The royal-icing mountain-peaks glisten like many-faceted diamonds as we wing our way over the Alps in the bright April sunshine. An azure ribbon of sparkling blue slides into view of the oval porthole as our great steel bird swoops low over the wondrous Lake Garda. The striking reflection of Sirmione castle glimmers in the waters below as we begin our descent into poetic Verona.
A couple of frosted glasses of Prosecco later we set off along the amber- marble pavements shimmering in the heat, with their embedded ammonite fossils and total absence of chewing gum dots, towards the Piazza Erbe. Arriving in the hustle and bustle of the market square we watch its daily occupants in full flow, like ants on the march, and look around for the spot where Romeo Montague might have slain Tybalt Capulet.
Choosing a table in the double-warmth of sunshine and radiator, we select Italian: pizza margherita; spaghetti bolonese topped with formaggio parmigiano, followed by a heavyweight caffe espresso, a featherweight cappuccino or a chilly caffe freddo. Limoncello on the house completes our first Veronese lunch as we watch the world go by.
Around the corner from Piazza Erbe and well on the tourist-beaten track we come across a tiny courtyard, inside which stands a statue of short-tempered Tybalt’s beautiful cousin, Juliet. One of her breasts appears, interestingly, smaller and shinier than the other – from the incessant queue of holidaymakers who wait to touch it for good luck, their partners loiter ready to click their image for digital posterity as they do so. Others linger to snap their beloved sweethearts as they climb up to the famous balcony, where Romeo once fictitiously appeared to Juliet, before dropping her a note for advice on their personal problems. They glance at their watches, tap their feet and mutter, “Oh, wherefore art thou, Other-Half?”
Another day dawns bright and balmy and our feet tread the marble in the other direction, in search of the Roman arena. This is where bold gladiators fought with bone-crunching swords, where animals suffered and Romans quenched their blood-thirsts. We climb the heady steps, where each one is so deep it requires a knee-up. We reach the top and our heads spin in the clouds. We gaze in open-mouthed awe at the gaping fathoms that seem to call us skeetering down head-first into the abyss below. Years ago the Roman hordes clamoured for death, today the crowds cheer for Spandau Ballet or Mumford & Sons, but the excitement is the same – palpable, pulsating.
Leaving the tier-arched arena we mooch around the adjoining square, aptly named Piazza Arena. Time for an aperitif, a mouth-watering ice-filled Aperol spritz. We select a sun-drenched table and settle down to view the open, tree-lined area in front of us. The three arches, Romanesque, the old entry to the town, stands majestic at one end, while the arena guards the other. In between, more marble pavements lead us wherever we wish to go.
Verona is a patchwork quilt of interest and beauty. The more we walk along the marble pavements, the more they seem to walk towards us.