As I prepare for the start of my second semester at the Università di Verona, I thought I’d talk a bit more about the city itself.
It is best known for being the home of Shakespeare’s star-crossed lovers, Romeo and Juliet. Although history states that this couple were 100% fictional, and that Shakespeare himself had never actually even been to Verona, Juliet’s house is one of the most famous and most visited sites in the city. The streets are buzzing all year round with tourists who flock to visit Juliet in her courtyard; to take a photo under her famous balcony upon which she promised her love to Romeo, or to touch her breast for luck in love – a tradition so popular that the statue has been worn down on the right side!
The walls of her courtyard are covered in messages of love from couples who have travelled to sign their names in hearts, or those who seek Juliet’s guidance in love. The notes tell stories of the visitors’ pasts, their problems and their hopes for the future. Of course, during my first week here I partook in all these activities as I initiated myself into the city.
Another Veronese initiation (in my eyes anyway) is the obsessive drinking of Aperol Spritz. Yes, they sell them in the UK, but no, they don’t taste as good as they do when you are sat in Piazza Bra, Aperol in hand with the famous Verona Arena amphitheatre in the background.
A great Italian tradition that I think needs to migrate to the UK is that virtually wherever you go for drinks in the evening, they will give you snacks with your drink. For free. In the UK free food is a myth, but here it’s a shock if you don’t receive your little platter of crisps, olives and bread with your spritz.
A Veronese tradition that I cannot get onboard with, however, is the local delicacy of horse meat. In the UK it was a scandal when Tesco’s beef mince was actually horse meat, but here they wouldn’t have batted an eyelid. On an unrelated note, I’m now trying vegetarianism.
I have a friend here who is vegan, and many who are vegetarian. To my surprise, Italy caters so well for this! People stereotype Italians by food: course after course of pasta, pizza and meat platters. However, everywhere offers veggie and vegan options that are just as delicious.
The centre is full of fancy designer shops which is all good and nice, but somehow I don’t think my student loan is going to cover Gucci’s latest collection… Luckily for students there is a huge shopping centre a 30-minute bus ride out of the city, where more reasonably priced shops exist.
In central Verona there are many supermarkets – including Aldi – with reasonably priced food, as well as local fruit and vegetable markets that sell high quality products for a good price. I always try to get my fruit and veg from the local sellers to try and help the community.
Basically what I’m trying to say is – bar the horse meat thing – Verona is great and I can’t wait to start the second leg of my year abroad.