For my 100th blog, on a beautiful day, we did a road trip to Verona!  Romeo and Juliet made Verona a household word, but fiction aside, Verona is Italy’s fourth most visited city and has been an important crossroads for 2,000 years.  Its main attractions are its wealth of Roman ruins; the remnants of its 13th and 14th century political and cultural boom; its 21st century, quiet, pedestrian streets, and its world-class opera held in the summer.  In the Middle Ages, noble families had to choose sides in the civil struggle between emperors (Ghibellines) and popes (Guelphs).  During this time, the town had towers built by different families to signify their wealth.  When the Scaligeri family rose to power here in the 14th century, they made other nobles tear their towers down – only the Scaligeris were allowed to keep theirs.  In 1405 the town gave itself to Venice until Napoleon stopped by in 1796.  During the 19th century Verona fell into Austrian hands.  So one can see the varied history from Roman times to Venice control to Austrian control in the sights all around the city.  We always look forward to starting our road trips with the train ride, so we walked our usual 15 minutes to the station for our 2 hour ride with one change.  From the Verona station it was about a 20 minute walk into the old town where we first arrived at the Piazza Bra’.  The ancient arena looms over this piazza and is a reminder that this city’s history goes back to Roman times.  We stopped for our usual morning cappuccino just to take it all in and watch the crowds of people enjoying the super weather.  We then went into the Arena which is the third largest in the Roman world and dates back to the first century A.D.  Over the centuries spectators have cheered Roman gladiator battles, medieval executions, and modern plays.  Right next to the Arena on this Piazza is a yellow Neoclassical city hall built by the Austrians.  From this Piazza Bra’ we walked down the pedestrian shopping street which led us to the Piazza Erbe which is a colorful market square with old frescos  and fountains.  Off this Piazza is the Palazzo della Ragione.  The impressive stairway is the only surviving Renaissance staircase in Verona.   This palazzo has a 13th century tower which, of course, we had to climb.  But, full disclosure, we took the elevator part of the way.  From there we went to see Juliet’s House.  While no documentation has been discovered to prove this legend, no documentation has disproved it either.  Verona residents marvel that so many tourists come to see this.  We continued our walk through the old town which took us to other shopping streets and Piazza’s.  A river winds around this part of town and we wandered over there also and visited a couple of beautiful churches.  The first was the Church of Sant’ Anastasia built from the late 13th century through the 15th century.  From there we walked along the river to the Ponte Pietra footbridge.  From this vantage point we could see across the river to the Roman Theater and fortress dating from the first century A. D.  Further along our walk we came to the Duomo which was started in the 12th century.  Attached to this church are also the ruins of an older church from the 10th century called church of St. Elena and its ancient baptistery.  From this point we continued full circle along another shopping street to the Porta Borsari which was the main entrance to Roman Verona and functioned as a toll booth to collect tolls.  Right next to this is  an old stone on the curb from a tomb because in Roman times the roads outside the walls were lined with tombstones, and burials were not allowed within the city walls.  We soon came to our original starting point earlier today at the Piazza Bra’ where we found an early dinner before catching our train back to Florence.  We loved this city and the rich history is still so obvious to see and feel as you spend the day strolling through its beauty.