Verona & Lake Como

We began our tour of Italy today by heading west across the plains of the Veneto to Verona, the home of Shakespeare’s star-crossed lovers. Sadly, however, we were only stopping here briefly. verona lake como

Tip: Click on the links of the notable sights to enjoy a photo sphere in Google maps, a 360-degree panorama.

Verona

Upon our arrival, we were lead to the main piazza and to the Arena di Verona, a Roman amphitheatre built in the first century.  Located in the Piazza Bra, it is internationally famous for the large-scale opera performances given there.

Verona is visited frequently by those who love Shakespeare as it is the setting of Romeo and Juliet. It’s home to a 14th-century house said to have Juliet’s balcony, even though the building’s connection to the play is fictional. When the house was originally built, there was no balcony. In the 1930s an enterprising young man built one and capitalized on the fame.

juliet verona

What surprised us, however, was the graffiti on the wall in the narrow alley leading to the courtyard below her balcony. Here’s another look.

We were given just 30 minutes of free time to explore on our own. We opted to purchase a a couple calzones. The light continental breakfasts we have been provided just haven’t been filling enough.

Not All Goes As Planned

As part of a tour group, we have had the advantage to take in a great deal and skip the long lines at the Vatican. We are discovering, however, that some of the advertising is a little misleading, especially to those unfamiliar with the area.

arena veronaWe had missed out on the forums when we were in Rome (amongst other things) and we discovered today that we would not be seeing Michelangelo’s David as we had originally expected. Instead, we would be taken to the piazza where it had been initially erected and where a replica now stands.

We didn’t come all this way to see a replica so we are thereby making plans to skip the walking tour of Florence so we can see David. Our guide, Guisseppe, didn’t seem very willing to help us but we shall see.

Lake Como

When our group reconvened, we continued north to the Italian Lake District to visit Como, located on the southern tip of Lake Como, a favorite summer retreat of the rich and famous. It’s known for the Gothic Como Cathedral (or Cattedrale di Santa Maria Assunta), a scenic funicular railway, and a waterfront promenade. duomo di verona

Here we were afforded a leisurely afternoon due in part to our family decision not to pay for the optional cruise along the shore of Lake Como to see the fabulous villas. Instead we enjoyed walking along the promenade – Geneva collected beach glass while the boys brainstormed entrepreneurial ideas and computer programming.

Como Silk Industry

We then did a little window shopping. The stores here were too high end for our taste – Gucci, Prada, Sephora, Louis Vutton – my oh my. We discovered that Como provides silk for the fashion houses of Milan, Paris and New York, as well as Italy. Patrick couldn’t go home without purchasing a couple.

Silk has been part of Como’s existence for over 4,000 years, which takes us right back to the Middle Ages. In the sixth century silkworms were smuggled out of China in bamboo canes and brought to the eastern Mediterranean by two Persian merchants disguised as priests. From there, breeding of the silkworms spread to Sicily and continued further north.

gelato veronaAt the turn of the 18th century, Como became Italy’s largest silk producer, with the help of mechanical methods replacing older ones. Silkworm breeding as died down since WW2. Como now imports the cocoons from Brasil before the silk is woven, colored, and tailored to design in Italy.

Before departing, we treated ourselves to another gelato, carmelized fig and wild berry for me! I could eat gelato every day.

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This post is part of a five-post series, The Italian Scene: Falling in Love with Italy.  Join me tomorrow as I share our experiences in Pisa & Florence.

Hopscotch-August2016My post is one of many hopscotch link-ups. Hop over and see what others are sharing.

Romeo & Juliet :: Oregon Shakespeare Festival

This year, the Shakespeare play that we selected to study was Romeo & Juliet, arguably his most well known tragedy.  Written early in his career, the play is about two star-crossed lovers whose deaths ultimately unite their feuding families.  Alas … young, teenage love.

To prepare for the production we first watched Gnomeo and Juliet  – a silly version indeed, but it was a good introduction.  We then read Bruce Coville’s Romeo and Juliet and did a few copy work exercises.  More recently, we enjoyed the BBC animated production of Romeo & Juliet and thereafter studied some of the vocabulary:  enmity, kinsmen, rancor, anon, haste, banished, churl, haply, and scourge, to name just a few.
My husband and I have seen this play a few years ago at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.  The director then stated that because Romeo & Juliet was a play of contrasts.  He chose to highlight the contrasts.  The most evident way he accomplished this was in his choice of costuming.  The  older generation – the parents and their employed – wore Elizabethan costumes whereas the young generation – the young lovers and their friends – wore modern day apparel including school team uniforms.  He further emphasized the contrasts with their speech – taking liberty with the prose originally penned by Shakespeare for the youth.
I was particularly intrigued to hear that this year, the play has been set in the 1840s Alta California just prior the Mexican-American War.  As we are newly residents of California, the state history – the missions, the gold rush, and the battle for statehood, etc. is an ever-present part of our curriculum as we visit state parks and monuments in our regular travels.
Northern California in the mid-17th century was a vibrant and conflicted time in our history.  Romeo and Juliet – the son and daughter of two landed families (one Mexican & the other Spanish) locked in an old feud, are irresistibly drawn to each other.  Defying the hatred and distrust surrounding them, they dare to believe they can, and must, be together.

The director’s vision was fantastic … the costuming, the stage, the casting … everything was wonderful. I’ve been attending OSF performances every year for the past 7 years and this one is certainly my favorite.

The kids enjoyed the production as well, though Buddy was squirrely through the monologues, the fight scenes had his eyes glued to the stage.  He even asked to see the program a few times and matched photographs to the live action.

One thing we did different this year that we’ll be certain to do prior to every production hence forth, is attend the prologue.  It was very informative and helped to bring to attention some themes and things I hadn’t thought to discuss with the children beforehand.

[Admin Note:  All photos are from the Oregon Shakespeare Festival website.]