As you travel more north in Italy there are marked changes in culture, food, landscape (of course), and the composition of the cities. The population density increases and the general attitude is a little more reserved and more business-like, but only to a small degree for this is still Italy after all.

Verona – the city that offers the setting for Romeo & Juliet and has the spectacular Arena, an ancient Roman stadium where operas are held every summer – is right at the foothills of the Dolomite mountains (Italian Alps) but just to the south are expansive plains producing much of Italy’s produce (animal & plant) and reminds me of California’s central farmland region. It is this area to the south where a particular pasta dish is popular that holds a spot in my list of top 5 Favorite Italian Foods – Tortelli di Zucca (pumpkin-filled tortelli).

The whole Juliet’s balcony thing is a farce, a blatant play to the tourist’s sentimentality and to separate them from some money. If you just ignore that then Verona is a beautiful city that is enjoyable to walk around and enjoy the views. The aforementioned Arena is well preserved and seeing an opera there is reported to be quite amazing, however that will have to be for another trip as the season has not yet opened. Up on the hill at the edge of the historic city is an unearthed Roman amphitheater that was only discovered in the last couple of hundred years. If nothing else, ascending it offers impressive landscape views of the city and surrounding area, but it is intriguing to imagine Romans in 25 BC or even 300 AD congregating up there on the hillside for entertainment overlooking the Adige river that nearly encircles ancient downtown Verona.

That takes care of the north of Italy for this trip. Now we return to central Italy to the hereditary homestead area before the inevitable road leading to Rome.