I THOUGHT I WAS RACING THROUGH EUROPE until I met a young California couple in Milan’s central train station, consulting their Eurail map. They are doing nine countries in three weeks. By that standard, my trip — three countries in four weeks — is leisurely. Yet my three-and-a-half hours in Verona, a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its medieval architecture, was ridiculously inadequate.
I had braved the Metro for the first time, taking it four stops from the Duomo station near my hotel to Milano Centrale, and found it very civilized. Not crowded, well-marked, 1.5 euro/ride. My intention was to take an 11:35 train to Verona, but I needed a reservation. I took a number (#741) and waited to be called to one of a dozen windows. They were up to #687 when I got there about 10:45, and the line wasn’t moving fast. At 11:38 I had my reservations — on the 12:05 to Verona, with a return to Milan later (but not late enough) the same day.
When I got off at Verona after an hour-and-a-half in first-class comfort, I couldn’t spot a tourist information stand or a billboard with a map on it or anything. So I approached a limo driver who was holding a placard outside the station. “Scusi, signore, dove il centro?” I think I fooled him with my perfect accent. He gave me some rapid-fire directions accompanied, fortunately, by clear hand gestures. After 10 minutes of walking along a busy boulevard, I came to an arched gate, above, clearly the place where the old city began. And just beyond it, yet another Roman arena, huge and so intact it’s used for a summer opera festival. (At this point, I’m blasé about Roman arenas.)
Verona is a very pretty town, After an earthquake in the 12th century, the city was rebuilt in Romanesque style. Much of that, especially church architecture, remains. The pink and yellow buildings, with peaked windows, turrets, towers, and balconies, reminded me somewhat of Venice, less than two hours away.
I joined the throngs of visitors dodging each other’s cameras. With limited time and zero advance prep, all I could do was walk, and look, and eat.
I had lunch outdoors in Piazza Erbe, below — a cold seafood salad followed by the best spinach tortellini in memory.
Then I retraced my steps, more or less, to the station, and tore myself away from Verona, having had no more than the merest glimpse of a potentially enthralling place.