From Venice, I cycled across the plains of Northern Italy, The Alps a permanent fixture to my right, quietly ebbing away both east and west until the horizon allows no more. As the sun set behind the small hills overlooking Vicenza, I swapped sunglasses for head-torch and pitched up next to the river for the night before continuing west.
Now well and truly embedded back into Western Europe, where exhaust fumes fill the air and following signs for McDonald’s is the easiest way to find the city centre, I entered Verona. But the countless number of roads surrounding the city would fool anyone into thinking this is an industrial town, masking the relative calm of the city centre.
If you want to see some old stuff, Verona is your place. Ancient monuments along with Roman arches and walls, makes this city the Rome of the North. The Roman amphitheatre, The Arena (pictured above), dates to 30AD, and in its day would rival the Colosseum. Today, instead of killing people for fun, it holds regular shows and exhibitions. Numerous medieval churches also remain in pristine condition, notably the Basilica of San Zeno Maggiore (pictured below) and the peculiar Santa Maria Antica. It’s not hard to see why Shakespeare, despite never travelling here, wrote several plays set in this enchanting city.
I’ve spent most of my time here walking the streets, pondering how old everything must be – seemingly around every corner, you turn another page in the history books revealing some other building, each as bold as the last and as grandiose as the next. I’m also wondering how Italians can eat pizza all their lives, drive like maniacs and still live till they’re 100.