Don’t worry. This is still a travel post. It’s just that you find us in Verona. And it’s been mentioned more than once that this is a romantic city. So it got me thinking about what makes a place romantic and, more broadly, what is this romance thing anyway?
I freely admit to being a contrary soul and so the more someone tells me to think something, the more I’ll push back. And with repeated mentions of the ‘r word’, I have to say, I was wondering whether I might look for a plethora of reasons to find Verona cold, functional or dispassionate. But, thankfully, I hadn’t overthought this notion by the time we touched down at Valerio Catullo airport.
On our first saunter around this medieval marvel, we passed noblemen’s houses, ancient churches and pretty squares, with trattorias spilling onto them, patrolled by smartly-aproned waiters. Look up and you see original frescoes 700 years old. Look down and you realise you’re walking on slabs quarried by Roman slaves. Elderly Italian ladies shuffle along, sporting Jackie O shades and the females two generations beneath them, cycle one-handedly across the cobbles with mobile phones pressed to their ears.
After a while, we came across the entrance to a courtyard off one of the more opulent thoroughfares. It was thronging with people, and stepping in, we clocked that this was La Casa di Giulietta – supposedly the house of the Capulets. The crowd were writing messages on the walls and attaching notes with chewing gum. There was a queue to have photos taken with a statue of Juliet (with most people posing with a hand cupping her right breast) and further snaps were being taken of the first floor balcony – THE balcony.
We paid to enter the house, which (presumably due to the fact that there was an entrance fee) was a haven from the throng outside. Rising to 4 floors above the courtyard, I looked down and realised something. Something that, in its own way, was rather profound. Shrines exist all over the world … to gods, to saints, to the war dead, to ancestors. But here, in this tiny corner of a city in Northern Italy, was a shrine to something incredibly positive. This was a shrine to love. And I couldn’t think of a single other place where that exists.
Whether people were thinking about their current loves, past loves or unrequited loves, that place contained an almost palpable cloud of romantic energy. People were holding onto their partners, spending a quiet moment, presumably wishing or regretting, or excitedly gabbling with their friends.
I just slipped my hand into Jane’s.
Wandering back to our room at Corte Realdi, I reached a conclusion about this romance thing. My contrary nature won’t allow me to relent to the pressure of Valentine’s Day, but, for instance, I can’t walk across a bridge with Jane without stopping for a hug. I think it’s about the bubble that couples create for themselves … a bubble which makes them almost invisible, almost inaudible – literally in a world of their own. So although Verona is pretty, packed full of history, has many handsome bridges (tried and tested) and has a unique shrine to love, it’s possible to create that bubble anywhere.
Here’s to romance! Salute!
Written by Nigel Ridpath
Where’s the most romantic place you’ve been? What do you think makes a place romantic? We’d love to see your comments below.