Thursday, July 7
Addio, Milano - we're off to Bergamo to visit the birthplace of Gaetano Donizetti (1797-1848):
Seeing his home was quite humbling - his entire family (a total of seven) lived in two very small stone rooms - one for sleeping, the other for everything else - in the basement! Bergamo had a church that provided free music lessons to poor families, and this is how Donizetti first studied composition. He eventually composed over 70 operas(!), the most popular being Lucia di Lammermoor.
Almost every place we visit, there is an example of the great Italian pastime:
My favorite meal thus far has been the 'al fresco' lunch we had in Bergamo at a cafe entitled, appropriately enough, Enoteca al Donizetti:
After a meal of local meats and cheeses, grilled vegetables (including delicious fennel), a pasta with spinach and aged parmigiana, and perfectly ripe chilled peaches and sliced watermelon, all accompanied by local wines, we board the coach to Verona. Most everyone napped and, I'm sure, dreamed blissfully of the meal they just ate...
Friday, July 8
Many places in Bergamo are named after Donizetti, but they're nothing compared to the amount of cafes, bars, trinkets, jewelry, drinks, pizzas, sandwiches, chocolates, shot glasses, snow globes, etc, etc, etc, named after Romeo and Juliet in Verona! Here's part of our group (please note the Portland Opera hats on George and Lee Anne!) at Verona's beautiful Piazza delle Erbe, surrounded by endless carts selling assorted stuff to the many tourists who crowd Verona between April and September:
For two characters that never actually existed (Shakespeare adopted the story of Romeo and Juliet from many sources dating back to antiquity), Verona has gotten quite a bit of mileage out the two tragic lovers. This balcony has been declared "Juliet's balcony" and is a major tourist attraction. There are love notes stuffed between the stones, declarations of love written directly on the walls surrounding it, and it's also a popular rental space for wedding ceremonies:
There is also a tradition of touching the right breast of Juliet's statue as you leave the courtyard, which is said to bring good luck in love:
Next up - attending opera in the Arena di Verona!