My parents had two weekends in Italy, and on the second we decided to be slightly more relaxed. Instead of heading out to the mountains for a strenuous adventure, we planned more time for things which Italy is famous for: culture, food and beautiful cities.
The weekend centred around a trip to the Opera in Verona. Verona is probably best known from those opening lines in “Romeo and Juliet”, and the city has made the most of that fame. But apart from “the balcony”, Verona also boasts countless cobbled streets, beautiful old buildings, and a large roman Amphitheatre. As gladiator fights, battles and other forms of warfare games are no longer popular, the amphitheatre now hosts tremendously large staging of operas. “The girls” (Mam, K and I) had all been to see a performance of Aida there several years ago, but we had left poor Paps behind to work. We had been incredibly impressed by the staging, the set, and the sheer number of people needed to fill the stage and create the piece, and decided Paps should experience it, too. This time we chose to see Troubadour, a classic opera in the sense that it deals with love, jealousy, revenge and results in tragic deaths.
Turandot, should you be unaware, is the story of two (unknown to each other) brothers, fighting over a princess, who only loves one of them. Of course she loves the poor one, not the powerful rich one, because that would just be too easy. The powerful rich one unleashes his anger and tries to win the lady as his bride in forceful and nasty ways, but her lover comes to rescue her- before being tricked into capture when also attempting to save his mother. The woman dies a tragic death, singing a beautiful lament, and the powerful brother orders the beheading of the other, only to find out afterward who the man he hated really was. And the “mother” is left standing, celebrating her vengeance, because she is not who she seems to be…
The stage was set to one side of the massive building, covering about half of the central arena. It had incredible large statues, and impressive fortress building and moving gates. However the scale was really impressed on us when live horses walked onto stage. Bizarrely I had a sudden flashback to the nativity plays we used to go to see the live sheep, goats and even alpacas in a church. I conclude: live animals make shows more exciting, no matter your age.
On either side of me I could see my parents, who have both performed the opera before, nodding their heads and tapping their feet in time with the rhythm, mentally singing along to the big choir scenes. It was these scenes we enjoyed the most, both because of our affinity with them, and the amount of activity on stage. We were impressed by the coordination, by the singing, and by the sound which carried very well in the old space. Those tunes were hummed late into the night, when we returned to our camper-van beds in the glorious Castel St. Pietro Campground.
Honestly: should you find yourself heading to Verona, consider this campground. It’s not just for independent, camp-wielding travellers, no! It also posts a whole range of camper vans or pre-set up tents, complete with bedding for your enjoyment. And, while it is higher up on the hills outside of town, it boast probably the best view of the city. Check out their website here.
The rest of the weekend was spent wandering around Verona’s streets, avoiding the central “tourist highway” which was signposted and lead down the main shopping streets. We enjoyed long conversations over cappucchinos, and took photographs of cool doors. Outside of the city we then went in search of cooler air, visiting Lake Garda for a swim, some ice cream, surreptitious use of off-limit campground facilities, and encounters with territorial swans. Needless to say I’m looking forward to my parents’ return!