The next stop on our weekend itinerary brought us closer to one of our favorite literary masterpieces of all time: Romeo & Juliet. After saying ciao to Milan, Julie and I got ready to tackle Verona — the setting of Juliet’s house (though, in actuality, it’s all quite made-up…although there was a Capulet family who had been feuding with another family in the area).
We arrived at the Milan train station and purchased tickets to take an 1 1/2 hour ride to Verona.
Along the way, we picked up our skis and headed down the slopes for a quick rush of adrenaline. We just had to stop for a photo-op with this hilarious wall decor (that seat is painted on!).
I was looking forward to the train ride: there’s something about looking out the window at the goregous scenery passing by that’s so pleasant and relaxing…too bad we both nearly fell asleep! (The scenery to Verona, minus a few spectacular shots of the snow-covered mountains, wasn’t too much to sneeze at…there were quite a few manufacturing plants and run-down buildings.)
Upon our arrival in Verona, we checked into our second accomodation of the trip. However, Verona doesn’t have any “hostels,” so we stayed at a B&B. Overall…I’d give this one a 7. The owner was a former Verona rugby player from Argentina, and though he provided us with some great recommendations for sightseeing and dining/drinking, he was rather aloof. Meaning, we didn’t know where he was (at any time), and Julie had to ask for his name! The place itself was cute, though. Very small: probably around 4 or 5 rooms (if that), and the bathroom was spacious and, more importantly, clean. No waffle-texured towels here!
Here’s a shot of our room:
Our backpacks finally resting on our beds instead of our backs, we left the B&B eager to explore what quaint Verona had to offer…
We enjoyed strolling up and down the narrow streets, beckoning us in each and every direction. Before we left the B&B, we had asked the owner (see, I forgot his name!) for a great-tasting gelato place where we could get lunch. Yes. Lunch. We weren’t really feeling anything toooo heavy (haha) so we indulged ourselves once again in a lunch solely of gelato. You only live once, right? 🙂
Menta (mint) on the top, panna cotta (a definite caramel taste here) on the layer below, and stracciatella (similar to chocolate chip) rounding out the bottom. I haven’t really decided whether I like eating one flavor until it’s done and then moving on to the next, or alternating bites between the different flavors. What do you do? 🙂
The panna cotta flavor was the creme de la creme. So luxurious-tasting — that caramel flavor was insane! The stracciatella was outstanding as well: while resembling American chocolate chip-flavored ice cream, stracciatella has chocolate shavings throughout (as opposed to big chunks of chocolate that American ice cream has). Melted chocolate is drizzled into the gelato during the final stage of churning, and this creates a much smoother texture. Yum! And the mint? I’m basically in love with everything mint, so it fit the bill!
We sat down to enjoy our cones (I hadn’t had a waffle cone in ages) in Piazza Bra, our agreed favorite Verona spot: a sprawling piazza with a gorgeous fountain and plenty of people-watching, which we
enjoy oh so much do like it’s our job. 🙂
On a sugar-high, we high-tailed it over to Juliet’s house (or so they say…). After running into a problem getting into the Duomo at 4:30 the previous day, we didn’t want to take any chances not being able to visit this tourist trap!
As Homer Simpson would say, D’oh! Julie so crucially reminded me that we had forgotten to write our letters to Juliet. (Though I’ve never seen the movie Letters to Juliet, Julie(t) filled me in. We had tried to download and watch it before our trip but ran out of stinkin’ time! Oh, well. We’ll have to watch it after-the-fact, I suppose 🙂 Though Julie informs me that Verona is nothing like they portray in the movie. I guess that’s why they call it the movies?)
Luckily, I had a pen and she had paper. This is why we are perfect travel companions:
Before stepping inside the house & museum, we faced head-on the massive crowd gathered in the tiny courtyard and took our picture with the Juliet statue. Supposedly, you are supposed to touch her breasts (for luck?). We both did upon first stepping near the statue, but Julie refused to pose like that for the picture. Aww, c’mon!
Once inside the home, we were able to see countless representations of the story by means of different drawings, paintings, and portraits on the walls, as well as stand inches from the costumes from the 1968 Romeo & Juliet film. Any movie geeks out there?
We also were able to see the Romeo & Juliet bed: scandalous! (hehe.)
We posed for pictures on the “famous” balcony. “Oh Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo?”
And, humorously for us, we were serenaded by Italian schoolgirls performing the play from the courtyard (ok, they may have been talking to their classmates next to us on the balcony, but it was fun to pretend they were talking to us!)
And besides being able to see stellar-looking, mulit-colored tights, snail-mailin’ our letters to Juliet (and praying she receives it and sends us our Romeos), and being serenaded by Italian schoolgirls while on the famous balcony, the museum also gave us some beautiful views of Verona. But as my mom so wisely pondered the other day, Can one even take a bad picture in Italy? It’s like you just lift up your camera, snap, and shoot! Mom, you’re (as always) right 🙂
(Please excuse the reflection of my camera in the above photo. I’m not Nigel Barker justttt yet :))
After gettin’ our Shakespeare on, Julie and I visited one of the most beautiful, unique churches I have ever had the opportunity to set foot inside: the Duomo di Verona. This was unlike any other, and in all honesty, I enjoyed this “little” gem more than St. Peter’s Basilica & the Milan Duomo!
We’ve made a habit of sitting down for a few minutes in the pews of every church we visit. To say a prayer and just take in the moment — trying to saturate every ounce of that “I’ve got to pinch myself, I must be dreaming” feeling that pops up, seemingly, every other minute in Italy…
The church was so Romeo & Juliet-esque. Renaissance-esque. Medieval-esque. The ceiling and walls were just covered in floral designs…
Before I get into what I ate in Verona (I know you guys are all itchin’ for that part, right?! This is ciaotochow afterall…I can’t lose my focus on food!), I’ll quickly summarize the rest of our Verona sightseeing…
A visit to the Sforza castle (and the accompanying museum: only 1 euro on the first Sunday of every month!):
Wouldn’t you like to live here?
We spent hours just prancing (yes, prancing) around the grounds: turning every new corner to find another passage, a new stairwell, an even more amazing view of the courtyard:
We posed for pictures (pretending we were young princesses who were able to call this place home):
I got a kick out of the flashing stoplight as we “exited the premises” (coolest phrase ever, no?):
Clearly, one sign telling pedestrians not to walk won’t suffice. People, please don’t cross the street on a yellow light with your bikes, either!
Besides the Sfroza castle (we both agreed this would make a perfect location for T-Swift’s next video…she’s “todes” into that whole fairytale/castle/princess thing), we walked our way along the perimeter of the Arena di Verona/Verona Colosseum: a younger sibling of the one in Rome, and built in 30 AD!
(The stones had a pinkish tint to them, and is proud host to the world-famous Verona Opera Festival every summer — which I will be performing at…bahaha.) It does NOT look this big from the outside. Holy moley!
We also marveled at a building in Piazza Bra that, for the life of us (even after standing mere inches from the plaque on the front facade and attempting to read the Italian), we couldn’t figure out what it was:
Thinking that perhaps our incredible gelato lunch upon arrival in Verona on Saturday was a fluke (ha! as if), we made sure to try more of the city’s cuisine…just to make sure it was all really that good…
Our hostel dude recommended a place to grab drinks and aperitivo before dinner, which we were mightily surprised with. GREAT wine, CHEAP prices, SWANKY (new fave word) atmosphere. What more could 2 college/cash-strapped students ask for?
We each tried a glass of Verona’s famous Valpolicella wine, a light yet full-bodied sweet red that, translated, means “valley of many cellars.” I paired 2 small bruschetta with my wine: one featuring a decadent mix of baby spinach, fresh parmigiano, delicious mushrooms, & creamy goat cheese. The other one? Well, I went back to the ‘ol German roots. My extended fam would be so proud! (We have a tradition of making dumplings, sauerkraut, and ribs every few years, and this year I finally tried it and, well, enjoyed it.) My second bruschetta was generously doused in cabbage and a thick round of sausage. So good!
(The lighting in the “bar” was not conducive to taking great photographs. Hence, the almost invisible plate of food in the following photo. I didn’t think this was a legit place to whip out the camera — seeing as the crowd was mainly 20 & 30-something, well-dressed Italians — but I knew my ciaotochow readers were depending on me, so I tried!)
A late dinner that night (after a long roommmzzzz chat) was at a great pizza place ~5 minutes from our B&B. Feeling an overkill of pizza (I know, sue me!) and not really feelin’ any of the pasta selections on the menu, I ordered the Napoleonato calzone (which I thought would, um, I don’t know…be a normal size?). Turns out, it was a pizza: FOLDED IN 1/2.
Luckily, the crust was doughy and pillowy-soft. So so good. Once I tackled the inches and inches of crust (and finally made it to the calzone fillings), I found the good stuff: ham, parmigiano, & (on the menu, at least) cottage cheese. A huge fan of cottage cheese from America, this was not your American cottage cheese. It was not chunky & in curds like U.S. c.cheese; rather, it was smoother and had absolutely no flavor. Zilch. Nada. Hence, I scraped it out and left it on my plate 🙂
Definitely felt a “food-hangover” (as I coined it) later that night. I legit woke up in the middle of the night with a terrible stomach-ache and guzzled down water. So funny! (It totally reminded me of the scene in Eat Pray Love where Julia Robert’s is all, Let’s finish this whole pizza and buy new jeans!
The next morning we ate breakfast at our B&B: we were both rather disappointed with the selections. No milk when they sayyyy there’s milk in the fridge. Why tempt us, you former-rugby-player-turned-B&B-owner, you?! hehe. Thankfully, there were at least some biscuit-type crackers, peach jam, and a tasty jam & lattice-crust torte with a shortbread bottom to satisfy our need for morning fuel. (Next time, we’d like fruit, though…please!)
Our last meal in Verona was, I’ve gotta say, my favorite of the entire trip. You know when you eat something and it just hits the spot? My sandwich, once again eaten on a bench bathed in sunlight while people-watching with my best friend, did just that:
Warm, toasted bread filled with thin slices of salami, fresh roasted turkey, gooey cheese, shredded lettuce, juicy tomatoes, 3 (only 3…) pickles(!), and a slathering of brown mustard, which I happily added…you know, to give an extra boost of flavor 🙂
At this point in the trip, I was NOT diggin’ not having eaten fruit at least 3-4 times during the day, so I literally JUMPED at the chance to sink my teeth into this juicy orange:
A simple lunch, but once again, I’m dumbfounded by how this simple meal was my fave! (Is it wrong that I feel semi-guilty for saying that?)
I couldn’t have asked for a better weekend: being able to spend 3 complete days with my best friend in 2 stunningly beautiful, yet vastly different cities in Italy? Not too shabby!
And I ask you:
- In honor of Letters to Juliet partially being filmed in Verona, what’s the one place/setting (whether in a movie, book, etc.) that you’d give anything to visit? It can be made up or real. (Think Pandora in Avatar or even something as small as the Saved by the Bell hallway!)
Hmm…I don’t know why I asked such a hard question! In all honesty, I’d have to say the “Full House house” in San Fran. Please don’t judge: I’m a die-hard FH fan and would give anything to be an honorary Tanner for the day. (P.S. How cool is it that they have 2 staircases to the 2nd floor? I mean, COME ON! Oh…and a swinging kitchen door. Legit.)
- What, for you, is the food or drink that just hits the spot?
For me, it’s always something different, depending on my mood/what I’ve already eaten that day/the temperature/my activity level, etc. But a good bowl of cereal (Quaker Oat Squares or Special K) never fails to disappoint! Also, I have a love for sandwiches. Don’t remember? Refresh yourself here 🙂