Whew! We are home from our 10 days in Italy, Greece, and Croatia. Although they're overused, the words awesome and amazing are really all I can think of when trying to describe our trip. Maybe I should invest in a thesaurus...
Anywho, our trip began in Verona, Italy. Setting of the ultimate tragic love story (no, not Edward and Bella), of Romeo and Juliet. This trip was the first time we invested in a Rick Steves' travel book. Most everyone I know here has sworn by them. But I refused to be swayed. I had tried Frommer's and Lonely Planet. They were okay. But when I went through the check out of my little American store nearby, I saw Rick's book on Italy and so on impulse, I bought it. And now I will say this. I will never go back. Halfway through our trip my kids got really tired of hearing me say, "Rick Steves says to go here." Alexander started saying things like, "Mom? Are you sure you should drink that Coke? Rick Steves didn't say so." Or things like this, "Mom, do you really think we should look at that statue because it wasn't in your Rick Steves book and we don't want to deviate from the 'Rick Steves plan'." Air quotes included.
We started our Veronese day in the Piazza Brà, a big open space right next to a Roman stadium built in the first century.
The Piazza Brà.
Out front there were street performers in Roman dress.
When I would point my camera at them they would pose and tell me "Due Euro!" or two Euro. So I took a picture of them on the sly.
The city of Verona is built right around this Roman ruin.
A mix of old and new.
We wandered in and around the tiny streets of Verona. Mingling with the snappy dressers of Italy.
It was on this street where I felt my first warning bells of someone targeting us for pick pocketing (is pick pocketing even a word? How about to be pick pocketed?) In all our travel books on Italy, Rick Steves' and Frommer's alike, they warn you that Italy is rampant with pickpockets. In fact, on our way through Italy, we stopped at a gas station and I was quickly approached by two Italian policemen who informed me to never leave my car unattended at gas stations in Italy because thieves watch for out-of-country plates and when you walk into pay, they smash your window and take everything in your car. After this I pretty much just expected to be robbed at some point in our trip. I kept everything pretty close to me. I wore only my simple band on my ring finger instead of my diamond and left the expensive watch at home. Nothing stood out on us that said "money." Except for my camera. I have a very nice, very large, professional grade camera with a zoom lens that I keep out around my shoulder for easy access. A man in Verona laid eyes on it and followed me and my camera for awhile. He stood right next to me and looked from the camera to me back to the camera. I grabbed it closer and walked away towards Matt. The man followed. As I approached Matt he said, "That guy saw you and then changed directions and is looking at your camera."
"I know," I said. Matt stood up and crossed his arms and gave his meanest I-used-to-be-a-Marine-so-dare-to-mess-with-me face to him and he walked away. I don't know if he thought I was travelling alone and was an easy target or what, but I was on alert for the rest of the day.
We got out of the tiny street and into the big open square and sat down to regroup.
And also to eat Italian pastry, of course.
This statue is at one end of a beautiful square where restaurants and stores set up tables for open air dining and shopping.
This is one face of the square Piazza Erbe. Where else but in Bella Italia are even the buildings works of art?
This guy who kind of reminded me of the Statue of Liberty a little bit is St. Zeno, patron saint of Verona.
Next on our tour was a place that our daughter has been asking about since we moved to Europe. Casa di Giulietta. Juliet's house. Ashlenne saw the movie Letters To Juliet several years ago and has since been enthralled by Romeo and Juliet and by the house and the thought that a long, lost love could be out there somewhere, waiting for you and come riding up on a stallion and save you from your boring life. I think that was in the movie or something.
Here is my beautiful daughter who is all of 13 standing on Giulettia's balcony hoping that someday she will meet a true love of her own. Let's just hope it's not this year and we don't have an ongoing feud with the family and that cousins won't be killed and that she doesn't drink a potion to appear dead and then stab herself over the whole drama. Fingers crossed!
There is a statue of Juliet in the courtyard and tradition says that if a lonely woman rubs Juliet's right breast that she will meet her true love. I have already met my true love, but I can't go all the way to Verona and not get to second base with Juliet.
There we are. Me and Juliet who is protectively covering her left breast from the crowds of people wanting to cop a feel. At least I kept it respectable. There were some men who were licking it. Have some dignity people.
The thing about Juliet's House is that is a mad house. It's packed practically all of the time. We could hardly walk into the courtyard. I don't get it. I hope people realize that Juliet was a fictional character and therefore didn't really have a house in Verona. Ashlenne knows that Romeo and Juliet is a work of fiction but she kept asking, "Mom, if she was real, do you think she could have lived here?"
You bet. Moving on.
This thoughtful guy is Dante. Dante was expelled from Florence for his controversial writings but found refuge in Verona. I don't see any guys reaching up to rub anything on him, hoping to find literary genius or something. Maybe we should start that.
These are the elevated tombs of the Scaligeri family. The Scaligeri family were the ruling family of Verona in the 14th-century. They sounded pretty snooty. They changed the laws so that only they could be buried in the city limits and then had the burial place elevated so that even in death the citizens of Verona had to look up to them. Nearby I heard a young child ask their parent, "Dad? Are there real-live dead people in there?"
We continued our tour of Verona. Stood on a bridge that was built by the Romans and then bombed in World War II. The people of Verona fished the original white marble stones out of the river and rebuilt it. Good job, Italians!
This is the Basilica of San Zeno Maggiore on the Adige River.
Verona has become a real favorite of mine with the beautiful frescoes on the buildings and the breast rubbing and all. Except for the would-be-camera swiper. I can do without him.
Our next stop, Venice. The sinking city.
*Rubber of all golden breasts. I stop at the real ones.