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Sunday 12th July
Getting to Gatwick was no problem, except sitting next to two girls talking loudly so like the intensely annoying woman in W1A, with friends called, like, Zack, Will and Ollie and all living in, like, Dalston. There was a huge easyJet bag drop queue which we got to gratefully skip as our flight was only about an hour away. Our wanting two cheese rolls exceeded the onboard supply by 100%, and the aircraft had two more trips to do. Having learnt my lesson last year I went to buy our bus tickets from the car park window at Verona airport. You can buy them on the bus but then everyone queues longer.
It was pretty hot here, but checking into the Accademia was a breeze, due to staff efficiency and air conditioning. I had a short rest but Jane wanted a longer one, so I went out and had a Venchi gelato (ginger/cinnamon and coconut), photographed opera scenery in Piazza Bra and found a church which was not on my list open, with a Romanian Orthodox service going on.
In the evening we strolled as far as Sant'Anastasia and then returned to a pizza place we'd had a good feeling about, and we were right. Da Mario up past the Scaliger tombs - a vast variety of tasty looking pizzas, good beer, and a crunchy side salad. Fresh was the word. Gelati after (I had pink grapefruit and almond which was, I discovered later, the same pair I had on my first evening last year) whilst watching the world go by in Piazza Bra, as the opera was starting at 9.00.
Monday 13th July
Sleep only minorly disturbed and breakfast all good, except for the imitation orange juice. Today was to show Jane some church highlights, so it was straight to San Zeno with a lingering stop off at San Lorenzo on the way (see photo right). We also found the little San Zeno oratorio tucked away by the Castelvecchio open, and so can report a compact wide space with charm but not any great art. A worth-a-look Crucifixion fresco, though, and the huge rock San Zeno used to sit on to fish in the nearby Adige river (see right). I've raved about Zeno and Lorenzo both on last year's trip and on my Verona churches page. So, moving along to lunch - taken under an awning in the big piazza near San Zeno with the underground car park. We had panini, mine was mozzarella and tomato, June's was roasted veggies. We had a big side salad too, and it all came with bread, a bowl of crisps and a pair of little red-pepper pastries. Add to that a wheat beer and an Aperol spritz and you have a pair of stuffed and mellow trippers heading back to their hotel for a rest, stopping off only for a chocolate peanut and mango gelato opposite the old Castelvecchio.
Me wanting a shorter rest again meant I solo church-wandered for an hour or so, finishing up by Sant'Eufemia being asked by a blonde woman, in Italian, if I had the time. I apologised, pleaded Englishness and sought sanctuary in the church. Which has suddenly acquired labels on its many altars and a guide booklet, in Italian.
The superior restaurant we found last night turns out to close Monday evenings and all day Tuesday. So we went to the Impero in the Piazza dei Signori which was a bit touristy of us, but the food was good and the outlook entertaining. Classic pistachio and lemon for gelato, in Piazza Bra after.
Tuesday 14th July
Having bought 48 hour Verona cards yesterday we felt duty bound to do the Castelvecchio this morning, making an effort to identify and photograph works lost from churches, closed and not. The highlights and oddities are mostly amongst the early stuff, but there's also impressive stuff by Cavazzola and da Libri. A quick visit to Sant'Anastasia after, and then lunch in a place by the river. A complete lack of panini without meat or fish led to us going for a pizza and a salad and eating half of each each. Which worked. The service was slow but the food fine. Jane returned to base afterwards, and I went to the Duomo, which has cast-off its cranes and scaffolding and now glows a treat. Weird that the Adoration of the Magi by Liberale da Verona, with its worrying blancmange pile of pink putti, is the colour-boosted highlight of the information panel outside but is a small and dingy part of of an unnoticed altarpiece inside. After a circuit inside revising my website entry, I ventured down the alley left of the facade to find the cloister and museum. The cloister was lovely and almost deserted, but the museum has a glossy poster from 2011 by the door with the opening times Tipp-Exed out. Our evening meal was at same joint as last night. I bravely went for the spaghetti in tomato sauce, given I was wearing a pale yellow t-shirt, but came through unspotted. Gelato was cinnamon /ginger and mora.
Wednesday 15th July
I was woken in night by blinding pain in right big toe joint, which I'd had two xmases ago and identified then as gout, but that can't be right, given my lifestyle. (When I asked my doctor about this later he said it almost definitely was gout, as it can be genetic and not lifestyle-based, and a known trigger is dehydration. 'Was it very warm there?' he asked.) Not so bad in the morning light, but still darn painful. Jane had some painkillers so we staggered out to a few churches. Santa Maria della Scala by our hotel was not so soulless as it had seemed when I peeked in during a service last year. One particularly fine frescoed chapel and one melodramatic beggar who fell to his knees and mock-wept by us tourists before being told to sling his hook by some locals gathering for a service. San Fermo next, in time to use the last of our 48 hour Verona cards. A treat, as ever, but described last time. A modest Guercino exhibition - mostly prints - in the lower church, which was hence a lot brighter illuminated. Then on to Santi Nazaro e Celso which is a fair walk over the river but which was open and is blessed with a spectacularly frescoed chapel, to San Biagio, and a few fine altarpieces by the likes of Paolo Farinati and Antonio Badile, that latter's Madonna in Glory supposedly featuring a portrait of his student Veronese as a page. The place could do with some lights though.
Lunched in a random bar overshadowed by the Scaliger tombs was tasty panini and a salad.
After a snooze I picked up some more ibuprofen, popped into San Tomio near the chemist, which was open for a service, and where I was bugged by another beggar, and then trekked to see if San Giovanni in Valle does open in the evening, and it does! I got a good look around, on my own, except for the obligatory beggar, who had seemingly come all that way to importune just me, before the elderly ladies and nuns started swarming in for the 6.00 mass. One nun arriving in a four-wheel drive. I very much liked the church and the small crypt has two very old sarcophagi - the place's claim to fame. I took a slow westerly loop back and ended up by the Piazza Bra, picked up a cheese and tomato calzone thing, from a place I swiftly remembered I'd been to before, because of the friendly owner, with whom I discussed the uncomfortable heat, and when I told him we where wearing jackets when I left London he was dead jealous. A semifreddo flavoured with orange and bergamot was for afters, before I headed for an evening back in my room resting my toe and having a bath. Jane being off at the Opera with friends who arrived last night.
Thursday 16th July
To San Tomaso Cantuariense, a new one for me. It has some good art, nicely lit, the tomb of the architect San Michele, and an organ once played by the 13 year old Mozart. There was a service on, being read by a young woman into a microphone down the front for 8 or 9 older women sitting behind. I was discreet. Then on to Santa Maria in Organo which I'd got prematurely chucked out of last time. It's a big church, with walls that are almost totally fresco-covered and it's a bit of a pantheon, as it contains works by most of the foremost Veronese Renaissance painters, and lots by Domenico and Francesco Morone. Their work on the transept ceilings is spectacular. The choir has the famous and wonderful illusionistic intarsia work by Fra Giovanni and his work is also to be found on the cupboards in the very decorated sacristy, much praised by Vasari. The sacristy also has 20 square landscape scenes on the cupboards painted by Brusasorci. I lingered long here and the place stormed up my Favourite Churches in Verona chart.
Lunch was a mozza/tom panino from the same stall in Piazza delle Erbe as last year, nostalgically eaten in Piazza Indipendenza with a LemonSoda.
The churches for my last evening were down past the Castelvecchio. Santa Teresa is octagonal, but otherwise lacking in specialness. San Bernardino is very special though, with fine frescos by Domenico Morone, who also decorated the library in fine fashion, but it was closed by the time I got there. Next time. I did get to wander alone in a sunny cloister, though, and found a chapel there with two huge sinopie. I also discovered the huge convent of Santa Caterina on my walk back. Last gelato - cinnamon/ginger and lemon.
Friday 17th July
Just time for a quick visit to San Nicoḷ and a hot stroll around Piazza Bra, taking in the stacks of opera scenery one last time, and having a bit of a sit by the fountain. The cab we'd asked about at hotel reception was waiting when we got back and it was a black Mercedes - very suave. Slipping the hotel porter a note made me feel a real suave international traveller, almost exactly 50 years after little Jeffy first saw James Bond do it at the Dalston Odeon and it seeming so sophisticated. Usual bag-drop and gate tedium, but a fuss-free flight with an empty seat next to me, and I got to buy the last easyJet cheese roll.
The Castelvecchio Museum
I've gone to town a bit here, I must admit. This being due in no small part to there having being so little written recently in English about the Veronese artists of the Renaissance, so I need all the sources I can find. The current Castelvecchio guide (left) is next to useless, reproducing, on average, two to three paintings per room for its paltry 28 pages, with most of the rooms getting just one page devoted to them. The huge catalogue (right) is only available in Italian and costs €50.
And for around the same price I found an even bigger - almost A4 size, 128 pages - catalogue from 1983, written by Sergio Marinelli. It took a while to come from Texas, but it is the credited source for the 2003 guide above, although that book gives a date of 1991.
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