Saturday, August 30, 2014

Romeo, Romeo, Where Are. . . ?


“There is no world without Verona walls
but purgatory, torture, hell itself. . .”
~ William Shakespeare
From Romeo & Juliet (Act 3: Scene 3)

Since my internet wasn’t working, I decided to hop a train to different places this week since the train is pretty inexpensive.

Monday, I headed to Verona. I’d never been although I had considered staying there instead of Spoleto last year, but the owners of apartments were less-than-willing to work with me. I spent about 4.5-5 hours there, which, now that I’ve seen it, was about what I needed.  I think that two weeks last year might have been torture.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s a nice city, but it has a distinctly different flavor. It’s been around since 500+ BC, falling into Roman hands only in 89 BC.  The Visigoths conquered the city, as did the Ostrogoths (Who knew there were so many Goths?).

  Prior to the unification of Italy in the 1860s, Verona was part of Austria. To make a long story short, they fought battles. They won. They became part of Italy.  During World War II, it was a stronghold for the Fascist republic. The Nazis and Mussolini accused Galeazzo Ciano, his son-in-law, and other officers of plotting against the government, held a trial, and executed them on the banks of the Adige River, which flows through the city (You can't see it in the photo at the top of this post, but it's there.).

The Verona Colosseum

Apparently the Fascists weren’t the only ones to execute people in Verona.  In the middle of the historic area is an old arena which they used in much the same fashion as the Romans used the Colosseum back in the day. The interesting thing about the Verona one is that it’s in pretty good shape, and they still use it today for concerts and other productions.  I guess if I lived there I’d probably attend things there, but it freaks me out a little to think about lions and tigers and Christians. (Oh, my.  You knew I was going to say that, didn’t you?)

Porta Nuova. . . Notice the pink and white marble/granite

Of course, the big reason everyone knows of Verona is because of Romeo and Juliet, the doomed lovers made famous by the Shakespearean play of the same name.  Did you know, however, that he was not the first to write of the two nor was he the only one.
 The tragic love story goes back ages, and one is the story of Pyramus and Thisbe from Ovid’s Metamorphoses. (Ovid, by the way, was Abruzzese, born in Sulmona near my grandparents’ village.)  Dante, in the Divine Comedy, references the Montecchi and Cappeletti (Montague and Capulets of the English version). There are Italian versions dating more than 100 years before the Shakespearean version, and a Spanish version (by Lope de Vega) written a few years before Shakespeare’s version.

 (As a side note, I did a paper on the Lope’s Castelvines y Monteses in grad school. As we know, Shakespeare and most of the other writers have Romeo and Juliet (or whatever names the other authors use) die at the end. The Spanish writers of that period wrote tragicomedies. Part of the play was a tragedy—the warring families, the forbidden love, the apparent deaths of the lovers. However! The hero and heroine live happily ever after—the comedia. Sorry. I get carried away.)

Juliet's Balcony

At any rate, I took one of the bus tours around the city because I wanted to see as much as I could while I was there.  I got off in a piazza close to Juliet’s house. It does exist, and the Veronese swear the Cappello (Capulets) lived there and that they were at war with another family in town.  The house dates to the 13th century, and while the courtyard below the balcony is open (with free admission), visits to the house are not. Apparently the government closed the house to tourists because of the wear-and-tear on it.
The locks on the gate at Juliet's House.

Of course, because viewing the balcony is free, everyone and his brother within 50 kilometers of Verona has to visit the place. That would not be so bad except that they have to leave remembrances on the gates (locks), on the courtyard walls (chewing gum with names and dates inscribed—BLECH), 

The gum on the walls of the courtyard at Juliet's House


The bandages in the portico at Juliet's House
I used to like the lock idea. The first time I saw it, I was in Florence in the late 90s, and there were maybe 50 locks on the Ponte Vecchio.  Of course, it got out of hand, and people are now leaving locks all over the place. I’ve seen thousands of them in Paris, London, Rome, Florence, Verona, New York, Venice.  Let’s think of something new.

The director of the language school I attended took me out for coffee this morning just to chat (I understood about 90% of what he said.  YAY!), and I told him about my trip to Verona and about how I had a bit of a hard time understanding their Italian. He told me that because of the German influence in that dialect, they tend to be hard to understand to someone not familiar with it.  It makes sense, and it's now a story in the book.

As a final note, I did note a bit of German influence in restaurants and restaurant offerings.  If you note the photo below, you’ll see “cheese” pizza that I didn’t eat for lunch (for good reason).

Munster, bleu, German white, & some other cheese pizza.
Actually, I came home and made salad with chicken. It was safe.

A German restaurant in Verona

1 comment:

  1. The lock idea has finally come to Youngstown - they are encouraging people to put locks on a giant rooster sculpture at the Canfield Fair this weekend!