Sunday, July 29, 2012

Verona Part I: The Arena

Eva was a happy girl at the arena - squealing loudly and listening to her voice echo in the halls... :)
This weekend we took a day trip to Verona, which was a little over two hours' drive, about halfway from Como to Venice. We braved the autostrade (Italian interstate) for the first time, and it actually wasn't as bad as we were expecting. (Easy for me to say since Cole has been driving everywhere...) There were occasionally vehicles driving extremely fast, but most of the time traffic was traveling about the same speeds as US freeways. We were mostly worried about the toll booths and somehow making a mistake... At each one we approached, we stuck with the lines labeled carta and used our credit card to pay the fees. We had heard that you must have exact change for the cash lines, and weren't sure how to figure out what we would owe, so paying with a card was easier. We did use a credit card with a "chip" at these booths. We had heard you must have one for traveling in Europe - and that many businesses, especially on the autostrade, will not accept a credit card without this chip-and-pin technology. (More about this here...) Our regular cards have worked just fine everywhere else, but we wanted to be prepared by having the card with a chip for travel. Everything went well! 

These four arches made it through an earthquake in 1711.
Verona was beautiful - of course it was pretty busy on a Saturday, but we tried to make it around to most of the main sites and wandered plenty of quiet backstreets, too. We didn't get to enter a few of the churches we wanted to see because there were several weddings taking place. However, we did get to see Verona Arena, Juliet's balcony, several churches and the busy and colorful Piazza Erbe. 

Verona Arena is world-famous for being the largest open air opera house in existence and the world's third-largest amphitheater to survive from Roman antiquity. Many travel sites recommend attending the opera at Verona Arena as a "must-do" item in Italy. It's something we may still try to do later in the year. Neither of us is necessarily a fan of opera, but I'm sure it would be amazing in this venue! You can see from the pictures that crews were preparing the seating and stage in the arena for the evening's performance. Prior to becoming an opera house, the arena was the location for gladiator fights, jousts, circuses, theater, hot air balloon launches and more... It was originally built in 30 AD.

Imagine walking these halls nervously before competing in a gladiator fight to the death...
Here's an outside view from Piazza Bra, a busy area where shops and restaurants surround the arena.
Looking down at Piazza Bra from the arena. 

Piazza Bra also had several street performers working for tips... These two were our favorites, but we couldn't figure out how they did it - she even changed her costume mid-air. Impressive! Seriously, that pole looked like the only thing holding her up... 

These street performers were getting ready for a mid-air costume change. How???