One trip we frequently make when visiting Gargnano is to Verona for shopping (mostly for gelato!) and sightseeing. We usually take the ferry from Toscolano-Maderno to Torri del Benaco and then drive the rest of the way.
Founded by ancient tribes, Verona became a Roman colony around the 1st Century, B.C., and carries with it so much history, that I couldn’t do it justice to go into it here. Its most prosperous times were during the 13th and 14th centuries under the Scaliger
family and during its time as part of the Republic of Venice
during the 15th through 18th centuries.
It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site because of its preservation of monuments from antiquity and the Medieval and Renaissance periods, its urban structure and architecture, and its example as a fortified city and military stronghold.
Built in AD 30, the amphitheater was once the sight of famous shows and games and hosted around 30,000 spectators! People came from all around the region – it must have been quite some show!
Today, it is still in use… hosting open air operas – with 4-6 productions hosted during the summer months and concerts with renowned artists. The site accommodates around 15,000 people now due to safety reasons.
Heading into the city center of Verona, the streets are lined with upscale shops and boutiques. A little window shopping never hurt, right?
Where can I find the gelato?
A few steps further and we found ourselves in Piazza della Erbe
or ‘Market’s Square’, once used as the town’s forum during the Roman Empire. Built in 1368, the fountain still stands as an ancient monument surmounted by the statue of Madonna Verona
, a Roman sculpture dating back to 380 AD.
We made a quick stop out side of Juliet’s balcony… you know the one! Romeo and Juliet
, by William Shakespeare, was set here in Verona. It is one of Shakespeare’s most popular plays.
But, I am sad to discover that while, yes, this is the original house of the Capello’s, there is no real connection between the ill-fated, star-crossed lovers and this location.
Verona welcomes the pilgrimage of tourists to ‘Juliet’s’ balcony, which was added in 1936 with remnants of a medieval sarcophagus, but the city has become a bit frazzled
by all of the ‘love messages’ left behind in the form of messages, old gum, metal locks, and graffiti.
It seems everyone wants to be a part of this love story!
. . .
Verona is such a large, metropolitan city (third largest in northeast Italy)… and with El & Lil (and Coco!) in tow, it’s usually difficult for us to see all of it in one day. So, we can do only a handful of things before the music stops.
Lastly, we stopped by the Cathedral of Saint Anastasia
– the largest church
Built by Dominican friars (1280-1400), the Gothic
cathedral was dedicated to Saint Peter Martyr…
however, the cathedral was built on the ruins of another church (or temple
), that of Saint Anastasia, and the people of Verona still call the church by the name of its predecessor.
Hi, Mom & Dad!
Built in red brickwork, the facade is unassuming but hides behind its strong doors a trove of treasures from past master artists and craftsmen. Behold the vast interior in 360 here.
Roberto Bigano [Credit:Link
The two-sided fresco (the left side almost gone completely now) is about St. George who is mounting his horse (still seen on the surviving section) going to fight a dragon and to save the king’s daughter (on the now lost section). I would have loved to have seen the dragon!
Detail of St. George and the Princess
The details are beautiful… and what is more intriguing is that Pisanello used a three-dimensional technique known as bas relief
to give the characters more life – the brocade dress worn by the princess and her hair decorations, the knight and the horse’s armor and decorations, etc. A photographer in Verona, Robert Bigano
, worked on a collaboration
to capture the beauty of this fresco (which is seen by many in darkened interior church lighting) and to show the real glory of this masterpiece in natural light. Go here
for a more in depth look.
To the left of the main alter, a monument to nobleman, Cortesia Serego…
In a side alter, Serego’s hanging grave (which is empty).
A few more side alters…
A few examples of frescos (sadly, fading away)…
And, one of the two hunchbacks which you see upon entering the church… Phew! Take some extra time for this church, if you ever visit… there is a lot to see!
By Gabriele Caliari
Back outside, more evidence of fading frescoes…
In town, the sidewalk opens up to show the lower, original level of the streets of Verona… part of an open archealogical site.
And nearby, stands the ancient Roman gate to the city, Porta Leoni.
. . .
It makes me sad about the fading frescoes… one day they will be gone forever… worn away by exposure to light and other elements, water damage, and just old age. I’m glad people like Roberto Bigano make the effort to capture the passing markers of history so that younger generations may get to see them, too!
In stepping into this cathedral, it was like stepping through a time vortex… back centuries to a life far different than my own today. I see the fading masterpieces and I wonder what they must have looked like in their intended glory… The marble surfaces have softened edges, the tiles have lost their shine, the painted faces have started to fade. I realize that I can’t stop time, none of us can. And it’s a privilege to be able to travel so far from my birthplace to see all of what once was (and is) happening in the world.