We arrived around 2:30 P.M. in Verona after a nice trip on a coach bus. I was able to relax and enjoy the views of the Italian countryside while listening to music. At the rest stop, we were happy to see Pittsburgh represented when we saw Heinz ketchup and mayonnaise. Once at the Grand Hotel Des Arts, I felt refreshed and excited to be at the nicest hotel so far. My roommate Maggie and I have a balcony with a beautiful view that I am super excited about! Also, the hotel gave us each individual room key cards, which was a nice change because all of the hotels so far have given only one key per room which was not the most convenient.
We left the hotel for a walking tour of the city at 4. Our tour guide explained that the city is surrounded by two rivers on either side and surrounded by many walls built during Roman times as fortification. One of the first things we saw was the Arena di Verona, a beautiful 120-by-150 elliptic meter amphitheatre built under Emperor Augustus around 20 A.D. that is still used to this day, although its outer ring is mostly deteriorated. I was surprised to learn that the arena of Verona is actually older than the Colosseum in Rome. Past concerts at the arena have included The Rolling Stones, Black Sabbath, Frank Sinatra, AC/DC, One Direction, and KISS. There is also an annual opera night. I wish I could attend a concert while on this trip, but it just gives me a good excuse to return to Verona.
Additionally, the city is rich in marble quarries which explains the abundance of pink, red, and white marble throughout the city. For instance, you can see the marble in the streets and arena. Roman influences have shaped the city in several ways, like the parallel and perpendicular layout of the streets.
I learned lots of interesting stray facts during the tour: The basilica here was not constructed with the intention of serving as a Christian church, but actually used to be a court of justice in the time before Christ. There are only three cities in Italy with over one million inhabitants. Lastly, Shakespeare did not originally write the story of Romeo and Juliet, but rather added more details to a story that had been around for many years.
I am excited to be here in Verona and to explore more of the city on Wednesday. Tomorrow it’s off to Venice, the final city on our itinerary that we have not yet seen.