An Earthquake and Fair Verona

Juliet's balcony, owned by some shrewd old Verona entrepreneurial chap no doubt.

We’re here: N45.74408 E11.65162. It’s a free, official sosta in the small town of Moristica. We’re glad to be here as we’re both bushed. Charlie’s just collapsed on the floor in a fantastic ‘boneless dog’ impression, so we think he’s bushed too.

The weather is: it’s gone all British on us; the clouds started to splutter in Verona and are now steadily emptying themselves on Dave’s roof.

We have a TV in here, but (a) it’s 230V and we’re almost always off grid (b) we have an old analogue TV aerial which on the two occasions we’ve tried it have picked up about half a channel and (c) believe it or not, we’re too busy to watch it. This means that we don’t tend to get much news, more on this below.

Last night we spoiled Charlie’s evening kip with a walk along Garda into the town. Other tourists were out in force, but in numbers to make the place feel alive rather than crushed. The bars and restaurants were doing good business, aided by the Chelsea-Munich Champions League final being on and us being surrounded by German (Bavarian?) tourists. The ‘British’ team won out in the end, on penalties, but we didn’t watch any of it, the views across the water and the world class ice cream (I won the flavour battle with a ‘surely this is alcoholic?’ tub of creamy ameretto) holding our attention.

On the way back along the promenade we plonked ourselves down in front of an al fresco gymnastics exhibition. The disco tunes were pumping out as we waited for the show to start, but somehow our fellow show-goers were static. Not a single bouncing leg or skyward flung arm to be seen. The sombre mood was explained when a lady on stage translated the Italian opening speech into English: “please, we would like to stand up and have a minute’s silence to pay respects to the 16 year old girl today murdered in Italy”. We had heard of this tragic news via the t’Interweb earlier in the day, a bomb had killer her and wonder many others. Initial media speculation was the mafia, but that seems to have been rapidly discounted in favour of some individual head-case doing the killing. The fact the leaping lasses were all in their teens brought home the sadness and we didn’t stay long.

The other bit of Italian news we missed completely, sort of. In fact, we found out about it at 4am first hand when we woke up to find Dave gently swaying from side to side. A magnitude 6 earthquake had struck about 70 miles south of us. We thought either (a) someone was having a laugh shaking the van about (b) Charlie was in disco-kip mode or (c) thieves were after our remaining bike. Whichever of these it was, we ignored it, went back to sleep, and completely forgot it had happened, even when questioned from folks back home whether we’d felt it. Ignorance is bliss; we later met John, a retired American on a backpacking tour around Europe, who had lived in California and was clearly in fear of the damage earthquakes could cause.

Before we found out the shaking we’d felt in the night was an earthquake, we headed south to Verona, a place Ju wanted to check out, and some way closer to the epicentre. We’ve seen zero damage, at least nothing quake related. Someone had managed to flip their car on its side on a dead straight road, causing a short hold up while the police waved us past the ambulance and fire engine stationed on-scene.

Verona, setting of Romeo and Juliet, is yet another UNESCO World Heritage Site. We’re stumbling across them like pizza shops here in Italy. We spent a few hours there (free parking here), nothing like enough to do it justice. Even on a dreary day like today, the Italian-ness of it all was a wonder. On the tourist-rammed Via Mazzini I was reminded of a shopping street in Nottingham. Ju sense checked me: “really?”. Hmmm, good point, the ground was old pitted marble-like stone and above the shops, ivy hung from countless curved ironwork balconies. Not exactly Nottingham.

Somehow, someone has managed to claim one of these balconies, albeit one crafted from stone this time, is the one Juliet asked the ‘where for art though’ question of Romeo, both fictional characters. This fantastic act of profiteering has resulted in the above mentioned river of tourists piling into the small enclosed area under the balcony for photos and to plaster the walls with crudely scrawled messages, many apparently held in place with used chewing gum.

It was a sight to see (and be a part of); I was most amazed when a small boy wandered among the throng with an iPad 2; Ju had seen a pushchair holding a nipper and his Sony netbook earlier on. These guys were infants and their fragile toys cost hundreds of euros. Should I laugh (they’ll likely be wizard pooter users) or cry (how spoiled were these kids)?

We later found out Verona was the scene of the execution of Mussolini’s son in law Galeazzo Ciano in January 1944. Mussolini himself had requested his mock trial, after he and others had voted for the dictator to be ousted, clearly not something he’d taken kindly to. To humiliate Ciano and his fellow condemned they were tied to chairs and shot in the back on the banks of the river Adige, although Ciona managed to twist around at the last minute.

We’re now on our way back to the mountains, in a small town besieged by vineyards and cherry orchards. Our minute-by-minute planning has us zig-zagging across this part of Italy, one minute north and the next south, but who cares, we’ve got all the time in the world :).

Happy Sunday folks, Jay x


    • Hi Anne. I’m finding my reading of media reports often don’t tie up with what I actually see. The BBC report was accurate I’m sure, but you’d easily be forgiven for thinking half north Italy was destroyed. My guess is far more people were killed, sadly, in run of the mill car accidents. Not very newsworthy though. Monday greetings from a very wet north Italy, love, Jay

  1. Glad to hear that you were not near the earthquake. Your trip in Verona sounds very interesting plus the pictures are really nice. The good thing though is that you visited Juliet’s balcony because this is one of the must-see attractions of Verona.

  2. That “living statue” man was there – at exactly the same place – last year when we visited in May 2011. Quite right, he is superb. Plus notice his forward foot is resting in a recess in the pavement.

    With regards to the earthquake, I was in Verona this year for that as well (and for the 5.8 earthquake 9 days later). Both earthquakes caused significant shaking (but no damage) to our accommodation, and between them killed about 27 people in Emilia Romagna. They also destroyed many historic buildings. The situation in the affected region is really quite bad.

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