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Trip Report Trip report -- Verona, Italy

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Was able to visit Verona recently. All of its primary attractions can be seen in a fairly leisurely day's sightseeing. First off, the historic center, where most of the attractions are located, is a lovely section of the city, lots of fun to wander. Second, get the Verona Card, which gets you into most of the city's attractions for a bargain price.

Started off by walking from the main train station to the Basilica di San Zeno Maggiore, actually located a bit west of the historic center. The church is very large and quite attractive in a plain sort of way from the outside, with a striped look to the outside walls. The church's front doors are covered with cast bronze panels, not as fancy as those on the Baptistry of Florence's Duomo, but well worth seeing. Inside are several ancient anonymous wall frescoes, a crypt with San Zeno's remains, and a sizable and excellent Mantegna triptych behind the altar.

The walk from here to the Museo Castelvecchio to the east is very enjoyable, running along a wall that parallels the turbulent Adige River and affording very pleasant views. The Museum itself is indeed housed inside a large imposing brick castle. The collection is very good, with plenty of old Italian paintings, including several worthy pieces by Tintoretto, Veronese, Tiepolo, Mantegna, and Bellini, plus Medieval era sculpture from the Verona area. The building is nice inside was well, with some rooms still showing a bit of ornament. It took a couple of hours to see all that was here, and well worth it.

Verona has a few silly tourist trap attractions related to Shakespeare's play "Romeo and Juliet," set in this city. "Juliet's Tomb" is well worth a miss, consisting of a small museum of workaday old Italian paintings (basically a small poor-man's version of the Castelvecchio's collection) and a little crypt area covered with graffiti and containing a small and very plain stone sarcophagus.

The Arena is a really well preserved open-air Roman amphitheater, like a smaller version of the Roman Colisseum. Unfortunately, about half the interior is covered with modern seating and wood aisles, used to seat patrons for evening performances, so one has to use their imagination a bit to get a feel for the place.

"Juliet's House" is the other goofy hoot here. The small courtyard was crammed to the gills with people. There's a statue of Juliet at one end -- it's considered good luck to rub the statue's breast for good luck, and it's polished shiny. I passed, as it seemed more like a good way to catch somebody's cold. There's also a balcony, which people took turns posing on. The interior of the house is not worth the time, very plain with only a few scattered artifacts and furnishings of the period, plus a couple costumes as well as Juliet's bed from Franco Zeffirelli's 1963 film "Romeo and Juliet."

The nearby Piazza della Erbe is a crowded spot covered with vendor stalls and ringed with outdoor cafes, fun to poke around in. Immediately next door is the Piazza dei Signori, a lot quieter spot with some restaurants featuring outdoor seating and bordered by attractive historic buildings. The Torre dei Lamberti is also visible from here (I decided not to go in and experience the view from this tower). Nearby are the Arche Scaligeri, three elaborate Gothic style tombs each holding a member of the Medieval ruling family of this city -- these stand on columns and have statue-ringed stone canopies covering them (they're surrounded by a fence, so you can't go inside).

Just north of this area are two large churches. The Basilica di Sant'Anastasia is huge, though rather plain outside, flanked by a couple tombs reminiscent of the Arche Scaligeri. Inside are several side chapels with wall paintings, most famously one of St. George by Pisanello, two baptismal fonts supported by hunchback statues, and lots of attractive wall and ceiling ornament. Just as interesting is the Duomo. Its outside doors are flanked with a border of carvings mildly reminiscent of the kind found at Chartres Cathedral in France. Inside are several worthy and ornate side chapels, one including a fine Titian fresco, "Assumption of the Virgin," plus some Roman foundation floor ruins and a smaller chapel adjacent.

The Roman Theater is smaller than the Arena and unfortunately is even more covered over with modern seating for shows. There's a small but pleasant enough archaeological museum of Roman artifacts on site, including statues, columns, glassware, pottery, and gravestones -- it has a nice view of the city.

The Giardini Giusti is a modest walk from the Roman Theater. It was pleasant enough, but the upper reaches of it were undergoing renovation, so all I was able to see was its lower part. There are rows of cypress trees, short hedges cut into little mazes, a few statues, and a small fountain. Reportedly, this place was inspiring to folks such as Mozart and Goethe, but it was hard for me to see a significant attraction to the place.

A most worthy day trip to take.

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