Our coach arrived promptly at 9am on Tuesday 13th May and, by midday, we were in Verona. After a quick lunch in Piazza Bra’, we went to the Arena – still used to this day for concerts and Juliet’s balcony, where Eileen and Phil attempted to re-enact Shakespeare’s famous love scene. Unfortunately, the weather was not kind to us and the skies opened, just as we arrived at the Ponte Pietra (stone bridge). We took refuge in various coffee shops, waiting for the weather to settle down. Some time later, the rain eased. Some went shopping (again!) and others walked around the environs of Verona, ending up at Castelvecchio – a 14th Century residence/fortress that now houses a museum.
Padova – an unspoilt university town was our next stop. We were lucky enough to have the wonderful Paolo Clair from the Padova Bridge Club take us around the town for an hour, introducing us to the delights of Caffe’ Pedrocchi, the university and the markets. After a leisurely lunch and the chance to see the famous Prato delle Valle square and Basilica di Sant’Antonio, we headed for the bridge club – a true highlight of the trip. The hospitality we received was extraordinary, including a 3 course meal worthy of the finest restaurant and pre-dinner seafood ‘snacks’ with champagne. We discovered that we were playing in a simultaneo (tournament that played the same boards throughout Italy) and our visit was reported on the Italian Bridge Federation site! Congratulations to Sally & David; Greg & Sharon and Beth & Trish for excellent results.
Thursday was a tour into the Soave and Valpolicella districts. Some of the group chose to explore the town of Soave – east of Verona, with its perfectly intact castle, while others enjoyed the wine tour. Then we transferred to Sant’Ambrogio di Valpolicella for a lovely lunch with accompanying wines and a saunter to a viewpoint afterwards – a lovely way to celebrate Noelene’s birthday!
The following day was a jaunt to the gateway of the Dolomites – Bolzano, as well as Helen’s birthday. From there, we took a cable car to the top of Ritten/Renon (everything is written in both German and Italian); walked to the Earth Pyramids, stopping for Wiener Schnitzel or goulasch and some people even found Apfelstrudel! The scenery was gorgeous and we all enjoyed the change of pace and relative isolation.
Venezia was next on the agenda – back to the hustle and bustle with beautiful canals, glass, masks and plenty of tourists… Our last day was ‘free’ for shopping/ sightseeing/ relaxing until the late afternoon, when we enjoyed more Italian hospitality at the Verona Bridge Club (many thanks to Daniela Granuzzo). Hilary and Bob starred in this session with 60% – a great effort! We were treated to dinner at the club after the game, plus after dinner singing by John McGrath….
We said a sad goodbye to those leaving the tour (Hilary & Bob, Eileen & Phil, Trish, Janice, Noelene & Felicity) and prepared ourselves for the next exciting instalment of our Italy adventure – Lake Como.