We spent Christmas with Fidz’s family who live at the edge of the Appenines south of Parma. I love coming to this region as the food, landscape and weather are very different to Rome. I also find it interesting that the shapes and fillings of pasta differ slightly, depending on which mountain and even which side of it one happens to live. Fidz tells me (though I find it hard to believe) that the taste of the bread is different depending how high up the mountain you go as the quality of the water is different. I must admit that when you get over the mountains into Tuscany, the bread is actually quite different.
After a marathon of eating over Christmas, we decided to go to Verona on Boxing Day as I had never been there. What a jewel of a city on a little spit of land jutting out into the river Adige. I found it so beautiful that I wouldnt mind living there! It is dominated by two major Piazzas, Piazza Bra dating back to the 1st century AD, where there is a wonderfully preserved Roman amphitheatre called the Arena in which concerts and opera productions are held over the summer, and Piazza Erbe where there is a market and which is lined with restaurants and cafes. We enjoyed an aperitivo there outdoors, on the evening of the 26th! The buildings in Verona are well preserved and there are several Romanesque/Gothic churches with beautiful frescoes which are fascinating to visit. Castelvecchio, a castle owned by the Scaligeri family in the 1300s has been modified by the architect Carlo Scarpa to house an art collection. Truly, a wonderful restoration.
I had always thought that Romeo and Juliet, immortalized by Shakespeare, were fictional until our map referred to Juliet’s house as well as her tomb. Of course, I had to go and see both of these. Well, it turns out that Shakespeare’s play was based on an account by Luigi da Porto in the 15th century of a doomed love affair between the children of two warring families in the early 1300s, Giulietta of the Capuleti family and Romeo of the Montecchio family. Indeed Juliet’s reputed house is on Via Cappello from which the name Capuleti derives so maybe there is some truth to the tale. Anyway, the house has been restored and now contains the props from Franco Zefirelli’s 1978 movie, Romeo and Juliet.
There were lots of tourists in the courtyard gazing up at the balcony and interestingly, a metal grill covering a doorway was chock-a-block with coloured locks. A popular attestation of undying love in Italy is to attach a lock to something and throw the key away so, for example, there are locks attached to the posts on the bridge at the Isola Tiberino in Rome with the keys likely tossed into the Tiber, the idea being that the two people are locked together forever.
Juliet’s tomb is displayed in the crypt below the cloister of the monastery of San Francesco al Corso. Actually , a lovely and peaceful location with a fine art gallery in the original monastery. Whether the story is true or not, it made the trip to Verona more interesting.