The featured image is a poster combining Romeo and Juliet with the Verona Wine Festival.
An easy train ride and walk got us into the center of town. We strolled by some of the many Roman ruins that are scattered throughout this former political and culture powerhouse. For 2,000 years, Verona was an important crossroad. Verona continues to hold concerts and an annual opera festival in their Roman arena.
We thoroughly enjoyed the oblong Piazza Erbe. Even though it is the shoulder season, there was an abundance of tourists milling about. Taking a break from the crowd, we bought some fruits cups, plunked ourselves down in front of a statue, and enjoyed the square’s rustic architecture.
Of course, we had to check out the fake Juliet Balcony. Rick Steves writes in his book, “Residents marvel that each year, about 1,600 Japanese tour groups break their Venice-Milan ride for an hour-long stop in Verona just to see this courtyard.” This very small courtyard was packed. We basically oozed in and squirted out of this tiny, tourist-packed enclosure like a multi limbed ameba.
It was hard to believe that our week was up. On our last day we casually wandered about, absorbing a little more of this fun university town. We visited the Basilica of St. Anthony. We have seen the inside of many churches, duomos, cathedrals, chapels, and basilicas during our traveling. This experience was different. During the early years of building worship structures, villages and towns would become known for their relics and then become a destination for pilgrims. After learning more about this phenomenon, Marsha and I have come to the conclusion that this acquiring of relics started with Emperor Constantine’s mother, Helena, when she claimed to have discovered fragments of Jesus’ cross. From there, it really took off. Reliquaries became the thing: teeth, bones, fingers, skulls, and more were on exhibit for the faithful to interact with.
At St. Anthony’s, behind the main altar, in the Chapel of Reliquaries, is a floor to ceiling, three-section display showing parts of St. Anthony. He was believed to have spoken many miracles of healing into existence. Therefore, the middle case displays his lower jaw with teeth, tongue, and vocal apparatus still intact.
As you enter the church, a chapel on the left contains St Anthony’s tomb. I stayed back against the wall and just observed all the people, reverently walking up to this above-ground tomb, laying hands on it, and praying. These are people of faith, desperately wanting to connect with something beyond themselves. I was moved at the sight, but with mixed feelings. I am still trying to process this experience. The older I get, the more I realize I have fewer and fewer answers. Since the basilica requested no cameras inside, I do not have any digital images from this … just mental ones. The images below are from the front of the basilica and its picturesque cloister.
One tram and three trains got us to the Cinque Terre and our flat in Vernazza without incident. We stepped out of the train station and walked about 100 yards to an old building, lumbered up 2 flights of narrow, twisting stairs, and plopped our stuff down in our room overlooking the main drag of this harbor village. We enjoyed a few evenings sitting on our balcony, enjoying an adult beverage, while tourists below mingled with the locals on Via Visconti. We were blessed with three days of beautiful weather.
Cinque Terre is on the Italian Riviera. This six-mile stretch is home to five (Cinque) small lands (Terre). From south to north: Riomaggiore (where we stayed in 2003), Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza, and Monterosso.
Most people come to this area to hike the spectacular trails between each city. You climb the trails with the Mediterranean on one side and steeply terraced vineyards on the other. 14 years ago, we hiked from Riomaggiore to Vernazza. We were 14 years younger then. This trip was a little different. Since there are closed trails between some cities due to landslides, we only walked the 1½ hour trek from Vernazza to Corniglia. The following day we took a scenic ferry ride to the other three cities. There were many steps up and many steps down over a variety of uneven terrain. If we had been wearing Fitbits, we would have earned many gold stars. We were not all that disappointed that the others trails were closed.
As I mentioned, our flat was only 100 yards from the train station. This was good because it was a quick walk to hop on. But there was the issue of trains running 24/7 and announcements starting at 6:00. We were also across the street from the local nighttime hangout. Marsha asked if the noise from the bar was going to interfere with our sleep. I told her, “No problem. The train noise will drown it out.”
At the end of this post I have a short, 27 second video taken from our balcony, so you too, can enjoy being close to a train station.
Here are images in order of south to north with several shots of Vernazza and some people enjoying themselves by the harbor.
We will be working our way down the Italian coast, stopping at two new places we know very little about, but hey, they are on the Italian Riviera! Three nights in Rapallo and then one week in Sanremo. Both of these will be low on the tourist sights scale, which is fine with us.
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We look forward to hearing from you.
Preston & Marsha
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