duomo, the 12th century cathedral, for a quick look. Its interiors are austere. The tour book tells us to check out the hunchback in the front left pillar, which we duly do. From there we walk to the Piazza dei Signori which is lined with palaces, each one trying to outdo the other. Grand arched entrances lead into the square, one adored with a whale bone. The Scaligeri family ruled Verona in the 13th and 14th centuries and their palace looks impressive. Their remains are buried in a church nearby.
We then head to see Juliette’s balcony. There is a huge crowd in the small courtyard and everyone is getting themselves photographed with Juliette’s statue. The kids laugh and say ‘What a sham’, for of course its all fictional. But this ‘ attraction’ draws the biggest crowds of all !!
All this walking about has quite exhausted us and we are happy to find some dinner and retreat to our hotel.
Sunday 12 July AM :
We are slow to start the day. Though our hotel provides us with a coupon for breakfast in a nearby cafe, we are content with the cereal and milk that I had brought along with me. We set out today to see Vicenza, the hometown of Palladio. I confess, though I had heard of Palladian villas and read a book about an American couple who buy and restore a villa, I am quite ignorant to the extent of his fame and genius. Therefore I am happy to be able to see at least some of his architecture.
We head straight to the tourist office and get the audio walking tour. The town is quiet, almost dull, typical of Sundays in Europe except in the really big cities. The tour starts with the Olympic Theatre, the oldest surviving enclosed theatre in the world. It is incredible..a little jewel. And a perfect introduction to Palladian architecture.
The walking tour through the eerily quiet streets is interesting. The Piazza dei Signori is particularly imposing with its Palazzo del Signoria and the Palladian basilica. We find a cafe in this square to rest a while and eat some lunch.
Sunday 12 July PM :
We drive back to Verona and after a short rest at the hotel, I drag the reluctant family members to see the San Zeno Maggiore church which we had missed yesterday. It is indeed beautiful and the attached cloisters very peaceful.
We then head off towards the arena to see Aida. I am a bit self-conscious in my tourist clothes wondering whether the audience will all be evening dress. I need not have worried. Though there are formally clothed, elegant looking people heading towards the better seats, in our section high up in the arena, there are just tourists in jeans like ourselves. Its a thrill to be sitting where Romans used to sit and watch their more bloodthirsty entertainment. The opera is longer than we expect and the younger ones are getting restive. At times its very entertaining, a huge spectacle but at others its very serious and quite incomprehensible to us, who do not know the story. But I insist we sit through until the finish, and I am glad we did do that.
Monday 13 July AM and most of PM :
We hadn’t gone to bed until well past 1am last night. So we have a very slow start today. After checking out, we drive to Padua, our next destination. Tour book in hand, we set off on another walking tour of the city centre. Padua does not appeal to us as much as Verona had done..can’t pinpoint why though. We see another Piazza dei Signori, again very impressive.
But what grabs me most is the university, where Galileo was a professor.
Monday 13 July PM:
Leaving Padua, we drive to Mogliano Veneto, where I have booked a modest hotel. Well connected to Venice, this town thrives on the overflow of tourists to Venice who look for less expensive lodging options. Its not that far from Treviso which is much praised by my travel book. So we decide to drive there for the evening. Its charming enough but doesn’t catch our fancy. Perhaps we are all just too tired. We eat dinner here and then call it a day.
Tuesday 14 July AM and PM:
The breakfast room at the hotel is crowded with people on tour buses. We make a quick meal of it and head to meet our friends who who are cruising down the waterways of Italy this week. After a few false starts…its not that easy to ‘meet’ a boat as you would imagine, we finally meet them near Fusina, on the Brenta canal. We spend a lovely day with them cruising down the canal, enjoying a nice lunch and lots of conversation. We leave at 5 pm to make the long drive back home.