by Kate Dernocoeur, Guest Blogger
For centuries, the Austrians and Italians have squabbled over Verona, Italy, and the surrounding area, but we discovered it to be a sweet small city that curves along an S-shaped double-bend of Italy’s second-largest river, the Adige. No less than ten bridges, many of which are ancient, provide crossings in the central area.
I went to Verona because my friend, Linda, decided it would be a great place to adjust to European time before embarking on a 50-mile hike through the Dolomite Mountains further to the northeast. She was right.
I arrived without doing much research, and had no expectations for what we might find there. Maybe Juliet, or Romeo, or at least some historical markers of Shakespeare’s setting for the famous play. (In fact, he set two other plays there as well: The Two Gentlemen of Verona, and The Taming of the Shrew). Yes, we visited Juliet’s balcony, but beyond obvious tourist spots like that, we were pleasantly surprised by how much there was to see and do.
One particularly entrancing element of the architecture in Verona is the notched brickwork on many of the towers, walls, and bridges. I was unable to find out the backstory about them, but found them very unusual to my eye. And because of the abundance of Italian marble, it is also common to have red brick alternating with the whiter stone on many structures in this city which is a UNESCO World Heritage Center.
Founded in the first century B.C., the city was occupied by the Romans and boasts a proper coliseum or, as they call it,antiteotro romano. Nearby were also the statues and greenspaces and fountains common to many European cities.
A favorite place of mine was the Castelvecchio Bridge, a segmental arch bridge built in 1354-1356 that featured the world’s largest span at the time of its construction (48.70 m) [see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Castelvecchio_Bridge]. Legend has it that the designer presented himself at the inauguration riding a horse, ready to flee away in case the bridge had crumbled down. According to Wikipedia, the bridge was totally destroyed by retreating German troops on April 24, 1945, but reconstruction began in 1949 and a faithful replica was finished in 1951.
During World War I, this region was embroiled in armed conflict as well—a history our group witnessed increasingly as our journey took us north and east into the Dolomite Mountains. Stay tuned for another blog on that!
Kate traveled to Italy with a group of National Outdoor Leadership School alumnae. Her first NOLS course (two weeks in December in the Wind River Range of Wyoming) was in 1973. She has been an avid outdoorsperson since.