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Day 5.  Lake Garda to Verona 35 km

LAKE GARDA

LAST DAY OF OUR MAMMOTH CYCLE RIDE and ONLY 35 km today.  I was very glad that we had elected not to carry on to VENICE because Italy was experiencing very hot unseasonal weather and they were expecting 40oC today after an exceptionally hot day yesterday.

Well, today nearly killed both of us (I wrote in my diary “I never want to see that bloody bike again“). Our morning route was quite pleasant that took us through rolling countryside with grapes, peaches, apricots and lots kiwifruit and what made it even more enjoyable was that we were away from the main roads for a few hours.  We then caught our first sight of the ADIGE VALLEY and the approach to VERONA.

IT WAS VERY HOT which was exacerbated by the fact that we were out in the sun for most of the afternoon, with very little shade, as the bike track came down out of rural Veneto to follow the Adige Canal into Verona – bitumen and concrete and no trees. Several times during the afternoon, found me lying down on a foot-wide piece of roadside verge, amongst all manner rubbish and some things I can’t bear to think about, in the shade, feeling quite nauseous and about to blow a gasket.

Excitement and frustration were mounting in equal measure as we headed for our final destination – it was 25 years since I had last been to Verona and me cycling mate had never been to Italy before.  Michael has had had to listen to me, though, banging on about it with a far away, dreamlike look in my eyes.  I had gone there in 1990 to sing Verdi’s Requiem with Pavarotti in the Arena de Verona (me and 3,000 other choristers – but it sounds good doesn’t it) – and having been one of the most memorable experiences of my life, I was almost scared to go back lest the spell be broken.

A LONG WAY TO VERONA

Our difficulty with the heat today was compounded today by the fact that the tireder we became, the busier the roads as we approached VERONA, and we had to negotiate screaming autostradas via lengthy detours and underpasses.  On top of this, when we finally got there, we discovered that the hotel we had been booked into in Verona was outside of the old town and could only be reached after traversing two motorways – we could see it’s multi-storey edifice like a beacon in the distance,  but do you think we could work out how to get to it?  Finally we made it to our room in the HOTEL LEON D’ORO.

THE FIRST THING I DID WAS CHUCK MY CYCLING SHORTS IN THE BIN- never wanting to see them again, ever!  Next a long, cold shower, ordered room service and collapsed in bed for about twenty hours.  VERONA, and its delights would have to wait.  Fortunately we had booked an extra couple of nights at this hotel before having to catch a flight back to Athens from Milan.  (If you go back to DAY 1 – you can see how this story started?)

Verona – entering the old town through the Porta Nuova
I WAS SO RELIEVED TO WAKE UP AND REALISE THAT WE HAD MADE IT and I didn’t have to:  get our bags ready for forwarding to the next hotel by 8am, put on my cycling gear, eat another stale croissant that I had found in the bottom of my pannier when I was starving and miles from anywhere and – more importantly, get back on the bike again and cycle the 75 km to Venice – yeah!!  Buongiorno Verona!
Although it was very hot again 38oC, we did our best to see as much as possible – starting out where my memories were kept and walked to the ARENA, built by the Romans in1st century AD, and Piazza Bra where it was in full tourist and opera season.  There is no room in the Arena building to house the lavish sets for each production so they are just kept out in the Piazza – like these props for the upcoming Aida concerts – fortunately it doesn’t rain much at this time of year! Verona is an art lovers paradise that rivals Venice – you just need the energy to explore it’s treasures.





 

We decided that taking the city tour bus was the best option on a day like today – and it was wonderful – we saw lots of parts of the city that I had never seen the first time around.  Hopped off when we saw a trattoria that had big fans with vapour mists blowing over the diners – tops!  An insalata caprese and Aperol Spritz fortified us for the afternoon session on the bus – then a very long siesta before dinner.

We took a taxi late to the Duomo area – the loveliest part of the city,  I think. It was cool enough now to enjoy wandering around the beautiful cathedral and soak up the atmospheric back alleys and glorious buildings. Verona was just crawling with tourists and we wanted to find somewhere away from them, where the locals might go – so we headed for the Duomo ‘Slow Food’ restaurant Antica Osteria and were not disappointed.  Me mate was happy because they served local wines (and he could ask for corposa – a red wine with the corpse in it) and I was happy because we had a lovely table outside in a gorgeous courtyard seated next to a Veronese family dressed in fabulous style and smelling divine – and that was just the men!

And so our wonderful journey had come to an end – would I do it again – of course!

“……...Of course I should love to throw a toothbrush into a bag, and just go, quite vaguely, without any plans or even real destination.  It is the Wanderlust. ………..…”
Vita Sackville West
Verona Cathedral
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