Italy – Verona, the city I fell in love with

It was an earlier rise today, for our 8.30a.m train to Verona, but after our early night and fantastic sleep in the very comfortable beds of the apartment we were up and ready in no time. Unfortunately, the weather had taken a turn for the worse and while we started positively with shorts and sandals it wasn’t long (I changed on the train) until we had resorted back to jeans and trainers. We were catching the train from Central Station, a 5 minute walk from the apartment and so after dropping off the key in the mailbox we made our way over to one of the most spectacular train stations I have ever seen! The architecture was amazing and we spent a while sitting taking it in while having morning pastries and espresso. We had pre-booked the tickets from the UK which was very simple and so didn’t have to pick up any tickets as you just print your booking confirmation. We boarded our train and since we were sitting in first class, enjoyed some free snacks and drinks (wine was available but we sensibly opted for orange juice) while watching the pretty yet dreary views of the Italian countryside slip by.

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It only takes an hour and a half from Milan to reach Verona and by this point the rain had started to come down quite incessantly rather than the light spit we had left behind. It was still warm so we opted to walk into town, and enjoyed lovely views of the city walls and the Arena as we made the way to our hotel – Nicchia. The accommodation was on one of the side streets off from the main Arena and we really couldn’t have picked a more convenient location. It was tiny and only had 3 rooms as well as a very modern reception and coffee area. Located on the first floor of the building it had the apartment feel we had in Milan with the luxury of a hotel. Arriving at 10.30a.m we were much too early to check-in but took advantage of some electricity to charge my phone before heading out to explore.

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Due to the weather we enjoyed a relaxed morning strolling between shops treating ourselves to lots of Italian luxuries. Skipping between the shops meant we avoided the brunt of the rain while still taking in the beautiful Veronese architecture. Verona has much more of a traditional Italian feel with brightly coloured houses with pretty balconies. Even in the rain, wandering around was just lovely. As the rain started to get heavier we decided it was a good time to stop for some wine and picked a lovely restaurant called Della Ragione which had seating outside the back covered by an arch and in a sort of private square which used to be the old court. It was a beautiful building and we had some great food including the local octopus stew with polenta and a wild boar spaghetti. Yum! I also took the slightly chiller temperatures to sample the local red wine which was a great light choice with the wine.

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By this point the rain was off and so we decided to head to one of Verona’s most famous sites, Juliet’s balcony. Since Shakespeare’s masterpiece is a work of fiction the balcony and entire house which you can pay to enter was constructed to meet the tourist market but ever since watching Letter’s to Juliet I had wanted to see it. As you enter the courtyard the walls are covered in messages people have left to ‘Juliet’ asking for everlasting love. The courtyard itself is small and when we visited packed full of hundreds of tourists trying to capture the perfect picture of the famous balcony. We decided against entering the house and instead used a vantage point of one of the tourist shops to get a less bustling view. Romantic it wasn’t watching people bump others out of the way, but interesting all the same and they did have a nice quote on the wall for people who appreciate the literary work.

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Luckily, the sun began to make an appearance and we took the opportunity to walk across the river and do a short hike up the steep, narrow, traditional streets to a gorgeous vista of the beautiful city. As if we had planned it, after the hike up we enjoyed a glass of wine in the sunshine taking in the views of not only the city but also the surrounding countryside and of course the famous vineyards!! After a much easier walk down, we crossed back over the river into the city and made our way to the Verona Duomo. While nowhere near as impressive as the Duomo in Milan, it was still a beautiful cathedral and much less busy which was nice. A minor point to note is that if you enter from the side entrance as we did you will have to pay 3 euros to enter the side rooms and archaeological museum whereas a visit to the cathedral itself is completely free through the main door and by far the highlight.

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As the rain began to spit again, we made our way back to our lovely room for an afternoon nap in preparation for the highlight of the trip – Adele, live at the Arena. We made a quick wine stop en-route for a sweet chocolate and coconut pastry treat which was very yummy. We had both packed nice dresses with an idea that we could dress up for the concert, it was in Italy after all. However, as the rain hammered against the window, we might as well have been back in Scotland and so opted for jeans and waterproof coats – warmth before fashion every time! We left dinner until the last possible minute and since the concert of the year was going on that night and a lot of places didn’t open for dinner until 8 we ended up in upmarket Risto Rubiani. We opted for a half bottle of prosecco (it was my birthday after all) and I went for the fish stew which was pretty fantastic, with even the octopus which is often chewy in dishes of this kind, being cooked to perfection. Still feeling a bit peckish I decided it was time to sample the classic Italian dish of Tiramisu while my mum opted for a modern strawberries and cream dish. The food was very good and we left just before 9 as the rain finally subsided and made the short walk to the Arena and to our seats.

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The queuing process made evident in Scotland we were not, with no real idea where to enter the Arena and since we had left it pretty last minute we were caught up in a surge at the final door resulting in us running to our seats as the first notes of Hello belted out. After the opening number she got the 2 happy songs out of the way before we sat back and belted out the classic sombre numbers. She was a sublime singer, completely effortless and very funny in persona, really interacting with the crowd for better or worse. I would not have liked to have been the poor soul videoing the concert on their tripod who she vehemently told to put the camera away, since she was there in real life! The concert span by in a whirlwind of fantastic songs and sooner than we expected we were making our way to the exit covered by Adele branded confetti both agreeing the venue had probably made this one of the best concerts we had ever attended. Luckily we had less than a 2 minute walk to bed where we both fell soundly asleep.

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The last day dawned with more rain and so we made the most of the lovely hotel and included breakfast with coffee before heading out to simply wander the town. This is the thing I enjoyed most about Verona. The old town is a maze of beautiful old Italian architecture and simply wandering and looking around is one of the most enjoyable parts, of course stopping every now and then for a glass of gorgeous local wine and a tasty Italian snack. I enjoyed my final glass sitting outside a café in the main square at 10a.m while my mum wandered around the nearby market, absolute bliss! It was soon enough time to catch our train and so we made the short 15 minute walk back to the train station. We just had enough time to have a slice of pizza each, when in Italy, before boarding the train back to Milan. We had a short changeover in Milan Central and then took our final train back to Malpensa airport. A fantastic weekend break, despite the weather. See you soon Italia!

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