Tuesday, August 16, 2011


It's no secret that my sports-loving husband is also a huge opera fan. For him, visiting Verona meant going to the opera. It's one of life's check offs.

I, however, am not an opera fan. We've been to the San Francisco Opera several times and frankly, it's a lot of work: reading those subtitles, watching the performance, listening to the singing in another language, and hours and hours long. Then add the trip into the city and the dinner. Still, we were in Verona and Dave got tickets in advance of our trip. And so we went. At the 2,000 year old Roman amphitheatre called the Forum.

For those of you unfamiliar with this particular opera, here's the short version: Aida is an Ethiopian princess. She's captured and brought into slavery in Egypt. A military commander falls in love with her and must choose between her and his loyalty to the Pharaoh. And we all know how operas end.

Aida is four long acts. Apparently Verdi had a lot to say in this particular opera. The triumphal march in the second act was well done, with four obedient horses. There were no subtitles. There was no need for vocal or instrumental amplification. At one point there were more than 350 performers on stage. It was a warm but not an oppressively warm night. The moon was out. The sun set behind the Forum. It was another perfect moment. And the woman seated in front of me gave us a laugh.

We left the kids at the villa and the ten of us had adults-only dinner at a chic restaurant Neeracha picked out, Trattoria al Pompieri. The risotto in local red wine was too rich to take seriously but the salumi platter was amazing. I honestly don't remember what I ate but I do remember being embarrassed that I did not offer to share it with anyone. Black and white photographs of famous Italians covered the walls; Jill and I didn't know who they were so we amused ourselves by making up stories about them.

Verona charmed us and we took The Pinks back another day for further exploration. It's an adorable town with a cathedral that's less grand on the outside than others in cities of its stature yet filled with beautiful art inside. We poked our heads in during Saturday mass and enjoyed a bit of the service. The people in Verona are friendly, the stores and restaurants abundant and the streets easy to navigate. There are bridges to see. And gelato to eat.

We quickly visited Casa de Giulietta, the dumbest tourist attraction ever. This is the recreation of Juliet's balcony, which isn't real to begin with as Shakespeare's Romeo & Juliet is a work of fiction. There's also an iron statue of Juliet in the courtyard, which people get their jollies on by rubbing her right breast. Heck, if this adventure enables the kids to better connect with the works of Shakespeare, it was worthwhile.

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