How nice! This Saturday Vito and I decided to go on a short day trip to Verona, so we took an early fast regional train (8:12 am) and arrived in less than 2 hours. It had been a while since our last time, but going on a trip during the weekend has become a sort of habit and since neither of us has a driving license... we tend to opt for nearby historical towns!
Once off the train we first enjoyed an espresso with a sbrisolona pastry (a typical and delicious crumb cake with almonds you really ought to try), then we walked towards the centre passing first in front of Castelvecchio. This astonishing castle was the most important military construction of the Scaligeri dynasty and, with its impressive medieval structure and imposing walls and towers, it is absolutely worth visiting. Today it hosts the civic museum, the interiors of which were renovated between 1959 and 1973 by no less than Venetian architect Carlo Scarpa. The collection gathers statues, paintings, miniatures, ceramics, weapons and more from the Romanesque period to the early Renaissance and, in case this was not enough, the view of the homonymous bridge from the terrace is really incredible!
We had gone on our last visit, so this time we had something else in mind. We kept walking and stopped in a lovely bookstore called Il Libraccio because I wanted to buy "He died with a falafel in his hands" (1994) by John Birmingham -it is so brilliant! if you haven't read it yet, go get it right now!- then we reached Piazza Bra, where the Arena is, and proceeded along the main street. For our third breakfast we chose the historical osteria Antica Bottega del Vino, where I strongly suggest to go for either a nibble or a proper traditional meal. Although in the centre, it was empty of tourists and crowded with elderly locals (which is always a good sign!) and groups of friends. The wooden interiors, the elegant writings engraved on the wooden beams and the super inviting wine list and cicheti should make good reasons enough for a quick break. The Bottega is divided into two areas, the osteria and the restaurant, and the food is very very good. It was still early for me, so we shared a glass of Rosso dell'Abazia by Serafini e Vidotto and a crostino with mortadella. We had to force ourselves to leave, we had started chatting with the managers about wine, food and life in general and were starting to feel a bit too comfy there. So, before ordering a second (and then a third, and then a fourth) glass, we paid and returned on Via Mazzini, at the end of which you have Piazza delle Erbe on the left and Giuletta's balcony on the right.
It was about time for lunch, so we had to get a move on. I had booked in a super nice restaurant called Flora, a vegan and gluten free restaurant and eatery that at lunch time offers a buffet menu by weight (2,30 euros for 100 gr.). I was curious to try it out because one of my dearest friends is a celiac and she's coming to visit us next week and I needed a bit of inspiration! Well, I loved it! The location is spacious, airy and bright, the staff super friendly and the food really good. I particularly appreciated the contrast between the white walls with floral decorations and the modern paintings in grey tones. We had a variety of things: cannellini beans and spinach hummus, sweet and sour radicchio, grated fennels, a warm tofu, potatoes and rice milk 'cheese' salad, mixed beans, revisited ravioli and more. You should know by now that I love my veggies and I can tell you everything was delicious. Of the things I tried, I particularly appreciated the mixed beans, the hummus and the revisited ravioli made with a thin slice of pumpkin and stuffed with fermented rice milk, while Vito was surprised by the tofu and potato salad (which surprised me in turn, since he doesn't like tofu usually). When we had finished, Vito and I agreed that if we hadn't known we probably wouldn't have even realised everything was gluten free (I confess: I'm a bread addict, seriously, thus I eat enormous quantities of gluten every day! And I just love it...).
Anyway, after lunch we visited the San Fermo Maggiore church. I'd say that the most famous church in Verona is San Zeno, but it's just impossible to do more than one thing at a time, at least if you want to enjoy a proper visit, and a friend of Vito's had strongly suggested it to us. So we obeyed, paid our 3 euros each and discovered an amazing place. I had no idea it was going to be so moving, but the atmosphere was just so magical that we both left quite impressed. There are two churches to be precise, the lower one in Romanesque style and the Gothic upper one, which is partly under restoration. Wow! There is too much to say that I'll just let the pictures speak, but we both preferred the lower one, with its bright and incredibly well kept frescoes.
The visit was really enlightening and fascinating, but it was time to head back. As before, we walked along the main street and it was funny in a way to see that certain tourists behave the same way in all the cities, in fact nobody was interested in the ancient Roman remains while it was almost impossible to see Juliet's balcony because of the number of people. Now, I have to say that it is a beautiful balcony, but considering that the whole story is fake and that there are much nicer buildings in the same area, we didn't really bother. It's possible to pay to go in and step on the balcony, so you always see a different girl looking down, but we were more attracted by the restaurant Locandina Cappello on the other side of the street. The design was elegant and bright and when we passed by the waiter had just brought two mouthwatering looking millefoglie with strawberries to two girl friends and we would have easily sat with them and helped them eat it! So we looked at the menu, which seemed very inviting and with a good value for money, and decided to try it on our next trip!
That was really it: an easy going day in beautiful Verona. There's a train to and from Venice at least every hour and, if you have the possibility, I strongly suggest going. The city itself is wonderful and elegant, but if you have time explore the surrounding hills and maybe even visit a canteen. The area is renowned for its wine production and amazing landscapes, so take a full weekend and have fun! After all, you'll be learning while 'playing', thus no need to feel guilty, just keep calm and enjoy life ;-)
Talk to you soon ;-)