Today, we waved goodbye to Milan (for now) and said hello to the gorgeous city of Verona! Before looking out the window of the bus at this city for the first time, the only vision in my head was the picture of Verona that William Shakespeare illustrated through his imagery in Romeo and Juliet. Although we were not given warm, sunny weather, I was still marvelling at the beauty and bursting color of Verona. Each building is an architectural masterpiece, but in a very different way than Milan. Most buildings in Milan are newer but built in an older style because of the bombing that occurred in World War II. However, Verona has very old buildings because they last time they had to rebuild was in the Middle Ages when an earthquake destroyed their beautiful city. Walking through each charming, colorful street, I was getting a different feel for this city than I was for Milan.
One area that I particularly enjoyed was Bra Square in Verona, which was full of old buildings. Our tour guide pointed out that when one says “old” in Italy, it means “really, really old” because cities like Verona have been around since the Roman Empire. The highlight of this square, which serves as the city’s center, is that it houses Arena di Verona. This building is very unique because at the time because it could hold around 24,000 people, a capacity that superseded its population. This means that everyone in all of Verona could find a seat there for each event. It was quite interesting to hear that sophisticated operas took place in the very same place as that gladiator fights. One day, people might go to the arena to listen to some angelic music, and the next day, they might go watch two people fight to the death and vote on the fate of the loser (thumbs up indicates death and thumbs down indicates mercy).
One thing I noticed that was very interesting was how prominent class was in ancient Italian culture. There were 72 gates in the arena: 68 were dedicated to the “plebians” (the commoners), 2 were dedicated to the “patricians” (the rich people), 1 dedicated to the winner of the gladiator fight to exit from, and the final one dedicated to the loser of the fight to exit from (whether he was dead or alive). The fact that they had to enter separately shows that the rich and the poor were highly divided. The proportion of the gates dedicated to commoners and those dedicated to the wealthy likewise show that there were far more poor than rich.
One small detail that I thought was funny was how their ticket system was more eco-friendly centuries ago than it is today. Tickets were made of stones, and they would distribute the stones and collect them back at the end of each event to reuse for the next one!
Another site we were able to visit was Juliet’s balcony, a place that reawakened my inner literature nerd. I was shocked to learn that although Shakespeare’s rendition is fictional, the whole story may not be because there were two feuding families in Verona of similar names. The Monticolis and Cappelettis were two prominent families in Italy at the time Romeo and Juliet was said to take place. It was very interesting to see this historical site where the famous balcony could have taken place had this tragedy been true.
I likewise really enjoyed going to the Castelvecchio Bridge, which offered a picturesque view of Verona with the Alps just casually standing in the background. Many of the views I have seen on this trip are sights that cannot compare to anything I have ever seen, and this one is definitely up there. The bridge is outside a castle that is protected by walls to protect the lord from his brothers who may try to kill him to inherit his position or commoners who dislike the lord.
I know that Paris is the city of love, but Verona must be a close second for this title. Little hearts with initials or names written in them were scattered throughout many of the cities main roads and bridges, especially near Juliet’s balcony. It is quite entertaining to see all of the various names and dates, and it really adds to the charm of this city. I cannot wait to explore this city more tomorrow!!