Saturday, November 3, 2018

Bologna, Two Gentlemen of Verona and Further Hobknoberry.

Hocha! and here we are, fresh in on a plane from Verona.

A fabulous week in two terrific cities, we felt the first few drops of rain as we raced for the aerobus, post breakfast at the weekend, Turns out it didn't stop raining for the next four days and the Adige, Arno, Po and Tiber all bust their banks.

Anyway, there now follows a brief record of our movements during half term week,

let me put that another way,

There now follows a not so brief record of our movements during half term week. Regular visitors to this parish will be aware of a need to write things down else stuff gets forgotten as to where and when we have actually been.

Bologna first, with an early morning flight that we almost missed due to the M3/M25 junction being closed. Remember that smart motorway thing? the installation of all those clever digital boards imparting information and the very hell of several years of twenty odd miles of average speed control?

Well we passed many blank information boards to be met by the closure of the M3/M25 junction, we were then guided by cones through Richmond, Reigate and possibly Rochester to Gatwick with a minute or two to spare before boarding began.

Released from the shitshow that is the motorway system in the south east of England, we touched down in one of our favourite cities, where we visited the right restaurants, shopped in the right shops and generally spent a couple of days living high on the hog in brilliant Bologna.
There's several accounts of our times in this super city on here so I'll spare you the details, but on each of our previous visits this dog was inside the shop helping to choose the meat. We didn't like to ask why he and his owner (it may not be the dog) were required to wait outside.

If you've half a mind to visit anywhere in northern Italy, Bologna is a cheap place to fly to and a railway hub with most of what this corner of Europe has to offer less than two hours train ride away.

After two days in Bologna, fifty minutes on Trenitalia's Frecciarossa at speeds over two hundred miles an hour (tickets are much cheaper if booked online in advance) set us down in Verona, a new one for us where balconies are quite the thing.

Our apartment (second floor, above white van) on Piazza del Erbe had two, and each morning we felt obliged to wave at the masses, papally preach, or take in any fly past by the red arrows or battle of Britain planes that may be happening by.

Verona lies in the crook of a tight bend of the river Adige and some parts of the city are really old. Like any honest Injun our first move was to gain height and spy the land, so it was up the Torre dei Lamberti, a thousand year old tower on the Piazza del Erbe. Blackpool makes great play of its tower and ball room beneath, but the tower seems to be staple fare for conurbations in this region of Italy. Most of them a thousand years old and almost all, decidedly on the wonk, so come on Blackpool, Paris et al, up your game!

There's a lift up this tower and it gives a great view of the city and both appenine and alpine hills. For a substantial fee you can also hire the top deck for small functions and general hobknoberry.

Off up to the Arena next. A little different to Chester's Northgate Arena where Madam and myself were once schooled in the breastroke, Verona's version is an incredibly well preserved Roman amphitheatre that each year stages operatic productions on the largest musical stage in the world. The sound must carry right across town when the divas and dons are in full warble, and the fifteen thousand strong crowd are advised to bring their own cushions, as old Roman stone is an unforgiving surface for even the fleshiest of buttocks.

The guts of the building, with the substantial corridors and many entrances and exits, suggest that Ronald the Roman knew a thing or two about getting a crowd in to a venu and then getting them out again.

Think on The Ageas Bowl

Castlevecchio next. A relatively new addition to the local environs, at the time of completion in the 14th century it boasted one of the widest arches of any bridge in the then known world.

It also afforded us the first view of the Adige, the second longest river in Italy after the Po and bursting with fish from marble trout to wooden bream. I'd popped the travel rod in the bag in the hope of an afternoon bothering a few barbel but it was immediately apparent that tackle wise, I was seriously undergunned.

A big river, the Adige really pushes through, even at a relatively low level.

Church the next day.

The lumpen basilica is quite the thing in these parts and Verona has its fair share, and so it was that we donned the holy headsets of Cathederal Santa Maria Matricolare and its associated out buildings and campanile for a tour of its crypts and chattels.

Sited atop Roman remains, as much of the city is, it has an antechamber with enough symbology to set Dan Brown aquiver,

the hanging whale bone is a recurring theme around town.

There's plenty of Dante strewn around town too.

Very much the Frankie Boyle of his day, he was holed up with a rich family at the foot of the tower for a few years while the people of Florence demanded his head on a pike/pykee

Church done, it was off to another bridge. A real old one this one, and to this bridge builder's eye, a real beaut. It was first signed off as "safe to cross" in 100BC,

Yes 100BC!

A vindictive Nazi retreat late in World war II took a different view to its elegant lines and subsequently this fine and ancient bridge was blown up

With the Nazis sent packing, the locals painstakingly picked up the pieces and put the thing back together again,

as has been the case on so many occasions across the ages once the madness of war has passed.

If there is a funicular in town, you can be sure that Madam and myself will be first in the queue for tickets, vocally warming up for a round of Jamme, jamme'ncoppa, jamme ja! stromg in the belief that the funicular is the future of getting from A to B.

There's a Funicular in Verona and once more we headed the morning queue, principally because we misread the opening time on the leaflet provided, and arrived half an hour early for our ride up to Castel San Pietro.

There's a great view to be had at the top and a relatively easy descent that takes in a substantial roman theatre, not dissimilar to the one we visited in Lyon a few years ago.

And then it was time to immerse ourselves in the Shakespearean theme park that draws a plethora of crocodile hordes led by umbrella toting guides.

(In the voice of the guy who introduced the acts on The Good Old Days, Andrew Sachs, i think) My Lords, Ladies and anyone else who cares to be in the vicinity, I give you...........The two Gentlemen of Verona!

From memory, and a dismal performance in A level English Literature may betray me here (which I directly attribute to the nonsense that is Joeffry Chaucer,the dirge of Gerard Manley Hopkins and a relatively hedonistic lifestyle for one of such young years), but the nuts of the plot centred around a complicated relationship where cross dressing is writ large, an unruly dog and violent relations cropping up late in the piece.

There was a forest scene,


but Brodie's notes made no mention of this balcony,

It seems to be quite popular, and this statue of one of the Gentleman of Verona in the small piazza below seems to have gained some significance.

Keen not to cause offence in foreign parts, I adopted the goto "Visitor to Italy" pose when presented with significant statues or buildings that one must be photographed beside.

Handy Travel Tip No. 342- The international signal of trying to prop something up (I am not warming my hands on Juliet's arse) can be applied to most significant sites when visiting Italy, from the leaning tower of Pisa, through Michelangelo's David to the Shroud of Turin.

Graffiti is a commonplace in many European cities that we have visited. I'm not really a fan, but they've previous at it in these parts.

The building opposite our apartment on Piazza del Erbe was plastered in some fruity examples that had been up for over five hundred years and nobody had got round to scrubbing the stuff off.


Wasn't that the supermarket that Reg Holdsworth managed in Coronation St in the early 90s?

Take it as read that food and wine were tremendous and we lived fairly high on the hog. Beef cheek in amerone was a particular highlight as was the tortellini in Bologna.

Forgive the travel news.

As I said, I'm now of an age when I have to write stuff down, else it's all to easily forgotten, and anyway, you don't have to read it you know.

River news to follow shortly.

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