Thursday, January 20, 2022

That Night in Verona. . .

 'Romeo, Romeo. . .wherefore art thou Romeo?' Juliet called out in Shakespeare's tragic tale of two star-crossed lovers.

Verona Italy street scene

Romeo was in Verona, Italy, as was his love, Juliet. 

And on a chilly weekend not so long ago, so were we.

Verona at Night

We were here as part of our 10-day Italian Escapade that began in Bologna (see previous post) and ended in Venice.  Both cities have charmed us on past visits. We'd decided to include a one-night stay in some place we'd never visited before - one located along the train's route between our two old favorites. A mix of nostalgia and new is always a good travel combination.

Verona - a stop between Bologna and Venice

After much pondering and a bit of research we decided that night would be spent in Verona, a city of 265,000.  

That Night in Verona

Rooms, considering it was late November, seemed surprisingly scarce and rather expensive. As it turns out we were visiting on the weekend of the Verona Marathon - an annual event that traditionally draws a couple thousand runners to the town.

We ended up paying a bit more than we had planned for a hotel room, but in return, got more than we ever could have imagined. Due Torre Hotel was a few blocks from the city's main square, a few blocks from the winding Adige River and opened onto Piazza Sant' Anastasi. 

Piazza Sant'Anastasia - Verona

In other words, a perfect location for setting off on foot to explore.

Lobby Due Torre Hotel - Verona, Italy

I have to admit that I could have spent my short stay just sitting in the lobby of our hotel, a former palace of the Della Scala, a Middle Ages clan who are remembered for both being murderous tyrants and patrons of the arts.  Quite honestly it felt we'd stepped back in time (despite all the modern conveniences) and were staying in a palace!

The Lobby Bar - Due Torre Hotel Verona, Italy

The Italian hotel group that operates the hotels outdid themselves on restoration of this facility. The lobby and its elegant bar were among the most stupendous we've ever seen. Breakfast, included in the room rate, was served one floor above the lobby in an equally elegant dining room..  And I just have to add for all my fellow pet lovers, the posh palace welcomes animals. These two four-footed guests were adorable!

Four-footed guests are welcome at the Due Torre Verona

Romeo and Juliet 

Back in 1562 when Shakespeare created the two lovers, he had no idea of the 21st century marketing tools they would provide this northern Italian city. Souvenirs of every size and shape pay tribute to Romeo and Giulietta, as Juliet is known here.

Now we all know that they were imagined characters, but that didn't deter city authorities back in the 1930's when they selected a house and added a 14th-century style balcony to it and for good measure put up a bronze statue of Giulietta out front.  

Waiting for entrance (under the star) to Casa di Giulietta

Today this tourist attraction continues to draw hordes of people. If you are willing to stand in the incredibly long lines and buy a ticket, you too, could stand on the balcony. It didn't appeal, especially after seeing the massive number of tourists waiting to get in on a late Saturday afternoon.

Exploring Verona 

We not only bypassed 'the' balcony, we didn't seek out any of the other tourist attractions here. We opted, instead, to simply enjoy the city. Our plan was simple: stroll around the town until we tired, then we'd rest up, and head out again in the evening: 

Verona's porticos

So under ancient wood-beamed porticos we went, past charming restaurants and retail stores.

Piazza's were teeming with people in Verona

Then across piazza's lined with cafes; their outdoor seating areas overflowing with people enjoying the sunshine while sipping afternoon beverages. 

This rainbow of temptations caught my eye in Verona.

It seemed this city had a bakery with windows filled with tasty temptations, on every block. And had we not been 'saving ourselves' for a pasta dinner, it would have been most easy to give in to temptation!

Section of the Adige River in Verona, Italy

We left the bustling central area and made our way back to the hotel through the quiet residential areas fronting the river. The horse-shoe shaped Adige River cradles the city on its route to the Adriatic Sea. The empty sidewalks at river's edge were a striking contrast to the busy piazzas.

Saturday night in Verona

Following our pasta dinner we strolled back to the hotel on once-bustling streets that had nearly emptied. The pace of those few folks who were still out had slowed. It was so quiet that. . .  

Evening in Verona 

. . .with a bit of imagination you could almost hear Giulietta calling out in the distance, 

'Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou, Romeo?'

                                                                             ******

That's it for this Italian stop, we were off to Venice the next morning. And that will be the topic of my next report.  As always, thanks for being with us for this segment of our Escapade and we hope you'll be back for the next installment.  Until then, wishes for safe travels to you and yours~

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Wednesday, January 12, 2022

Mamma mia! An Italian Escapade

The mist descended like a shroud over the old historic square, softening shadows and silhouettes cast from streetlights. We pulled our wraps a bit tighter and picked up our pace as we crossed Piazza Maggiore on that late November evening. It was rather empty and somewhat eerie; definitely atmospheric as we made our way to dinner. 

Just a couple hours later, under clear skies, we sipped wine at a table to the side of the square. A fickle Italian winter's night, to be sure.

Winter's night in Bologna, Italy

Winter isn't a time recommended by guidebooks to visit Bologna, Italy. But when have we done exactly as was recommended by guidebooks? We were ready for a getaway and Italy was a two-hour flight from Athens. Covid contact tracing paperwork was completed and pre-travel testing was done. We were off!

Bologna's Neptune's Fountain

Looking back, we think early winter was a perfect time to visit because there were fewer tourists, easy access to restaurants, historic and cultural exhibits and hotel reservations were easy to obtain.  

Street scene on a November night in Bologna, Italy

As it turns out we also completed the trip just before Omicron, the new Covid variant, caused a tightening of travel restrictions in December.  Now just keeping track of the near-constantly changing rules for entry into countries has kept us homebound in Greece. 

The appetizers were free, with the two glasses of wine


I chose to call it an  'Italian Escapade' because escapade refers to something daring and adventurous, which in many people's minds is any act of travel in this 'Time of Covid'. (I can assure you it was in reality neither daring nor adventurous - it was delightful.)

Nighttime in Bologna was magical no matter the weather

Our 10-day escapade began in Bologna, considered the culinary capital of Italy. We had a night in Verona and spent the remainder of our visit in Venice. 

Bologna, a city of just under 400,000, is the capital and largest city in the Emilia-Romagna region. Parmesan cheese, Parma ham and balsamic vinegar are among the specialties from here.

So much food and so little time. . .

We gave ourselves three days in which to taste and tour this once-walled Medieval city that boasts the longest continuously operating university in the world. The University of Bologna opened in 1088.  We could have stayed twice as long and still not seen and tasted all that this city has to offer. Our first morning's tour aboard a Hop-On, Hop-Off double-decker bus convinced us we'd never get to all the places we'd like to have spent more time. 


The Scout is to be credited with picking a hotel that put us in a perfect location, footsteps from Piazzas Neptune and Maggiore.  A hotel that was not only luxurious but also one with a bit of the remains of a Roman road running through its lower level.  Breakfast was served in a dining room at that level and gave us a chance to view a bit of Roman history up-close and personal.

Remains of a Roman road in the basement of the hotel

Breakfast was included in the room rate - which is often the case in European hotels. This was a feast served in an elegant dining room. So much food that we didn't need to eat lunch.

What a treat to drink coffee from a china cup at breakfast

Note I said, didn't need to eat lunch but sometimes in this foodie town, one couldn't resist eating lunch. Even the tuna sandwich stacked with thick slides of cheese, tomatoes and lettuce, from a sidewalk cafe was a gourmet feast!

Stacked tuna sandwich - couldn't be beat

I was researching a magazine article about Bologna with a food focus, so we quite often found ourselves in delightful markets that offered some of the most tempting selections. 

So many taste temptations in the Quadrilatero market area

And we sampled local wine, Sangiovese, and red blends from the Emilia-Romagna region. My favorite was a Pignoletto, a white wine from the area that came with just the slightest bit of bubbles. 

The Scout sips wine in the Quadrilatero 

The city, although considered the nation's culinary capital, is equally famous for its Medieval towers and porticos, the latter just recently nominated for UNESCO Heritage status. We love those ancient towers (after all, we live in The Mani region of Greece, also known for its towers.) In Bologna more than 100 towers once made up the cityscape; now just two dozen are left.

UNESCO nominated porticos lace the old town

One can't miss the town's two most famous, the Due Torre (Two Towers). The tallest, Asinelle at 97.2 meters, is open to the public and a climb of just under 500 steps gets you to the top. We passed on that. The shorter, Garisenda, is under renovation and is closed. 

Bologna's Due Torre

We were so enjoying Bologna that we considered extending our stay and skipping Verona, but then we'd never been to Verona, so we packed our bags and headed to the train station for what turned out to be a great introduction to a city we hope to return to one day. It will be the topic of the next post.



Before signing off, I must tell you that two of the smallest things made for the biggest culinary memory of Bologna. One evening I was looking for 'just a little sweet' as I told the waiter. He didn't hesitate and within minutes of my request we were presented with these two white chocolate topped strawberries each sitting on a tiny chocolate chip cookie.  

As always, our thanks as always for the time you spent with us today. Safe travels to you and yours!

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