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