A walk in Verona

View of Ponte Pietra and Verona from the roman ruins
View of Ponte Pietra and Verona from the roman ruins

One of the best coffees I’ve ever had was an espresso from a little hole in the wall in Verona. The coffee beans were Guatemalan and as we downed our coffee a few people ducked in for a quick alcoholic beverage, it was late afternoon and wine o’clock for some. Hubby and I had been walking the streets since our arrival in Verona and needed a little something to pick us up. There was only one barista and he did it all, the cafe was a small place, perfect for just dropping in although if you wanted to stay for longer there were a few seats along the wall.

For people like me who enjoy looking at old stuff, a walk through the old town is a must. Castelvecchio is a former military structure on the Adige River, it now houses a museum and the medieval bridge is perfect for getting a bird’s eye view of the surrounds. On the other side of the Adige river, carved into the side of a hill is a first century B.C.E. roman theatre which was excavated in the 18th century. Above the theatre is an Archaeological Museum however it was closed for restoration so we settled for wandering through the roman ruins in the small area surrounding the theatre. If you are romantic you might enjoy a visit to Juliet’s House to see the balcony featured in Shakespeare’s tragedy ‘Romeo and Juliet’, the building itself dates back to the 13th or 14th century but the balcony is apparently a more recent addition. I wasn’t really enamoured with the attraction, lots of people rubbing the statue’s breast, a wall of graffiti and shops selling tacky souvenirs of love but it was worth taking a photo or two. Hubby and I preferred wandering through the quieter streets between Piazza della Erbe and Ponte Pietra with window displays of art and antiques, views of the river and the roman ruins on the other side.

The best sandwich menu ever
The best sandwich menu ever

Not far from Juliet’s house is a small and delightful chocolate shop where you can by delicious chocolate by the bite or in bulk. We stood at the bar at the end of the shop to consume our drinks, the hot chocolate they made me was divine, rich and thick, perfect for an afternoon pick me up. The food was good in Verona, we ate very well. The most delicious, value for money sandwiches or panuozzi were at the tiny Paninoteca Mordimi not far from Castelvecchio. Handwritten signs covered the walls, these were our menu options and it took longer to make a decision that it did to eat the sandwich which was like a cross between a pizza and a panini. For something less casual, the L’Osteria Dal Cavaliere serves dishes that are typical of the region as well as a few from other parts of Italy such as Insalata Caprese made with buffalo mozzarella. If you’re really brave you could try the donkey or horse, however I recommend the duck ragu with pappardelle and the veal cheeks with creamy polenta. The interior of the Osteria is cosy and inviting, the staff were friendly and extremely helpful especially when it came to translating the menu and helping us select a wine from the region.

We spent two nights in Verona and stayed at the lovely Hotel Giulietta e Romeo, a minute walk from the famous Arena and reasonably close to everything else that a visitor to Verona would want to see. For shoppers, Verona offers designer labels, antiques and art, but we spent most of our time browsing the stalls at the Christmas markets and drooling at the delicious treats for sales in chocolate shops and bakeries. With a drop in temperature, I couldn’t resist buying a couple of knitted beanies, they looked so cute with a fluffy little ball on top and they kept my ears and head warm of an evening. Walking around Verona at night seemed perfectly safe, people were very obliging when it came to helping us find our way around and like most of Italy the nights were popular for strolling the main streets and piazzas. I would happily return for a longer stay, if only to make it a base for exploring the surrounding towns and lakes.

The joy of snow

Living in coastal Queensland means hot and humid summers, very mild winters and lovely seasons in between. We don’t really get to experience the four seasons because they seem to merge together so for us, spending a couple of days in the cooler climes of Innsbruck, Austria was utterly delightful. Both Hubby and I wanted to see snow, and perhaps explore some Christmas markets,  the timing wasn’t perfect however we discovered that the markets in Verona, Innsbruck and Berlin opened late November. In the days leading up to our arrival in Innsbruck we kept checking the weather reports and were happy to see that snow was predicted during our stay. Snow is not something we’ll ever experience where we live, Queenslanders complain about the cold if the temperature drops below 20 degrees celsius.

My first visit to Innsbruck was in 1999 and it was summer, no snow then just lots of rain. This time we travelled in late Autumn and I imagined snow covered mountains, Christmas decorations and huge Christmas trees covered in lights, Innsbruck did not disappoint. Hubby was ecstatic! On our second day in Innsbruck it snowed, we woke up to a view of snow covered rooftops and couldn’t believe our luck. The previous night we discovered the joy of Gluhwein, the spiced wine warming us from the inside out and it worked a treat during the day as well especially when combined with delicious food sold at the Christmas stalls. It wasn’t hard to spot the tourists, we were the ones with broad smiles, standing in the middle of the square and taking photos of each other in the snow.

The food in Innsbruck’s old town caters to tourists, the quality might be considered average and the offerings kitschy or old fashioned. We didn’t really care and were looking forward to schnitzel and strudel, dishes that Hubby’s Italian Nanna cooked for him as a child. The lovely staff at the Hotel Weisses Kreuz sent us to a couple of places where we could enjoy a tasty schnitzel and for afternoon tea, apple strudel and hot chocolate. The food was delicious and the hot chocolate incredible, served up was a large ball of dark chocolate that I dropped into a steaming glass of milk and stirred until it melted. The apple strudel was also good, apparently not as good as Nanna’s but I enjoyed every mouthful. There is nothing quite like a good, hearty meal on a cold, snowy day and not a day goes this summer without me wishing I was back in Innsbruck.