|The Roman Arena of Verona|
The rest of the Arena is in a remarkable state of preservation, enough so that it holds a full season of opera and musical events. Although I appreciate that the Arena is still used for public entertainment, as it once was, the modern seats, stage, and flooring on the inside distract from the achievements of the ancients. I prefer the current state of the Coliseum in Rome, which has its lower chambers exposed and few modern adornments on the inside.
|I condemn a gladiator from the seats of the Arena|
The Arena granted me a view to even earlier Veronese history, I noticed on one of the tiers of seats an unusual spiral imprint. I looked at it carefully to tell if it was a Roman insignia or a mark made later. I couldn’t make sense of it--until I saw an image of it in a guidebook I purchased from a store in the Piazza dei Signore. It turns out it’s a fossil of a nautiloid. The Romans rip up a piece of Permian stone to place in their gladiatorial arena. I wonder what they thought it was.
|Inside the Arena|
Reality check: Shakespeare never got anywhere near Verona in his life, and the play shows no indication of any familiarity with the city. Like all Italian cities in Shakespeare’s plays, it is entirely a “generic” Meditterranean city. Anti-Stratfordians, who argue that because Shakespeare was not well-traveled he couldn’t have written his plays, obviously have never paid attention to how little specific detail he provides. (What, Anti-Stratfordians ignorant of basic scholarship? Shock!) All Shakespeare needed to know about Verona for writing Romeo and Juliet was what he got from his source, a novella by Matteo Bandello, whose collections of romantic stories were popular in sixteenth-century England. The Elizabethan English stereotypically thought of Italy as an exotic land of hot passions and bloody vengeance, and I can’t say attitudes in Hollywood today are much different.
I’m glad to report that Verona is a much more vibrant and varied city than the boring sunny sheen of postcard ennui that the movie gave it. But I will admit as a Shakespeare lover, thinking about this city as the setting for Romeo and Juliet has great appeal. I imagine the Act I, Scene I brawl taking place in the Piazza dei Signore, the center of the Medieval city which lies between the Montecchi and Capuleti residences. There’s also a statue of Dante there, placed in 1865. Dante was a guest of the Scaligere, the most powerful family in the city during the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. The Scaligere were wool merchants who briefly made Verona an independent city-state in the thirteenth century, allied with the German Emperor. In 1405, the burgeoning Venetian Republic took control of Verona
A famous poet who actually lived here: Catullus, author of some of the best dirty poems in history! I spent a semester at college studying his poetry in the original Latin.
Casa Giuletta was crowded today, as was most of the city. It’s Easter Sunday, which means even the locals are out to enjoy a meal in a nice restaurant and a stop at the tourist locations. A sudden downpour, with brief hail, sent everyone in the city running for the cafés
I’ll close with wine: The popular grapes in this region are Lugana (a dry white) and Valporicello (a red similar to Chianti). I’ve had plenty of both today, particularly from the Otella vineyard.