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Welcome to the online blog for traveler/writer/photographer Steven Barber. Come in. Relax. Take off your shoes and socks -- or any other article of clothing, this is the internet. Have a look around. I hope to intrigue, amuse, entertain, and maybe provoke you just a little. I love to find adventure. All I need is a change of clothes, my Nikon, an open mind and a strong cup of coffee.

Monday, July 1, 2013


"But since thou lovest, love still and thrive therein, Even as I would when I tol love begin."  - William Shakespeare, Two Gentlemen from Verona

The Piazza del Erbes
Few places in this world are as deeply embedded in our collective romantic psyche as is Verona, the city made famous by Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. The simple mention of the name Verona immediately conjures intimate feelings, a sense of tragedy and of another, far more romantic age.

In truth, you are able to find those things in the Verona of today, but if that's all you're looking for -- and there is a balcony labeled as being the true Juliet's that the visitor may photograph or even, for a moderate sum, stand upon and get yourself serenaded for a moment or two -- then you will miss quite a lot of what the modern city has to offer.

Torre dei Lamberti
For our visit we focused on activities in and around the Piazza delle Erbe (Plaza of Herbs, indicating its history as a shopping district). The Piazza is an elongated street, doubly wide with a central section of booths and stands loaded with herbs, oils, trinkets and a variety of foodstuffs. The buildings surrounding the Piazza convey a sense of ancient modernism, with trendy boutiques and their window displays often standing in stark contrast to the classical facade of the building they inhabit.

We arrived for a day trip at Verona's Porto Nuova rail station after an hour long ride from Venice. It's a short enough haul that the transit isn't so taxing you're exhausted by the time you arrive, and yet far enough that you get a chance to see some of the Veneto's beautiful countryside and classic towns. 

A taxi was readily hailed and we made the five minute ride to to piazza without incident. In planning this trip we had orientied in on this particular location versus the Veronese Colosseo a few blocks south due to the more intense history associated with the piazza -- it once served as the primary marketplace in Verona -- in addition to the range of activities available.

"Romeo, oh Romeo..."

One of the most beautiful features that will immediately grab your attention in the plaza is the Palazzo del Comune's ornate clock tower, the Torre dei Lamberti, which tops out at 83 meters above the piazza. The tall, thin column immediately draws your attention and establishes the mood of the surroundings. Constructed of bricks and marble, with the clock itself completed in the late 1700s. The original tower dates from nearly 300 years earlier.

After a casual stroll through the marketplace, and a de rigeur visit to Juliet's balcony -- pretty much a crowded courtyard just off the main street within an easy walk of the piazza -- we wandered through the Arco della Costa to a second, equally fascinating piazza, the Piazza dei Signori, where we paused for an excellent lunch at one of the omnipresent sidewalk cafes.

Following lunch, and a brief stop at the restrooms available in the far back edge of the Castello's interior courtyard, we wandered back to the main plaza and started down the very fashionable Via Giuseppe Massini, which seems to attract quite a few trendy boutiques. Certainly worth a walk, particularly if you're in the company of people who love window shopping. 

Going in virtually any direction would be rewarding, but we turned right on the Via Quattro Spade and then right again on Via Pellicciai to make a complete loop of the neighborhood -- though if you're interested in a longer walk the area is ideal for simply wandering for hours.

Verona really is set up as a meandering city. It's a place the casual pedestrian and the hard-core city hiker alike will find something of interest, as well as a decent workout. There are numerous nooks and alleys to be explored, as well as enough food and shopping to occupy those who are more into those things. And, as noted, it's ideal as both an end destination, or as a day trip from Venice.  I will note that Verona is on our "return for a longer stay" list, simply because the taste was enough to invite us back at some point in the future.

Whether you're hiking your way across Europe or simply looking for a few hours before your cruise ship departs from Venice, consider Verona as a potential target. History, food and shopping, all wrapped into one very accessible bow.

Fair Verona, Piazza del Erbes