Piazza Brà, the central square with its richly decorated houses, immaculate streets and gardens and busy pavement restaurants had a prosperous, self assured atmosphere and we ate our Brek self-service pasta lunch while people rushed by on the adjacent pavement and the sun broke through the thin clouds and filled the Piazza with welcome rays that emphasized the pastel shades of the buildings and the geometry of the bricks and stones of the medieval city wall close by.
When we were finished we left and continued our exploration of the city and headed away from the piazza and the amphitheatre and into the up-market pedestrianised shopping street of Via Giuseppe Mazzini and towards the busy market place of Piazza dei Signori. On the way we had to take a small detour because we considered it essential that we find and see Juliet’s house in a cobbled courtyard tucked away in a side street.
Supposedly the location of the famous balcony scene from Shakespeare’s love story, Juliet’s house is a popular romantic shrine and tourist honey-trap where lovers leave messages to each other on the walls and attach the dreadful lovelocks to the fences and the railings. Although the house has become a major destination for tourist pilgrimage the house of course has no connection at all with the bard’s fictional characters and although it is old and looks authentic enough, the balcony was actually added in 1936 and declared to be “Juliet’s house” by the city authorities in a blatant attempt to cash in on the Shakespeare connection and to attract more tourists.
The balcony overlooks a tiny courtyard containing a dainty bronze statue of a graceful Juliet and people were waiting impatiently for their turn to be photographed with the heroine and to touch her right breast which is supposed to bring good fortune but I was worried that public groping was inappropriate and ever so slightly ungentlemanly so I steered clear and elected to do without the good luck boost and on the way out decided not to waste my money on a lottery ticket next weekend.
Juliet’s house was an interesting distraction but now we moved on to something altogether more interesting and stunning, the Piazza die Signori surrounded on all sides by medieval and renaissance palaces and grand buildings rising high and gaily painted, yellow, umber and crimson, with wooden shutters at the windows folded back like butterfly wings basking in the sun and overlooking the busy square and stone statues, the civic heart of medieval Verona and now the most popular and sociable place in the city.
We walked through a street market and admired the magnificent buildings and at this place at this time it was almost possible to believe that what we were seeing would have been very familiar to William Shakespeare if he had in fact visited fair Verona.
From the square we took Via Giuseppe Garibaldi down to the murky waters of the River Adige as it loops its way through the city and followed the river bank for several hundred metres until how way was blocked by the walls of the old fortress and were obliged to return to the streets and completed the trio of roads commemorating the heroes of Italian unification by walking along Corso Cavour to the Ponte Castelvecchio and crossed the river and back again over this restored medieval brick structure.
With the afternoon sliding away we returned to the Piazza Brà along the busy Via Roma and then our footsore way back towards the train station. I had enjoyed Verona, it was more relaxing than Venice with less tourists and a compact centre and I was sad to watch it slipping away out of sight as the train left the station at the start of the ninety minute journey back to Padova. I was glad that we had visited the city and was quiet happy to add it to my list of places to which I would gladly return one day.
It was dark by the time we arrived back in Padova and the railway and bus station not being the most salubrious area of the city we purchased some drinks from the station mini-market and arranged to meet in an hour or so to walk into the city.
We walked further tonight and I was glad that we did because we found ourselves in one of the central squares of the city, a market square that was clear of commercial activity now with cafés and bars tucked in below the stone walls, arches, balconies and colonnades of the magnificent old medieval market hall so we selected one that we liked and sat for a while for pre dinner drinks.
Tucked down a side-street Kim had found an authentic looking trattoria so we agreed that we would dine there. It was a traditional family run sort of place that reminded me of the restaurant where Michael Corleone assassinated the gangster Salazo and the Chief of Police in the Godfather film. It had rows of tables, simple furniture, white tablecloths and pictures of old Padova on the walls.
The food and the house wine was excellent and we sat and chatted until it was obvious that after a long day and with no new customers the owners would rather like to lock up and go home so we left and wandered slowly back to the hotel. It had been a good day and tomorrow we would return to Venice.