Goodbye Milan, hello Verona!! Almost a two hour bus ride later from our hotel in Milan, and we made it to Hotel San Luca in Verona. I slept the whole way on the coach bus, which was completely necessary to feel like a whole person again. Unfortunately, we have had a rainy first day in the new city. In the early afternoon, I walked a bit in the rain with my friends, struggling to find an open cafe on this dreary Sunday. We had a couple hours of free time before the entire group came back together for the guided walking tour. Once we found a nice place to eat, I had a prosciutto sandwich as my small lunch and relaxed on the large couches inside the cafe. After settling into the hotel rooms, the group went out exploring Verona with our amazing tour guide, Francesca. First stop: Arena de Verona. Found in the Piazza Bra, this Roman amphitheater is second best to the Colosseum in Rome, which is four times bigger. This Arena was built around 2000 years ago, and it actually used to have another outer layer of limestone, but it collapsed to the ground from an earthquake in the year 1117. Part of that outer layer still stands and shows what it used to be. Inside the walls of the arena, there was water seeping through the stone cracks since it is not an insulated structure and because it was raining. We walked through some large galleries that were used for entrance for plebeians, or just regular citizens, to go around the arena to find their seats. Deeper, smaller galleries were for upper-class attendees, also called patricians. The shows held in the arena also used to be free so that everyone could come because it was an important use of political propaganda. Gladiators would enter the arena from large arches, with terraces above them for the rulers and emperors to watch from. Then they would fight in pairs, with multiple fights happening at the same time. After finding the winners and losers, the audience would then decide if the losers would live or die. Thumbs down meant for the winner to put the sword down and let the loser live. Thumbs up meant to slit his throat. Very violent, if you ask me. The ground was made of sand in the arena, in order to soak up all the blood. Under Roman ruling, criminals or traitors would be crucified or murdered by lions in the arena. Now the arena is used for concerts and tourism, just lighthearted stuff. Verona is also the setting of Shakespeare’s work, Romeo and Juliet, but supposedly Shakespeare was not the first one to tell the story. A man from Verona wrote a biography before he died, claiming this story was true—a story of two lovers from the families, the Montecchi’s and the Capuleti’s (the Italian names as opposed to Shakespeare’s English names). We walked to the real house of the real Juliet’s family, the Capuleti’s, and we saw the infamous balcony from the story. Next, we were led to a castle just outside the city, that was built far because the owner was hated by the citizens. The castle was connected to a bridge, hovering over the Adige, Verona’s river, where in the distance you can see the Italian Alps, with some visible snow caps. Overall, it was a great day to see this new city. If I dare to say, I might enjoy Verona more than Milan. Updates to come.