Saturday, August 27, 2011

A northern girl in the heat of Italy...

view of Isola Bella from cocktail hour
The day after we came home to Milan, the heat from Africa decided to make a stop in Italy... and stay here! It's been in the mid 90's in Milan every day since we got back from the Netherlands. Thankfully this weekend it’s supposed to cool off. Bring it on!!

Cocktails with a view

Last weekend we had tickets to the opera "Romeo et Juliette" in Verona, so we just hung around Milan most of the weekend. When I say "around Milan" I mean in cooler, nearby areas. We took a drive up to Lake Maggiore on Friday since Josh was still on vacation, and got away from the heat of the city. We just wanted to be in the air conditioned car more than anything (the lake was just an added bonus). The Lake is one of three major lakes near Milan (Lake Maggiore, Lake Como, and Lake Garda). All three are about an hour’s drive away from our house and up until this point we hadn't visited Lake Maggiore. Josh packed a picnic basket and we were on our way.
Another view of Isola Bella
There is a really cool island called "Isola Bella" that I wanted to see while we were there. Unfortunately, we got there around 4PM due to a late start and the island closed at 5:00. By the time we took the ferry to the island, it would be closing. So we just enjoyed walking around the nearby city of Stresa. Of course, on a hot day like that day a spritz was in order! We enjoyed a quick cool down cocktail while enjoying the view of Isola Bella. This island is entirely occupied by the Palazzo Borromeo and its gardens. Since we didn't make it to the island on this trip, it is a must to go back and see it! It looks so amazing!

We leisurely ambled along the coastline of the lake, then drove to find a picnic spot for dinner. Josh is such a romantic! He drove to a spot on the lake with a beach and a great view of the sun set. He had caprese salad prepared and sandwiches packed with a bottle of wine. We didn't drink the wine since he had to drive though. As we sat and ate, we watched the sun set behind the alps. What a great, romantic evening!

The next day, we packed and headed to Verona for the opera. I was so excited for our first opera! We stayed at a hotel about 20 minutes from the city center and it was worth it! The hotels in Verona were not cheaper than 130 euros a night... we found ours for 40! In addition, the hotel had air conditioning so we were happy! We decided to get into Verona early so we had time to eat dinner, pick up our tickets at will call, and just enjoy the night. We had dinner at a restaurant in the main square, with the arena right in front of us. For those of you that don't know, the arena of Verona is like a smaller version of the Colosseum. It was built in 30 AD! In ancient times, the arena could hold 30,000 spectators. Today, it can seat up to 20,000 for the opera.
Another table with a view

our view of the arena at dinner

Josh's "favorite"

Our spot for dinner was great for people watching!! It was right on the sidewalk so we could see the people walking by. We saw so many great outfits... people dressed to impress for the opera, and people just dressing strangely in general. One woman walked by in a florescent yellow, skin tight dress. Maybe she wanted to be seen?? Also, we saw and older gentleman walk by in royal blue pants, a white linen jacket, with a rainbow colored tie and his hair was long and silver. To top it all off... he had a long silver broom on his upper lip! He had an award winning mustache! He was Josh's favorite.

our view of the stage

The show started at 9PM (after the sun went down) and lasted until just before 1AM. Since the arena was outside and it was so freakin’ hot, everyone kept fanning themselves (myself included). Not my finest moment at dinner when I had sweat dripping down my legs while in a nice dress... It didn't cool down until after midnight when a breeze kicked in. But even then, it was still around 88 degrees! The heat didn't ruin the evening though. We were sitting in an arena that was more than 2000 years old, and I saw a shooting star just as the show was starting. I knew it was going to be a good show at that point! The tradition is to light a candle before the show starts when you are in your seat. This was fun- you could see all of the people in attendance. In the upper deck seats, its general seating (first come, first serve) and people can bring in food and drinks since they don't have access to concessions in the upper decks. Between this and the inexpensive tickets, the people of Verona and are well educated in opera. They also stay out all night after the show! When we exited the arena, many of the restaurants had tables reserved with bottles of spumante in buckets of ice, ready to go. The whole experience was great and we would love to see an opera at La Scala in Milano (another world famous opera house). The woman who played Juliette was fantastic! And so was Romeo- they stole the show!
Queen Mab
Mercutio's end

Juliette's aria before taking the potion

The next day it was still sweltering... so we decided to go to the beach at Lake Garda (not far from Verona). But before hitting the beach, we stopped at a medieval castle near our hotel, Il Castello di Soave. It was commissioned by the Italian king Berengario I, sometime around the 10th century. This castle was the real deal! The castle is a true fortress and sits on a hill overlooking the town, while the walls of the castle go down the hill to surround the city. It was very cool! We didn't stay long though since I was getting the back sweats and desperately needed air conditioning. Man, that weekend I was starting feel a little bit like James!! I was a sweaty cinghiale! (see "My birthday!… and more cinghiale!") This northern girl can’t take the heat! In small doses I’m ok… but this long stretch of heat has been rough!
The castle had a draw bridge

New guard on duty!

Entrance to the kings rooms
the prisoners tower

Soave and the walls around the town

I love lamp!

The REALLY steep and crazy stoned streets
we had to walk up to see the castle
We figured out where everyone goes when it’s hot… the beach on Lake Garda was packed! But they left enough room for Josh and I! So nice of them J We stayed on the beach for a few hours before going home- Josh on the sand, me in the water. It was nice! But as with all good things, it must come to an end… so we left and went back to the heat of Milano. I’ve been melting there ever since! Please, please, please… send some cooler weather!

1 comment:

  1. An opera in a 2,000 year old venue! How wonderful! I do hope you get to see something at LaScala, too. What a thrill that would be.