Thursday, September 30, 2004
We got up early today so that we could leave Verona speedily and get to Venice early enough to enjoy it. However, we were unaware that Verona was hosting a huge international bike race with a course that went around the old part of the city. Every single exit was roped off for the bike race! We drove around for an hour with Mark insisting that they couldn’t possibly have closed every route out of the city and me thinking, “hmmm, this is Italy, I think they very possibly could have done that”. Finally we gave into fate and decided to spend another day touring Verona. We parked our car near our apartment in front of the house with a beautiful black dog that its owners never let inside (very unusual in Italy to have a dog so neglected). We said hi to the dog and promised Genevieve we would try to buy him treats while we were out. Our first stop in Verona was to go across the Ponte Pietra, the old stone bridge that was destroyed in WWII but reconstructed using the original materials, and then on to the Roman theater. They have excavated a lot of the theater but at one time it must have just looked like a hill because in the middle ages they built a church right across one third of it. There is also an old abbey at the top that has been converted into an museum. Besides some great examples of roman mosaics you can get good views of the city from up there. Once we were done with the theater, we walked back across the Ponte Pietra and on to the Piazza Erbe to see what it looked like when the market was open. On the way we passed Saint Anastasia, one of the oldest churches in the city, and as we had not yet toured any churches we felt obligated to go in. The guides were very friendly with the kids and besides Charlotte’s need to shuffle around all of the prayer books the kids were well-behaved too. Once we got to the Piazza Erbe we were a bit underwhelmed by the “colorful umbrellas of the market” because it really just looked like a flea market selling tourist trash. We had passed an Osteria called “Giulietta e Romeo” on the way (on the Corso S. Anastasia) and went back for lunch, which was very good. Mark had really wanted to go to Torbole, which is a small town at the tip of lake Garda with great views (we’d gotten a hint of the beauty of the lake from the top of the spaceship ride at Gardaland), and we considered going there and letting the kids nap in the car, as the bicycle race was now over for the day, but we thought the better of it and went back to the apartment for a short nap instead. Ha! The only one who even came close to sleeping was Mark, and that was put to a short end by Genevieve jumping on his bed. After our not-so-quiet time we went to the main playground just inside one of the city wall ramparts that was recommended by Laura and Giorgio. On the way there, we ran into L and G (how nice to see a familiar face in a strange city!) and they tell us that the bicycle race lasts 15 days (!) and there is one way out but it’s sporadic as they can only let cars through when there are no racers. They also strongly and very emphatically recommended that we take the train and not the car to Venice, as it was faster, parking was easier, and of course we wouldn’t have any trouble departing. Good advice. We said goodbye to them and walked the rest of the way to the playground. What a great place! It’s fully gated and there is a rec center thing there that is staffed daily with arts andcrafts projects and lots of toys, like Little Tykes ride-ons, that are impractical for apartments. The kids had a blast! Mark and I had fun watching them have a good time and also watching the dynamics of the Italian families. It seems likemost families take their kids to the playground in the evening, I guess after work but before dinner. It’s quite the social hour there. Playground dynamics and rules seem to be exactly the same as the US so we fit right in in that regard. After the kids were all played out, we went back through Piazza Bra where we got Genevieve’s gelato and went down the main shopping street again. It was crowded but not as packed as Sunday! I stopped again at Extyn and got a couple more shirts because I’d seen enough to know that’s what I really liked. And home for dinner/bath/bed.