Balcony Views in Verona

Juliet's legendary balcony is far from the only one in fair Verona. The city, perhaps known best for being the setting of Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet," has balconies around every corner, many dripping with greenery or filled with colorful flowers.

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While Juliet's balcony is small (and not even really a Juliet balcony - more on that in a moment), some of Verona's apartment extensions (which is how I view balconies) are rather large. Most, however, are narrow, which is typical in Italy. Below is a gallery of just a few of the lovely balconies seen during a recent visit to Verona. I love how plant life often is the decorative element on the balconies.

A Juliet balcony (but not THE Juliet balcony)

A Juliet balcony (but not THE Juliet balcony)

The word balcony appropriately comes from the Italian word balcone. Those that extend from a dwelling are traditionally called Maltese balconies while those that do not project out from a building are called Juliet balconies (picture just a metal railing across a doorway on an upper-level floor of a building and you'll get the image of these balconies).

 

 

 

 

 

 

You can see from the photo below that Verona's popular landmark, Juliet's balcony, is clearly not a true Juliet balcony. It's charming nonetheless and overlooks a small courtyard.

Juliet's balcony (which is actually a Maltese-type balcony) in Verona.

Juliet's balcony (which is actually a Maltese-type balcony) in Verona.

While I would find any balcony in Verona appealing, the most coveted would be one overlooking Piazza delle Erbe, which was Verona's forum during the time of the Roman Empire. This large, historic and lively piazza is beautiful. Fading frescoes and flower-filled balconies adorn the walls of the Mazzanti Houses, which face the piazza on its northeastern side. Across the piazza to the south are more apartments, many with pretty balconies of their own.

The Mazzanti Houses are covered with old (15th or 16th century) frescoes and lined with charming flower filled-balconies.

The Mazzanti Houses are covered with old (15th or 16th century) frescoes and lined with charming flower filled-balconies.

Imagine being able to gaze at this beautiful piazza everyday from your apartment balcony. Some lucky people get to do just that.

-post by JG

Children in Verona have an enviable view from a small balcony that overlooks Piazza delle Erbe.

Children in Verona have an enviable view from a small balcony that overlooks Piazza delle Erbe.

"Stuck" in Italy

As much as I love to travel, there are times when it absolutely is not fun. Take, for instance, my most recent trip to Italy. The time spent in Italy was, as always, fantastic. The time spent getting home from Italy was not. The experience prompted me to think about the best tips I have for those times when travel plans go awry.

Travelers wait to learn whether their flight has been delayed or canceled at the Florence airport.

Travelers wait to learn whether their flight has been delayed or canceled at the Florence airport.

Here's what happened: I was scheduled to fly from Florence to Paris and then to the United States. Fog rolled into Tuscany, however, and my flight out of Florence was canceled, along with several other flights. I was unable to get on another flight that day so I spent an unexpected night in Florence and was re-booked for the next day.

It's hard to complain about having to spend an unexpected day in Florence.

It's hard to complain about having to spend an unexpected day in Florence.

Here’s what helped me cope (beside the fact I was "forced" to spend a day in Florence).

  • Travel insurance. When I travel internationally, I always buy travel insurance. If you purchase soon after booking your trip, it’s cheaper. There are several online sites where you can get instant quotes. Depending on the coverage you choose, travel insurance can help cover the costs of delays, lost luggage, hospitalization and more.

  • Airline status through frequent flier programs. If you are going to travel a lot, you will benefit from a frequent flier program (or two or three) - not only because you will earn miles that can be redeemed for flights or upgrades but also because you will earn “status.” Status equates to perks and one of those perks is a dedicated telephone line at the airline for when you need help. When my flight from Florence was canceled, I called that line and within 20 minutes had been rebooked for the following day. I didn’t have to stand in line with the hundreds of other people whose flights had been canceled, and I didn’t have to try to solve the problem on my own.

  • Airline apps. I have the app for the airline I fly most frequently on my smartphone. That means I have my flight confirmation information at all times. The app also sends me updates when the flight is boarding or delayed. It lets me check in the day before. It includes contact phone numbers for the airline. And it even alerts me when my luggage has been loaded on the plane!

  • Some advance planning. I always pack for the trip home hoping for no delays, but prepare for one just in case. That means having an extra set of underwear, a change of clothing, PJs, any needed medications, a good book, and other essentials with me for my flight home. Having these make a delay much easier.

  • An attitude of gratitude. As much as I don’t like having my travel plans upended by weather or mechanical problems, it happens. I was “stuck” in Europe for an extra day twice last year. But being “stuck” in Europe is hardly a hardship. I am lucky to be able to travel. I try to remember that when delays happen.                          -post by JG

The view from the plane window once I was traveling after being delayed for a day in Italy.

The view from the plane window once I was traveling after being delayed for a day in Italy.

The Bridges of Verona

The river Adige in the heart of Verona

The river Adige in the heart of Verona

The Adige River winds its way through Verona, embracing most of the old city within one of its wide curves. There are numerous bridges over the Adige, connecting the main part of the city,  which lies southwest of the river, with the sections that lie to the northeast. Many of these are modern bridges, rebuilt after heavy bombing of the city during World War II. Two of Verona's most important and characteristic bridges, the Ponte Pietra and the Ponte Scaligero, were destroyed during the war but later faithfully rebuilt using original materials recovered from the riverbed. What foresight this careful reconstruction was - and how fortunate that today we are able to walk across these bridges and appreciate their nearly original form.

 

 

Ponte Pietra (file photo) 

Ponte Pietra (file photo) 

The entrance to Ponte Pietra, through an arched tower in Piazza Broilo

The entrance to Ponte Pietra, through an arched tower in Piazza Broilo

The arched Ponte Pietra (pietra means stone in Italian) is the oldest bridge in Verona, built during the years of Roman rule. It has been damaged and rebuilt more than once due to floods and war. Two of its arches (the white stone arches in the photo) are of original Roman material. The brick arches date from a reconstruction during the 1500s.

Today the Ponte Pietra links the old part of Verona, between the Duomo and the church of Sant'Anastasia on the city side with the Roman Theater, Castel San Pietro, and the churches of Santo Stefano and San Georgio on the far bank. The bridge, with its gentle rise and fall, is beautiful and provides views of towers, church domes, and ruins, as well as long views of Verona along the banks of the river.

 

 

The entrance to the Castelvecchio, beyond which lies the Ponte Scaligero

The entrance to the Castelvecchio, beyond which lies the Ponte Scaligero

The Ponte Scaligero (also known as the Castelvecchio bridge) is a Medieval structure. It too is an arched bridge, but unlike the more graceful Ponte Pietra, this massive bridge was built as part of castle fortifications and to provide a quick and secure route away from the Castelvecchio - allowing fleeing noblemen to escape across the river. The bridge is entered from within the castle courtyard. It has high brick walls with tall rectangular brick pillars that stand like sentries along the sides of the bridge.

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Each pillar is topped with a merlon (an angular brick structure), which gives a sort of winged appearance to the top of the bridge. Between the pillars are open spaces - a climb up on the ledges to look out through these openings provides fantastic views.

Ponte Scaligero, Verona

Ponte Scaligero, Verona

Verona, as seen from the Ponte Scaligero

Verona, as seen from the Ponte Scaligero

Lower in the brick walls of the bridge are rectangular openings that frame stunning views of the city and the river - looking through these was my favorite way to view Verona.

The Ponte Scaligero is an imposing structure, no doubt intended to discourage potential castle invaders. Today it is a peaceful pedestrian walkway and one of the characteristic bridges in the city of Verona.              -post by JB

Mercato Sant'Ambrogio, Florence

Visiting a market in Italy always makes me long for a kitchen, a stove, and a reason to cook. This is particularly true in Florence, especially since I discovered the Mercato Sant'Ambrogio, which according to a local is the "mercato delle mamme" (mamma's market). 

No doubt the Mercato Centrale is larger and better known, especially to tourists. It has shops and food stalls downstairs and restaurants on its upper floor, along with an Eataly market and demonstration kitchen. It was renovated several years ago and now feels upscale; it's a Florentine hot spot. However, I prefer the smaller, lower key, and much less touristy Sant'Ambrogio market in the Santa Croce neighborhood. Serving this neighborhood since 1873, the Mercato Sant'Ambrogio has the look and feel of a classic Italian market, inside and out. Shoppers here are largely Italian speakers, which for me is a big part of the draw as it means I have the chance to shop and practice my Italian. Perfetto!

A vibrant selection of vegetables in the mercato.

A vibrant selection of vegetables in the mercato.

An artistic arrangement of peppers.

An artistic arrangement of peppers.

Outside of the main market building is a covered area with a variety of food vendors  - fruits, vegetables, porcini, flowers, breads, fresh eggs, and local honey fill the bench tops. The displays are artful and everything is colorful and fragrant. This is fresh food at its best.

Fresh porcini at the Sant'Ambrogio market.

Fresh porcini at the Sant'Ambrogio market.

Inside the mercato, salami and proscuitto fill the shops of the salumiere. The macellerie (butchers) sell thick Tuscan steaks along with pork, fowl, and beef trimmed and ready to cook, and the pescivendoli (fishmongers) display the day's catch on ice.  

Salumi

Salumi

There are cheese shops with rounds of gorgonzola dolce, balls of fresh mozzarella and burata, logs of goat cheese, wedges of taleggio, tubs of fresh ricotta, and wedges of hard cheeses like pecorino, Parmigiano, and grana padano. In short, if you love cheese this is bliss!

Perhaps my favorite shop is the one selling pasta fresca. The display is a pasta lover's dream (and a carb-phobic's nightmare). Here you'll find fresh pasta in every size, shape, and color; simple pastas, filled pastas, gnocchi, gnudi. You name it, they have along with sauces to make the dish complete. If only I could find pasta like this closer to home!

 A morning of shopping at the mercato calls for a coffee or lunch break (maybe both). No problem - in the middle of the mercato is a typical bar serving coffee as well as wine and other drinks - make like a local and have yours standing at the bar. There is also a trattoria where you can sit and have a tasty, market fresh lunch.

The Mercato Sant'Ambrogio is a feast for the senses and I easily spend whole mornings here. I confess that on one short stay in Florence I skipped the Duomo and headed for the mercato instead. After a happy morning shopping, and a mid-morning cappuccino, I left with a treasure trove of goodies - cinghiale salami, pecorino cheese, bread, apples, and pears, which made for a tasty picnic for my group of friends as we left Florence the following morning on a train. But the next time I visit, I really want that kitchen!     -post by JB