Day 5. Lake Garda to Verona 35 km
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.
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?)
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!
My singing trip to Verona in 1990 with Pavarotti and the World Festival Choir