Friday, March 29, 1996 Verona, Italy
I got up at 6 am and went to the garage to pick up the rolls & butter…I’d forgotten about the breakfast being included in the price for the room! So my trip was for naught and by 7 am everyone was getting up. We packed and then went downstairs to one of the biggest and fanciest breakfasts of the trip so far. Everything you could imagine was available for us to choose from. The rolls had so much butter in them they just melted in your mouth. There's nothing quite like breakfast at a four star hotel! We ate our fill and then checked out and loaded the car.
Off we went south to St. Johann for a little trip down memory lane for Jim. He stayed there during the Veterans World Cup bike race he attended in 1977, his first trip to Europe; he took his bicycle and not me! Boo Hoo! But the purpose of the trip was to race his bicycle so it wasn't a hard choice. He qualified as a "Veterans" and was one of the younger riders. Jim competed in amateur bicycling from the 1970's to 2000...thirty years!
From St. Johann we went into Germany for a short time and then back into Austria. South on the Autobahn through lots of tunnels as we proceeded past Innsbruck where the winter Olympics were held in the 1960’s. So many castles, in good condition and in ruins. Villages built on the side of mountains, each one has a church no matter how small the village. It reminded me of the story of Heidi. Barbara requested the back seat and took several naps on the way into Italy. We went through Brenner pass and entered Italy.
More small towns but suddenly every inch of the mountainsides had terraced vineyards. Houses are not as well kept. It’s now 3 pm and we’re still driving through Brenner Pass on the Autobahn. We stopped at a rest stop to use the WC and purchased 3 bottles of water. Only had German Marks. Gave them a DM 50.00. Had no ideal how much change we were supposed to receive. We started to leave and the clerk called Barbara back, he’d returned with 90% of our cash as change (he’d had to go somewhere to get it), she said some of the people were making remarks that she could hear but couldn't understand! At least we had an honest Italian.
We are all concerned about leaving anything in the car unless it’s in the trunk. (We were paranoid from all of the scary stories about traveling in Italy....not an issue for us experienced travelers today...good common sense seems to work every time!) For us that’s going to be a problem except when we’re at a hotel because there’s no way to get everything in the trunk. On the trip today Jim saw a sign that told the weight limit for trucks and another right below it for Tanks…the army type. We took a picture of one after we saw several….they were all in Germany in the mountains between Berchtesgaden and St. Johann in Tirol . We went off the autobahn once to try to find WC & food. Stopped at a bank to change some money first. The bank, and we soon discovered, all the other shops were closed for their two hour lunch. Got back on the road and went to the rest stop. I'm typing this in the car with my special box I prepared at home to block out the excess sunlight in the car. Works just fine!
Reached Verona about 4 pm. Large city. Took us a while to get into the city and then we couldn’t find parking on the street. Reached the center of the city and saw a McDonalds with several hotels nearby. We continued to drive…very crazy drivers. Jim flipped a “U” and we nearly got hit broadside by a bus who didn’t slow down for us! That was our closest call. Finally decided to go back to the McDonald’s. Barbara and I jumped out of the car to check out the hotels in that area. Jim was to keep driving around the block until we came out and met him at McDonalds. He found a parking place and picked up a parking stub off the ground for the dashboard and ran over to McDonalds BUT couldn’t find us as we were checking out rooms. He ran back to the car before he got a ticket and just arrived back as we walked out front.
The hotel, Hotel Mastino, had secured underground parking for only 15,000 lire. We drove over to it and walked the three blocks back with our luggage. Before we left the car we put everything in the trunk that we weren’t taking with us. Nice rooms, Barbara had a single bed again and Jim and I had our first king-size bed (actually two mattresses in one frame). Walls were paper thin, we could hear each other sneezing. Got the name of two restaurants and went walking. Saw the “Arena” which was a preserved Roman Coliseum in much better shape than the one in Rome according to Barbara.
They hold performances inside on a regular basis according to the literature. (We attended an Opera here one evening on a future trip; amazing experience.) We found one of the restaurants, it was still closed as they eat later in Italy. The menu looked rather expensive and more than we wanted. Barbara said that a café is a bar; a pizzeria is light food and a restaurant is expensive, lots of courses and meant to be the whole evening. While we were searching we found an old plaza area where there were stalls in the center of the plaza , very old buildings and two fountains in the center. Barbara and I each had our pictures taken while rubbing the head of the fountain. Barbara said that was to insure that we would return someday. Barbara checked out the scarves but didn’t buy any. We found a delightful little Pizzeria and had pizza and salad for dinner. We discovered that it costs 2,000 lire, nearly $2.00, to occupy a table. We’re not sure if that included the bread sticks that were on the table. We didn’t eat any of them after our experience in Germany at the Bavarian Restaurant. If you eat at a standup restaurants they don’t charge you a fee.
Banks were closed when we arrived so we’re still working with limited cash and the credit card. Walked back to the hotel right after dinner to use the WC and get our coats, it was getting colder and colder! Now that we had our coats we continued to walk all over the old part of Verona. We walked all around the Arena, then down lots of alleyways to window shop. Accidentally found the home of Juliet (Romeo & Juliet) because of the tons of graffiti on the walls and gate. Lots of hearts and names. Stopped to look and discovered what it was. Jim told us that they didn’t really exist and were only fictional characters from Shakespeare. There were actually two warring families with different names and that was the basis for Shakespeare play. But the people want them to be real and over the years the rumors have become accepted that they really did exist! Then on the same street we found an area where they had excavated and opened up the Roman ruins.
Stopped at the McDonalds on the way home and picked up caramel sundae’s for myself and Barbara. They were making a tray of french fries for a group of boys…they counted out ten bags dumping each on one tray and served it to them on the tray. Very nice McDonald’s with lots of marble. The salad bar was separate and a gentlemen prepared your plate according to your directions. We were ready for bed and the Italians were just getting started! Home to bed and Italian lessons on TV…no CNN! But Barbara discovered a shopping channel which kept her entertained for the evening! Didn’t need English to understand shopping.
MONEY: (ONE DOLLAR = 1,500 LIRE)