On the morning of Sunday, September 3, we left our fabulous AirBnb in Cinque Terre and mentally prepared for a gruelling day of train travel. We needed to take three different trains to get to our next destination in northern Italy: Verona. Our first train was a bit of a challenge, because it’s the one that all the tourists take to get to the different 5 Terre towns. And since the walking paths around Riomaggiore were all closed for maintenance, there were more train users than usual. Nonetheless, after having taken 4 different trains the day before, we knew that the trick to avoiding the tourist surge was to board the train in the tunnel. We even managed to score seats! Our second train went from Levanto to Milan, and we used this time to do some blogging, read and write a couple of postcards. There was a Dutch couple next to us who subtly remarked (in Dutch) that they didn’t think anyone wrote postcards anymore, but Mel knew enough German to understand, and responded in English that she still thought it was nice to get postcards every once in a while (she is an old-school nerd). [sidenote: when buying postcards in Italy, only buy stamps at the post office. Many tourist traps will sell you Globe Postal Service (GPS) stamps, which is a private postal company that claims you can track your postcards using a special code. It’s basically just an excuse to overcharge tourists for stamps and take three times as long to deliver the postcard. We got home before the postcards did…four weeks after sending them]. Our last train, from Milano to Verona, was a pleasant surprise. We were in Frecciarosa “premium” seats, and treated to drinks plus our choice of a sweet or savoury snack upon boarding. Fancy!
We finally arrived in Verona in the early evening. We dropped our bags off at the AirBnb and headed right back out to go explore this university town on the Adige River before the sun went down. Verona is of course the famous setting for Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, and we actually stumbled upon Juliet’s balcony within ten minutes of our promenade through the historic centre of town.
As the sun went down behind the Verona Arena, which was built in the 1st century AD, we figured we should find a place to eat. We walked through Piazza Bra, the largest plaza in the city (and perhaps the whole country), and admired the Palazzo della Gran Guardia, which started construction in the early 1600s and was only completed in 1821, when it was used to house the troops of the region. Now a convention centre, its steps were littered with people holding wine glasses that evening, which obviously caught our attention. As it turns out, there was a wine event going on for Soave, a nearby winemaking region known for its white wines. Our plans for dinner were quickly forgotten as Mel flashed her sommelier credentials to get us in. We were given our wine glasses and released into the wonderful world of Soave wines, with generous pours, dedicated and passionate winemakers, and delicious local food like mozzarella di bufala, various pasta dishes and cured prosciutto. Three hours later, we decided to throw in the towel, head across the street and share a pizza. Afterwards, David got his customary post-meal gelato, then we stumbled home arm in arm through picturesque Verona.
The next day, we continued our exploration of the city. We took a funicular up the mountain for some elevated views of the city, had our first aperol spritz (the Italian aperitivo par excellence), ate lunch in Piazza dei Signori, walked to the Castelvecchio, and finished up our grand city tour at the Basilica San Zeno. This last stop was not for the church itself (we didn’t even go in), but for a gelato place we’d heard good things about. If you ever get a chance to go to Verona, you MUST go to Zeno Gelato e Cioccolato. It was hands down the best gelato we had in Italy.
What was originally just supposed to be a quick stop to rest our weary heads ended up being one of our favourite places on this trip. Verona’s rich history, good vibe and beautiful architecture totally surprised us and we would definitely recommend it to anyone visiting the area.
Where the wind takes us next: Sirmione, Lake Garda and the Veneto wine region