Like a true Classicist, on a recent trip to Verona I spent most of my time attempting to avoid the city’s never-ending “Romeo e Giulietta” obsession (not an easy task) and instead visiting as many Roman sites as I could. Obviously the first port of call was the Arena, home of Verona’s famous summer opera festival, whose stage sets were actually under construction at the time.
It’s nice to see an ancient amphitheatre still being used for performances, even if Aïda and Carmen aren’t exactly what its builders had in mind.
Verona also has a nice but less well-known (so less crowded!) Roman theatre, just across the river from the centre:
If this looks like a fairly strange camera-angle, it’s because I’m leaning out of a window on the top floor of a three-storey Jesuit monastery that was built right on top of the ancient theatre (as you do) – so the seating you can see is only about half of the original. Roman Verona was presumably a pretty big place, to support an amphitheatre and theatre of this size. (The monastery is now the Archaeological Museum – some nice small bronze figurines, but mainly worth visiting for the view !)
In fact, just wandering around Verona you can’t help coming across Roman remains, whether it’s the Porta Borsari (the main gateway into Roman Verona, now leading on to one of the main shopping streets) or a hole in the road thoughtfully created to reveal the scavi (excavations) of the tower of another gate.
Meanwhile, on a day-trip to Padua, Giotto’s Scrovegni Chapel paled into insignificance beside the discovery that the Padovans had named a street after their fellow-citizen Titus Livius Patavinus. It was just a shame that, contrary to usual usage, “Riviera” in the Padovan dialect apparently means “ugly street covered in concrete office blocks and full of buses, without any water in sight”. Bad luck, Livy.
By contrast, Catullus did rather better in Verona, with a much nicer eponymous street, complete with classical decoration on the corner, and one of the city’s most select and sophisticated dining establishments – a place I’m sure Catullus himself would have patronised. At any rate, I’d feel safer eating there than at the city’s other classical cafe, which was called “Il Minotauro”…
For a philologist, though, the highlight of the trip had to be another day-trip, this time to Vicenza. Best known as the birthplace of the architect Andrea Palladio, and thus home to a large number of Palladian villas, the city turned out also to be home to a thriving community of linguists keen to share news of exciting philological developments with the casual passer-by:
Yes, Vicenza has its very own Esperanto Society. With its very own Esperanto Society public notice board. After seeing this I can honestly say that my holiday was complete.