My thanks go out to Kevin Bell, a happy traveller and old mate who I bumped into at Gary’s 50th birthday party in Ilkley. It was Kev, who knowing a thing or two about Tuscany, pointed us in the direction of La Loggia Restaurant in Fiesole, a short bus ride out of Florence, up into the Tuscan hills in Italy.
The occasion – our 25th wedding anniversary, a spot of lunch with a tear in the eye, looking out over the scenery and reflecting on being the luckiest man alive in Italy that day.
The food, the wine and the setting could not have been nicer, I would certainly urge anyone who is staying in Florence for a few days to take the bus into the hills and make the most of this lovely town, taking in a bottle of Montepulciano d’Abruzzo and a filet steak as well if time permits!
OK, so time for a full on day being a tourist in Verona – that means wearing the skin of your feet, eating pizza and stopping off for the odd glass of vino between churches, shops and museums.
A great day, I would say – and I have the sunburn, ant bites and blisters to prove it.
We were so lucky to stumble into the Verona Cathedral in Piazza Duomo, just as a string section, oboe and operatic singer were warming up with rehersal for a performance that evening – what a sound, a truly memorable and beautiful thirty minutes of music that stirred the soul.
Within four days, we visited all four of the major churches open to the public – getting our six euro card stamped along the way!
A long day on the train was rewarded with an evening stroll into the beautiful city of Verona – our home for the next few days
Shakespeare placed star-crossed lovers Romeo Montague and Juliet Capulet in Verona for good reason: romance, drama and fatal family feuding have been the city’s hallmark for centuries. From the 3rd century BC Verona was a Roman trade centre with ancient gates, a forum (now Piazza delle Erbe) and a grand Roman arena, which still serves as one of the world’s great opera venues. In the Middle Ages the city flourished under the wrathful Scaligeri clan, who were as much energetic patrons of the arts as they were murderous tyrants. Their elaborate Gothic tombs, the Arche Scaligere, are just off Piazza dei Signori.
Under Cangrande I (1308–28) Verona conquered Padua and Vicenza, with Dante, Petrarch and Giotto benefitting from the city’s patronage. But the fratricidal rage of Cangrande II (1351–59) complicated matters, and the Scaligeri were run out of town in 1387. Venice took definitive control in 1404, ruling until Napoleon’s arrival in 1797.
The city became a Fascist control centre from 1938 to 1945, a key location for Resistance interrogation and transit point for Italian Jews sent to Nazi concentration camps. Today, as the city grapples with its changing identity as an international commercial centre, it has become a Lega Nord (Northern League) stronghold. Yet the city is a Unesco World Heritage Site and a cosmopolitan crossroads, especially in summer when the 2000-year-old arena hosts opera’s biggest names (including us).
Satup in bed now, listening to Aida – frantically trying to memorise two and a half hours of music, to get ready for tomorrow night down at the Arena, Verona.
It would seem that Giuseppe Fortunino Francesco Verdi was born on the 9th October 1813 and left this earth on 27 January 1901 – over 113 years ago; so how come he’s such a big deal?
Clearly he was an ItalianRomantic composer primarily known for his operas. I am advised by Wikipedia that he is considered, together with Richard Wagner, the preeminent opera composer of the nineteenth century.
Well, I will be the judge of that after I have sat with a numb bum for four hours tomorrow night in the open air!
It would also seem that Aida was a runaway success – following the very first performance in Cario on Christmas Eve 1871, the opera went on to great critical acclaim and was performed around the world – and still is to this day, making it the second most performed opera in the world, after La Beheme.