Monday, 12 September 2011

Verona, Venice, and what makes a holiday memorable

I’m back after a fortnight’s break during which I spent four and a bit days based in Verona, Italy. After much heart-searching here and here at the beginning of the year I chose to stay in the city of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet rather than Venice, neither of which had I visited before.
For me and my grown up son and daughter it was the right choice as was our hotel-apartment Arena House. The city has great charm, room to move, good restaurants, and a decent night life. My euros went further than they would have done in Venice.
Verona provided an opportunity to visit the city’s Roman amphitheatre and watch the opera La Boheme under the stars on our first night; the following day a short rail journey took us to the Lake Garda-side resort of Desenzano; and the next a rather longer journey to Venice. The rest of the time we seemed to be eating ice cream.
The schedule allowed just six hours in Venice, a city like no other in the world. Philistine, you are no doubt thinking. But I prefer to think of the time spent as a ‘taster’. To do the place credit we would have needed to have spent the four days – perhaps more – based in Venice.
I don’t think I could have taken the crowds – in the day at least (I can’t tell what the nights would have been like, no doubt the sun setting over the Grand Canal would have been a delight – combined with heat.
I discovered too not an indifference but a take it or leave it attitude to the interiors of old churches from which I would exclude the Sistine Chapel in Rome.
I was not prepared to queue the hours it would have taken to get into St Mark’s Basilica much as it would have been nice to have done so. So we made do with the exterior of the cathedral and the Doge’s Palace having travelled to St Mark’s Square by vaporetto from the railway station.
Our Venice adventure coincided with both the film festival and the Biennale neither of which were in evidence during of the dry land between the canals.
I knew the first Sunday in September was marked in Venice by its century’s old regatta. So we settled by the side of the Rialto Bridge for the water-born procession.
By which time I was growing tired and grateful for the opportunity not to have to battle the crowds. The pageant was worth the long wait but we had to leave before the rowing races began. Being a Sunday we missed out on the Rialto markets; in the time left to us we had a quick look round the Jewish Ghetto, because it was close to the station.
Above all I liked the idea of Venice and thanks to my all too brief introduction I think I’m better placed to enjoy the city when I return as I hope to.
Timing would be crucial; out of season but I wouldn’t fancy Venice in flood.

All the above is really a long preamble as I face up to what makes a holiday memorable (for good reasons, that is). I nearly had my wallet pickpocketed in Barcelona – on returning to my hotel I heard a guest at reception who hadn’t as been as lucky.
The photographs we took tell nothing like the whole story of our holiday.
So years from now what will stay in the memory? The delight in discovering we each had our own room; overloading the electricity when we turned on the steam iron; touching the breast of Juliet’s statue outside what is said to be her house for luck in love; jumping on a bus to escape a torrential downpour and finding it was the right one; all that ice cream and above all the pleasure of each other’s company – time out for four days in a busy world.

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