“There are such wonderful cool hills and green meadows in my home country!” Aida entices her lover Radames. Poor Aida. Originally a princess from mountainous Ethiopia, she is now enslaved at the Pharao’s court in scorching-hot Egypt. A few minutes later the couple is discovered and the third act of Aida in the arena of Verona is over.
Everyone in the audience takes out bags of food and starts munching. “I… zzzcream! I… zzzcream!” A black snack vendor with dreadlocks wearing a canary-yellow T-Shirt offers relief from Verona’s sweltering heat, which still rises up from the stone steps of the Roman arena even late at night.
“Why are there so many Japanese here?,” we hear a German boy behind us ask. “Because Verona is a beautiful city and because the Japanese love the opera,” his mother replies. “There aren’t so many Japanese in Germany.” “Yes there are. In Heidelberg for example. That’s because Heidelberg is also a beautiful city.” We assume that this family does not live in a beautiful city.
While we are not opera lovers by nature, we did enjoy the performance in the nearly 2000 year old Roman amphitheatre. The open-air setting with an audience of thousands was spectacular, although it was difficult to see the singers from the distance of the cheap seats.
Romeo and Juliet
Most of the visitors to Verona head first to Juliet’s house, where the balcony on which Romeo supposedly climbed can be seen. With chewing gums, they stick little “x loves y” notes on the walls of the archway and then take pictures of each other grabbing the already shiny breasts of a Juliet bronze statue in the courtyard. By the time the tourists have made it to the balcony on the second floor, their excitement has dwindled, and in the photos taken from below, bored views rather than hot embraces appear on the famous balustrade.
Veronese, Tizian und Caroto
Besides the arena and Juliet’s house, we also visit a lot of churches in Verona. Inside we find paintings from Veronese, Tizian and Caroto. Huge flower pots and Madonna-statues dot the main nave, but in the enormous, beautifully carved stoup usually stands a small tupper-ware bowl filled with holy water. In San Giorgio, we notice, the floor tiles are laid in unusual swirls. San Giorgio is not on the standard round of must-see churches, nor on the collective Verona-Ticket – in fact, entry to the church is free. We only have come here by chance, because we had seen the impressive dome from the bridge we crossed daily on our way between the campsite and the city.
While we take a closer look at a painting in one of the dark side chapels, the caretaker comes over, eagerly showing us the light-button. Then he disappears in the vestry. Suddenly, the whole choir lightens up, and we notice the marvellous painting of St George over the main altar. The old man beckons us into the choir. “Veronese!” he whispers. The painting shows St. George’s martyrdom – instead of the usual dragon-killing scene. A variety of very realistic bailiffs, officers, and clerics fill the picture, with some hilarious puttos tumbling down from a cloud for good measure.
A perfect view over Verona
From our campsite within (and on!) the old walls of the castle of San Pietro we have a wonderful view over the city of Verona. It is quiet and very green up here, and by 11 pm most campers have retired. When those who went to the opera return at 1 am, they sit silently on one of the many terraces drinking a glass of wine and looking out over the illuminated churches. Our neighbours from Dresden are enthusiastic. “Most years we spend our summer vacations on various campsites in Italy. It’s rare to find a campsite without a disco and animation programme.” Well, for us it was the first time camping in Italy, but we agree that the campsite in Verona was most lovely!