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Verona, Italy

Driving through northern Italy was incredible. For the whole trip we were surrounded by looming mountains, several of which were covered in snow. The countryside was full of orchards and vines, mostly in the valleys but some also growing up the steep slopes. Every mountain seemed to have a castle, either at the top or halfway up. The weather suddenly became warmer too – the forecast for the next week is high 20s. It's like we've jumped back into summer again. 

Our destination was Verona, but the nearest campsite was 30 minutes out. There were several campsites around this area – apparently there were a few theme parks nearby, necessitating the extra accommodation. We picked one at random and straight away it was obvious that it catered for amusement park families. It was probably the biggest campsite I had ever seen, and surprisingly it was three quarters full. Lining one edge was a huge lake, complete with an inviting beach offering all manner of water sports. The site also had a couple of swimming pools (with five water slides), a large gym, an assortment of recreation activities, a restaurant and bar both at the pool and overlooking the lake, a supermarket, and a shop selling beach and travel-related items. Plus there were announcements in Italian, German and English informing guests of the various activities that were about to commence. It felt like we were staying at a resort. With all the options available we really should have made the most of our time here, but all we did was have a drink at the lake bar, watching the sunset. 

I was tempted to visit the gym the next morning, but we both decided to enjoy the fresh air and go for a run along the streets instead. With the weather warming up it wasn't as easy as I would have liked, but it was great to have space to run. As soon as we had finished Danny jumped in the lake to cool down. At least he made use of one more facility at the park. 

After leaving our retreat we drove the rest of the way to Verona. There was almost no parking and in the end we had to leave the van in a slightly illegal spot, but no one seemed to care. As soon as we started exploring the city we we were in awe of how beautiful Verona was. The streets were filled with old, slightly run down, beige-brown buildings that still had an elegance about them. I felt as though we had been transported several hundred years in the past, and I wouldn't have been surprised to see locals walking around in togas. It was like a stereotypical Italian city you would see in the movies, minus the violin music in the background. We visited a few churches, the first being very understated (not what we are used to) with a pretty courtyard in the middle. The churches became more extravagant the further we walked, and all contained separate chapels underneath that appeared to be as large as the main chapel. 

There wasn't much to see in the centre square itself, so we stopped by the lofty Roman Arena sitting off to the side. The Arena still held regular performances, explaining the stage in the centre with plastic seating all around. The modernity of this set up didn't quite fit in with its surroundings, and it sort of detracted from what we were there to see. The corridors underneath the tiered stands reminded us the walkways at the MCG. Danny said even the urinals were the same. 

Around lunchtime we found a cafe serving slices of gourmet pizzas, so of course we stopped for our first taste of the Italian staple. Disappointingly, it was pretty much the same as regular pizza back home. Next we visited one of the most popular tourist attractions in town, Juliet's House (of Romeo and Juliet fame), standing in a small courtyard to stare up at a balcony that apparently inspired the famous scene. It was extremely crowded and fairly underwhelming. On the brick walls lining the lane leading up to the balcony, people had written love notes and drawn hearts around couple's initials. It was cheesy, but we couldn't resist searching out a small space to add our own. 

With Danny needing a break from running all over town, I walked alone up to the Roman Theatre. Performances were also held here, but in a much smaller space than the Arena. An attached museum displayed stone carvings that did not interest me in the slightest. Really I was just there for the views over the town, which would have been great if the sun wasn't in the way. 

We finally headed back to our car, surprised but glad we didn't have a parking ticket, and drove on to Venice. We knew there was no way we could drive over to the touristy section and find a car park, so we located a train station about 10 km out and parked around the corner. Quite a difference to our mini theme park of last night.