Today was a great change of scenery. Although we had to leave the scenic views of Florence, we have arrived in Verona, a town full of both history and beauty. Verona is a tourist attraction, however unlike Florence and Milan it is much less crowded and is smaller. It is the second largest town in its region, houses 260,000 people, and holds 2000 years of history.
In both Florence and Milan, our tour guides explained that when Italy was changing styles or when new buildings were being built, old ones were demolished and then replaced with the new ones. Verona however has not experienced this situation. All of the architecture here is the original. Nothing has been demolished and not much is restored because a lot of it is privately owned by the citizens who live in the town. The mentality in Verona is to never destroy, but instead to continue to add and mix styles and periods of history, according to our tour guide.
With that in mind it is interesting to look at the layout of the city compared to Milan and Florence. Milan is a more modern city, but at its center it is laid out in concentric circles. Florence was established by the Romans, therefore it is mostly parallel and perpendicular streets. Verona is unlike both. Verona underwent 3 stages of construction. The city was founded on the second largest river in Italy, the Adige. It was initially founded by the Romans so it began with a parallel and perpendicular street structure. They surrounded the city with walls and built the amphitheater outside of it. Then during the Middle Ages, a second portion of the city was built and again surrounded by walls. Finally, when Verona became part of Venice, the Venetians too built a wall around the city again. In 1866, Verona become a part of Italy.
Structurally, the city is very organized. It is very interesting to walk through the city and physically see the changing times of history quite distinctly. Both Florence and Milan felt like a more consistent and unified style. Even though Verona does not, it still has all the luxuries of both Florence and Milan. Luxury brand names such as Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Gucci, and Dolce and Gabbana continue to line the streets of the city. Tourists stop to eat gelato and eat and drink at local cafes.
While tourists can do the same thing in each of the cities, Verona has a different atmosphere. Walking around the city, I felt that I was in a small town, much like a suburb. Everything is very close in walking distance and there are numerous town squares. The squares are lively and full of markets selling everything you could imagine. Bags, clothing, scarves, souvenirs, food and so much more!
Not only are the markets alive because the various things to do, but they are decorated with ancient frescos. As I mentioned earlier, much of the possible restoration that can be done in Verona isn’t because buildings are privately owned. This unfortunately means ancient ruins and masterpieces, such as the frescos, are unable to be properly preserved. With our changing environment, these works are greatly threatened. Climate and rain have been more damaging in the past 50 years compared to the first 500 years that they were produced. Restoration does not mean painting over the pieces, but instead cleaning them with proper chemicals to bring the pieces back to life. This process would remove dirt and contaminants that have accumulated and destroyed the pieces over many years.
The changing environment has not just had these recent effects on Verona. Because of changing sea levels, even the architects of Verona many years ago dealt with environmental issues. As sea levels began rising, they had to increase the height of the city. This is intriguing because as you walk throughout the city, areas can be seen that look like drains. When you look down these drains, there is roughly 3-4 meters of space, then solid ground. This was the ground the city was first built on. Over the years, as the Middle Age architects and Venetians took their turn to add their creative aspect to the city, they have had to deal with this environmental issue.