August 5: A Perfect Day for Opera

Sunlight streamed through the shutters of our hotel room when we awoke this morning. Although we do not have a view of the city out our window, we knew that with no rain in sight, it would be a perfect day, one of history, culture, and opera.

After being pleasantly surprised by a light buffet breakfast, we headed out into the town on a walking tour. With our Verona Card in hand, we knew we had a wide selection of sights to choose from. Walking along the main road, our first stop was Castelvecchio. The Scaligeri family of Verona built this castle in the 14th century. The beautifully restored embattled bridge had been blown up during WWII, but today leads to this impressive museum with various art and medieval weaponry.

Strolling along a pleasantly shaded treeline path above the River Adige, we soon came to our second stop, the Basilica of San Zeno. This church is an excellent example of preserved Romanesque architecture. Featured inside are beautiful frescoes dating back to the 11th century, many of which have actually been painted on top of each other. Upon closer examination, you can discover prayers that were etched into the walls. Many are dating back to the 1300s and are from people fleeing from war to the church.

Feeling hungry, we followed our map down cobblestone lanes to Osteria le Vecete. With light mustard colored walls and wooden beams on the ceiling, it is a very pleasant place for a light meal. Old black and white photographs from Verona grace the walls. I always love these because it gives us a glimpse into the city's past. Their platter of thinly sliced prosciutto served with crusty slices of bread and melon so juicy it tasted like it was just picked was the perfect lunch for a hot day. Wine is served in a glass chilled first with crushed ice. A nice tradition there is your cork presented with the bill. Ours was Soave Classico.

A relaxing lunch is always a great way to feel more energized. In lively Piazza del Signori with its refreshing fountain and busy street market, we rode the elevator to the top of the Lamberti Tower. Looking down from above, a sweeping view of Verona lays before you. It would be quite a sight up there in the evening when the Arena lights up.

Next stop was the Church of Anastasia which is undergoing renovation. Peeking behind a curtain we discovered a group of artists delicately restoring the frescoes. Another unusual sight was two hunchbacks carved out of marble holding holy water.

Before heading back to the hotel we visited the Duomo. Building started in the 12th century and archaeological excavations have revealed the ruins of an older church from the 10th century underneath. We were able to view some of these ruins through a glass floor.

The highlight of our evening was a magnificent performance of Carmen in the Arena. We were amazed to learn that most of the stone from the 1st century is original. It is the third largest from Ancient Rome. It can hold up to 25,000 people. Our seats were toward the top and cushions were sold for the seats. Prior to each act, vendors roamed the stadium with cries of, "Cola, Fanta, Birra, Vino!"

The opera started promptly at 9 and when the lights dimmed, the Arena was filled with thousands of pinpoints of lights from people holding tiny lit candles. With people silhouetted against the ancient Roman stone wall, it was a beautiful sight.

The production of Carmen was absolutely stunning. An animated conductor lead a full orchestra and the colorful, lavish costumes, magnificent set design, and live animals made it an event we will long remember. The operas here are not put on for tourists either. Huge motor coaches from Germany rolled into Verona around 5 o'clock bringing in Germans for an evening performance.

As the cast took a bow to thunderous applause and lights once again flooded the Arena, it was for us the grand finale to a perfect day in Verona.

Soft floodlights fade into thousands of pinpoints of light
With a flick of the maestro's brush
the intricate stage painting
comes alive with music and dance


coachsparky said…
What a beautiful captivating that I could clearly picture it in my mind!

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