Verona: Opera and Anniversary Dinner

Verona, the setting from Romeo and Juliet, is about a half hour train ride from Lake Garda. This is a good thing, because the train was standing room only; no social distancing remotely possible.

The size felt familiar. Verona is about 20% more populous than Spokane, both in city and metro areas. But there is no comparison in the historical context. The city’s two most famous features are the Arena, one of the best-preserved first century Roman amphitheaters in existence, and the balcony of Shakespeare’s Juliet.

Although Juliet was a fictional 14th century character, the play is based on historical Veronese families, and the balcony is from a wealthy family of that era. Women come from all over the world to visit the balcony and leave letters for Juliet, which are faithfully answered by a group of women from the town — sort of “Dear Abby” for the lovelorn. Don’t laugh. The city reportedly makes $1.2 million a year by charging admission to stand on the balcony or touch her statue for good luck. So it is worth answering the mail.

Our anniversary fell while we were planning this trip, so we elected to postpone our dinner celebration until we could do in a city famous for love, and we made reservations to do that on the second night. Fortunately, we discovered that the arena was hosting an opera the first night, and we were able to buy tickets the day before. I mean, how often do you get to experience real Italian opera in a 2,000 year old venue? Word to the wise: pay the vendor for a seat cushion; the stones seats didn’t get any softer with age, and the cushions were well worth it.

I have often joked that opera is “death by music,” and it would have been difficult if not for a reader board that displayed the lyrics in English as the play progressed; a form of subtitles for the language impaired. This made all the difference, and I can honestly say it was one of my favorite live experiences of all time.

Transportation in Verona? Well, that is a story for another blog. Here, then, are my top ten pictures of the city of Romeo and Juliet.