Saturday, September 25, 2004
The next morning the weather had calmed down considerably, and it was shaping up to be a nice day. We had the breakfast at the hotel (same standard stuff), checked out and loaded up the car, and then walked back to the walled town to tour the fortress. Entry was free that day, score! Genevieve liked hearing me tell her about how it was built to keep the bad guys out. Charlotte didn’t want to be on Mark’s back and was fussy until I put the backpack on my back. I guess she’s used to me carrying her from all of those trips to the park with the dog. Once we had seen the fort and great views of the town from the fort we said goodbye to Sirmione and drove the half hour or so to Verona. We were to call the owner of the apartment we were renting from a payphone in Piazza Bra where the Roman arena is, and Mark was very skeptical of this plan. He felt that there would be no parking even if we could drive to the piazza, but I was the navigator and he dutifully followed my instructions. Once we got to the piazza we did find parking, and I went with Genevieve to get a phone card (from the Tabbachi) and make the call, leaving Mark in the car with a sleeping Charlotte. The first phone we tried wouldn’t work and I thought it was something I was doing wrong so I went into the nearby tourist office for instructions. They said that phone was just broken, so I tried one over by the taxi stand. Once I figured out that by pressing the big “Okay” button I was in fact canceling the call, not confirming, it worked out fine. I called our hostess Laura, and went to wait on the steps of the Palazzo Gran Guardia Nuova as instructed. A few minutes later she pulled up on her scooter and we followed her to theapartment. What a great place! Located just across the bridge from the Porta Leoni, the old roman gate, on a quiet alley near the University. Laura had stocked the fridge with milk and juice and also provided coffee and some pastry things in a basket. She and Giorgio got us settled in and told us where all of the stuff we would need (playground, grocery stores, etc.) was located.
After they left, we unpacked while the children played and then went to the big grocery store, the Esselunga, to get food for the next few days because we had been warned that grocery stores (and most other stores) are closed on Sundays. The Esselunga was located right in the outskirts of Verona. It was a nice grocery store comparable to a new American grocery store. I had a one-Euro coin to get the shopping cart, but unfortunately this store required a two-Euro coin. A fellow shopper was able to give us the right change and we began our shopping experience. First was the produce aisle. I had gotten instructions on how to manage this from the Slow Travel site too–wear a glove to handle the veggies, and weigh your own bags at the scale and affix the sticker that prints to your bag. A good system, maybe it would speed things up in the US too. We bought stuff for breakfast and dinner, but it’s really hard to plan for dinner when you don’t have an oven. The only thing we had a really hard time finding was bar soap. Apparently it’s not that common there ’cause they only had a few selections in an out-of-the-way place (but tons of liquid soap). We took our full cart to the check out and bought our bags and bagged our stuff and unloaded it at the apartment.
Because we missed lunch we decided to eat dinner in a restaurant. We went away from the center of town through an organic-foods street fair and to a local establishment. I had horse meat prosciutto (I don’t know how else to describe it), because horse meat is a Verona specialty. Not bad, but I think I’ll stick to the ham version. The kids got their plain pasta with parmesan, and I think we managed not to annoy the other diners too much. Back to the apartment and a bath (not a shower) for the kids and to bed.
Sunday, September 26 – After a humble breakfast in our apartment of yogurt and granola, and kid’s cereal and bananas for the kids, we headed out to tour Verona. Mark and I had been here for one day on our honeymoon eight years ago, and liked the town so much we decided to stay for a week this time around. We headed out across the river to the Porta Leoni and on to Piazza delle Erbe. Sunday is the only day they don’t have a market in the square so there was plenty of room for the kids to wander. After we hung out there for a while, we climbed the Tower Lamberti, had a nice lunch at a restaurant right under the arch that leads into the Piazza (Charlotte got a little sleepy after lunch, as you can see) and then headed out to the Castlevecchio. Genevieve particularly liked the story about this place, how the Scaligeri family had alienated the populace of Verona so thoroughly that they built it to keep the townspeople OUT and even constructed a bridge specifically to give them an escape route should their loving citizens ever come for them. Seems to me it might have been a better plan to just treat them better, don’t you think? After the castle, we started to head back to the apartment through the main shopping district. We stopped for gelato (of course) and then made it back to the Piazza Bra where we took a closerlook at this giant statue of an atom (?) planetary system (?) made out of soda cans. As it’s now Sunday evening a lot of people were out for their stroll and Charlotte in particular got a lot of attention, due in part to the “ruffle butt” outfit I dressed her in. It’s getting late and chilly so we continue down Via Mazzini which is totally packed with people. A lot of the stores are open and I bought a shirt at Extyn, which is like an Italian version of Express. Once we get home, it’s dinner/bath/bed.