Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Verona, my love

There was something about Verona that got to me. It might have been the time of year, the perfect weather, or my mood, but I quickly fell in love with this northern Italian city. I was so disappointed that Big R wasn't there to share it with me. I know he would have fallen for its charm as well.

Verona is a quick train ride from Vicenza, and there was no question that it was going to be on my itinerary. I was a little timid to take on the adventure when I read that the train station sits rather far south of the city center. I wasn't sure how much adventure I had left in me. I am so glad I didn't get spooked because to have missed Verona would have been a shame.

And adventure it was. Of course it was, how could a day dealing with trains, buses, castles, arenas, tourists, and a teething toddler NOT be an adventure. The day before I had scoped out the train station in Vicenza so that I could remove some of the mystery that awaited my day. I already had the buses figured out and the train scheduled showed at least 3, if not 4, trains an hour heading to Verona. Unfortunately, I missed the bus stop for the train station, and got stuck walking nearly a mile to back track. Don't ask how this happened, it just did. I literally bought our train ticket the minute the next train was leaving, so THAT certainly was not going to happen, especially not with the stroller. The next "ride" to Verona was in 20 minutes, which wasn't the issue. The issue, according to little r, was that it was a bus and NOT a train that we'd be taking to Verona. Oh, the disappointments we experience as a little one. The bus ride ended up being pretty swell. I was able to toss the stroller underneath the bus and forget about it until we got there and we sat next to this nice Italian man that didn't speak a lick of English but smiled and played with little r the entire way there.

Once in Verona, the local bus system didn't take long to figure out. Many of the lines are designed to shuffle all the tourists downtown, so you could take one of many to get where we were going. Our first impression of Verona was the Arena, and what an impression it was!

Arena di Verona is a Roman Amphitheatre that was built in 30 AD when this location was still outside the city walls.

At the height of its era, the Arena could host up to 30,000 people. It is still used today for operatic performances and is known famously for its acoustical genius as no microphones are needed. You can see all of the more modern seating for these performances in red.

And the Romans always did know how to do things right. They were sure to provide excellent views from the top. Here is one of many.

It's a shame (again) that Big R wasn't with us so he could work his photographic prowess. My photographic skills are hanging out somewhere with my navigational skills - both would have been handy on this trip. You could climb all the way to the top, but the staircases were precarious and slick (especially with flip-flops), so my eyes were peeled on watching little r.

We walked around Piazza Bra where the Arena is located and took in the brilliant energy.

Piazza Bra is connected to Piazza delle Erbe by Via Mazzini, which is a pedestrian street lined with shops and cafes. Everything felt very swanky and very Italian. The details on the buildings were like eye candy and all of the balconies were draped with flowers and greenery.

Piazza delle Erbe quickly became one of my favorite Piazzas. I have no idea what this square is like on an average day, but the day that little r and I were in Verona, a market filled the Piazza. The stands were selling all the Italian fare you'd expect to see, but my favorite was the fresh fruit being sold sliced and mixed in a cup. It was a perfect snack for a warm spring day.

We stopped for lunch and sat outside to do some people watching in the Piazza. We had pizza, of course, and I had a lovely glass of wine. I wish I could say that the lunch was "lovely" as well, but little r had other ideas and it was anything but relaxing. I had them pack up his leftover pizza and I was so glad I made that decision because he ate the entire thing throughout the course of the day.

My hope that little r would sleep with a full stomach never came true, unfortunately, but he did behave well enough that we were able to see the insides of a few churches and visit many of the sites. Verona is a great city to just take in, and that's exactly what we did.

Juliet's balcony
My valiant attempts to get little r to nap in the stroller failed miserably. I was surprised by how little he asked to get out of the stroller though. I really expected that to be a much larger battle. One of the few times I did let him roam free I regretted it because his feet weren't on the ground two seconds and he was running down the street. If you have never been to Italy let me just say this, the drivers are a tad bit CRAZY here, so the last thing you want is a toddler on the loose. Yikes, yeah, I was freaking out. I left the stroller behind and started chasing him down. When I did finally catch him, but flip-flops slid across the thick cobble stones of the road and my feet went right out from under me. WABAM! Yeah, that left a pretty mark on my knee. I locked him back in the stroller and put on a pretty face. The last thing I was interested in was a repeat. Instead we found ourselves back at Piazza Bra in a super family friendly restaurant enjoying some "juice" and people watching until I felt rested enough to attempt the adventure back to Vicenza.

With a crown on his head and a balloon in his hand, we were ready to find a bus to the train station. The next train would be in 30 minutes so we took our time and got to the platform to wait. I opted to pay a little extra for the fast train, which also meant we had assigned seating. We were in Car 009, so I stood at the end of the platform. It was, of course, the wrong end, so when the train arrived, I had to sprint from one end of the platform to the other praying people would get out of my way. Then the balloon went flying, little r started screaming, and my panic button was pushed when I got the stroller collapsed and couldn't figure out how I was going to get us all up the narrow steps onto the train. A nice a Italian man helped me, and I didn't even bother looking for our seats. I plopped down in the first row I saw and the train rolled forward. Phew! Talk about cutting things close!

The train ride was a nightmare with little r, but he passed out as soon as we got on the bus to head home. He didn't wake up again until the next morning - hardly even budged when I put him to bed. Guess he was a tired little man :) I again ate trail mix and drank wine on the floor of the bathroom for dinner. Big R was stuck in court really late. I'm pretty sure he finally walked in after the midnight hour, but I didn't mind because it meant they were DONE and we got to spend the next day in Venice together. I had been seriously missing my partner in crime.

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