20 Feb Verona: Juliet & Juliet’s big day out
Despite spending practically every weekend joined at the hip – often starting with a cappuccino and brioche at Pepe and finishing with a glass of wine at the Drogheria, with some combination of aimless wandering/more coffee/Sicilian snacks/antiques markets in between – early this year, my South African Torino bestie Paula and I realized we’d actually never been on a girly day trip together.
We made the happy discoveries that not only did we both fancy going to Verona, but that Trenitalia was running a two-for-one Valentine’s offer for the week of the 14th February. So we booked our seats and were soon on our way to one of Italy’s most romantic cities.
We’d actually only considered the practical side of the train offer, and had neglected to think about the fact that it was actually Valentine’s Day weekend and we were going to Verona. As in, the place out of Romeo and Juliet; that place where all couples feel like it’s a good idea to go for Valentine’s Day weekend.
And so, we found ourselves surrounded by thousands of smug couples, heart-shaped everything and a whole lot of Valentine’s kitsch.
Obviously the day started with a very average coffee and croissant in a very overpriced bar (Verona is a tourist trap, after all), before we started wandering around the backstreets for a break from the crowds. After spending a bit too long in a homeware store – Gandini – for Paula to drool over kitchenware and buy some very cute and very unnecessary bowls with animal feet, we decided to bite the bullet and head to la Casa di Giulietta, a.k.a. the courtyard with Juliet’s balcony in it.
If you’ve ever seen photos of this place, it looks adorable. But here’s a spoiler for you: not so much. Ok, the house itself is pretty, as Italian houses tend to be, but there is not even space to breathe. The tiny, tiny courtyard is jam packed with pushy Americans, Japanese tourists snapping 100 photos a second, and other people shouting loudly in a mix of other languages. The walls are covered in a grotesque stucco of chewing gum, and there are little plastic made-in-China “love locks” all over the place too. You can of course rub Juliet’s boob for good luck (you’ll have to wait in a hoarde to do so), and if you want to go on the balcony, it’s gonna cost you. All in all, not somewhere I’d necessarily recommend, but something I’m glad we saw, even just to be able to know it wasn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
Thankfully, the rest of Verona is a lot nicer.
After our experience with the noisy tourists, we wanted to find lunch far away from all of them. We stumbled upon La Piazzetta, an adorable place with exposed brick interiors (the way to my heart) located in – you guessed it – a little piazzetta.
We ended up having the most delicious pasta lunch with a bottle of Soave (my new fave Italian white, for the record), and the staff were all so friendly – possibly just pleased to see some foreigners who didn’t need the menu translating. After being coerced into an after-lunch digestivo, we were warm inside and ready to face the chill again for our afternoon walk.
And walk we did.
Through Piazza delle Erbe, around the Arena, up to Giardino Giusti, around Piazza dei Signori, past the Arche Scaligere, along the river, diving into some churches along the way. Although we didn’t follow it to the letter, we came across this blog which is a pretty good guide of the key sights you can see in one day and was very handy considering neither of us had actually thought to make a plan before the train pulled into Verona Porta Nuova.
After deciding we’d seen enough of the centre for one afternoon, we climbed a few (hundred) steps, and stopped for a pre-sunset drink at Re Teodorico, a bar on top of a hill with a pretty view across the city; the ideal place to soak up some winter afternoon sunshine with a glass of Soave in hand.
After dark, we walked over to Sciò Rum, a more local-friendly bar where we shared wine and large quantities of hams and cheeses with Chiara and Fede – my friend/ex-colleague, and her boyfriend, both from Turin and who now live in Verona. Bellies full, we got a lift to the station with Chiara and Fede, sprinted for our train (thoroughly Italian punctuality), and headed back to foggy Torino.
Veneto, it was a pleasure.