We left Switzerland early in the morning on Sunday and drove most of the day to reach Verona, Italy. Along the way, we listened to Professor Strokanov lecturing on Dante and the context of the Divine Comedy. It was very interesting – I took notes, in fact. I was very impressed by the light he shed on the medieval thinking of the day and how it translated through the story. That really helped to give the text life and understanding. It’s easier to appreciate an author’s writing when you understand the circumstances surrounding the writing.
The only two other things that were interesting about Switzerland that were pointed out along our drive were the 10-mile tunnel we drove through – holy amazing, batman – and that Switzerland’s energy is almost 50% hydropower. Some of that is runoff from the snow in the Alps. The drainage structures were really, really incredible and I would love to know more about that. I was curious about the drainage structures and systems anyway and how they handle the runoff they must face from such steep terrain.
We arrived in the afternoon in Verona. The terrain changed drastically when we entered Italy. I was a little sad to see the mountains go. But Verona was really interesting with its large wall and huge arena. In all my life, I never thought I would be looking at an arena in person. Maybe someday I can go inside of one.
We walked through a square with a farmer’s market and then down a long street. The street was marble – not concrete or pavement, but marble. It was smooth and fine and just like something somebody might have for a counter in their house… I was astounded. I mean, I guess we have some granite sidewalks in Wallingford, but an entire sidestreet of it? I couldn’t imagine.
We saw the statue of Dante in Verona, and the burial places of one of the governing families, and then we went to Juliet’s house. I think I have seen Juliet’s house in a romantic comedy once upon a time, it felt magical to be there at first… but then it just felt sad. On the bus, Professor Strokanov had also given his very professional opinion about the seven stages of the feeling of love. He started with Insanity, then went to Dreaming, then to Planning, then to Truth, then to Resistance – which he didn’t talk about – and said he would finish the rest of the lecture later. (None of us are sure that he knows what the other two feelings are, but the discussion was interesting.) After talking about love and standing there thinking about love – it just felt sad. “All love is tragedy,” Professor Strokanov said. I don’t think he’s right, but he’s not necessarily wrong, either.
After our walking tour of Verona we had free time. As there was a market, we decided to see what various vendors were selling and doing. I saw some tablecloths at one stall and picked one up. It unfolded and I couldn’t seem to fold it back quite right. A woman came over and started talking in animated Italian. We asked her in Italian if she spoke English. She then started shouting – at the top of her lungs – and looking around. I was so embarrassed at this point and felt like maybe I had done something wrong. I was relieved when finally a woman came up offering to speak a little English. The two women exchanged a few animated words and then the lady turned to me and asked, “Do you need any help?” I laughed in relief; such a big deal to such a simple question! I replied, apologetically, that I was only looking. We all laughed and we all moved on about our business.
We decided we needed to get gelato after that, but couldn’t remember where Professor Strokanov had said that the best gelato was located. We ran into him on a sidestreet and asked him and he said, “Come, I show you!” and took off like a flash! We ran after him and it was one of my favorite moments ever – running for gelato behind a Russian professor through the streets of Verona. It was hilarious and something I never thought I’d ever do in my life.
We got back to find that the oil pump on the bus was broken and our bus drive was repairing it. We had to sit and wait and while we did that, I had time to locate a four leaf clover. My first day in Italy and a four leaf clover!
Tomorrow is Venice!