Verona is an hour away from Venice (by train) but that hour makes all the difference. Nestled in the bend of a river its a beautiful setting with the Alps as a backdrop. The churches are of Italian Gothic Architecture, very different from the abundance of the Baroque style. I much prefer the beautiful arches, frescoed walls and quiet celebration of religion.With one day to see everything I followed the recommended walking tour that took in all the sights. I was thwarted by the Italian long lunch (12.30-3) to see some of sights in the 'correct' order but it meant I got to explore all the side streets and soak up the sun on the rivers edge.
My first stop was the Verona Arena that hosts the opera in Summer (I missed it by 2 days). Built in the first century AD its all pink marble and huge (466-by-400 foot if you believe the guidebook) with 72 aisles. From the outside it doesn't seem that large but it is in fact sunken like the Colosseum.Moving on down the "shopping" street you can still see various Roman era pillars and Medieval reliefs. Moving on past Piazza Erbe with its hustle and bustle and gazebo in the centre with manacles still attached I visited probably the most well-known Verona sight, Juliet's house with its infamous balcony. The walls into the house are covered in graffiti from years of messages from young hopefuls. In the courtyard people line up to get a photo rubbing Juliet's breast, apparently to bring you luck.The Scaligeri family ran Verona and you can see this in their buildings (they made everyone else chop off their towers so theirs was the highest) and especially in their tombs which are beyond extravagant. There is a really funny story that I will have to look up later about some fortune of Khan being thought of as "cane" for dog and that is why there are dogs on their tombs.
Sant' Anastasia is one of the Gothic churches I mentioned earlier. It has two very interesting figures holding up the holy water bowls, a hunchback and a "easter figure". I really liked this church and the ceilings. I've also learnt why there are paintings in Venice instead of frescoes. Frescoes are painted into wet plaster which would melt(?) or fade with the high humidity in Venice. I now understand the abundance of canvas covered buildings.
There are many viewing points along the river that encloses Verona's Old Town but the best view I got was from Castello San Pietra on the hill across the river. I walked up the numerous stairs into lush gardens with spectacular views. I wish I had taken a picnic up there.
S. Maria Matricolare was the last major sight on my list and is yet another church, also Italian Gothic with frescoes. What made this rather interesting was all the different outfits displayed at each altar depicting the various ceremonial robes of the church. Definitely one of the most comprehensive collections seen outside of a museum. I'm currently writing this post from the train to Zurich (via Milan) to meet up with Marco and hangout with the Google interns. It should be a geeky adventure, I've heard rumours of an indoor slide... The countryside is swishing by with vineyards, beautiful farm houses and the Alps to complete this tranquil scene, there is even a massive lake (which I should probably know the name of but don't)