Friday 10 July 2015

N.Italy mini break - Verona & the opera

Continuing our northern Italian weekend, my sister and I arrived in Verona. Verona is a UNESCO World Heritage Site due to its many historical buildings. It is also the place where three of Shakespeare’s plays are set: “Romeo and Juliet”, “The Two Gentlemen of Verona” and “The Taming of the Shrew”.

Leaving our bags and car at the hotel, we headed straight out to see a little bit of the city on Saturday evening.

The city sits across the Adige river which we walked along on our way into the historic centre. With the old bridge (Ponte Scaligero) ahead of us.

And a wedding photo shoot at the shore next to it...

And then we arrived in the city’s largest piazza - the Piazza Bra - and the location of the town hall.

This square is also home to the Roman amphitheatre (the Arena).

The Area was completed in approx 30AD and is the third largest in Italy (after Rome’s Colosseum and Capua’s arena). It was our destination for that evening - we were off to the open air opera.

There are lots of cafes and restaurants spilling out into the piazza…and we couldn’t resist.

We loitered and then grabbed a front row table overlooking the area.

We ordered the same aperitifs as everyone else around us - Aperol Spritz and Campari Spritz.

I took one sip of the campari spritz and realised I didn’t like campari - oops!
But the waitress kindly swapped it for another - a Hugo Spritz (elderflower, mint and sparkling wine).

Much better!

Then it was food time...we split a few delicious meals:
“beef carpaccio with parmesan shavings and fresh mushrooms”

“grilled calamari”

And then the house pizza, “Alla Costa” with tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese, boiled ham, mushrooms, articokes, egg, bacon, peppers and egg-plant.


And then the heavens opened! Fortunately our restaurant had extendable shades which they pulled out to protect us (and our food!). After a little while, it stopped and a rainbow came out over the opera house.

And a random bride wandered past us! We think we’d spotted the same lady earlier in the day by the river.

After polishing off our food, it was time to head into the Arena for our nighttime opera.

We bought cushions from a stall outside (highly recommended if you’re sitting on the stone steps).

Which my sister then had the pleasure of inflating!

Despite the weather, the arena was pretty full by the time we entered at around 8.30pm for the 9pm performance. For those with unassigned seating, you can get in from 7.30pm to try and secure a good position.

We sat right at the top, one row from the back, getting a great view over the stage and whole arena.

The arena is 139 x 110 metres and can seat 25,000 spectators in the 44 tiers of marble seats.

You also get given a candle to light up later in the evening.

And then opened up some of our Sirmione purchases! Limoncello for starters…

Followed by ‘spaghetti-ice cream’ chocolate I’d found in Munich…

..actually white chocolate and strawberry!

And then the gong rang and the orchestra took their seats.

The opera we were seeing was ‘Aida’. A tragic love story set in Egypt.

The performance was impressive - massive sets that transformed, huge amounts of cast and great costumes.

It is four acts (and hours) long. Lasting from 9pm until approx 1am.

We managed 2 and a half acts, partly fuelled by more treats.

And layering up with everything we could…raincoats, ponchos, scarves…highly colourful (and yes, unfashionable!)

There was nothing wrong with the show - I’m sure the performers were very talented and the whole show looked very professional. But we were tired, cold and getting a little uncomfortable on our stone slabs that we called it a night around 11.30pm and headed back to our hotel.

 It's worth it for the experience and is a Verona "must do".

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