Finding Giulietta’s balcony in Verona

Today, a Friday,  is our last full day in Padua so as soon as H left for work this morning, I immediately set my sights on planning one final trip to another most visited place in Veneto – where else but the city of the most famous lovers of all time – Verona.

I must admit, this hometown of Romeo and Giulietta completely blew me away!  I came here merely to search for that famous balcony not realizing that it is even richer of artistic history than Padua and second only to Venice, if not Rome, in Roman and Medieval architecture in the grandest scale.  Its arena is the third largest in Italy, after the Colosseum in Rome and the one in Capua.  There are also the ruins of an amphitheater, the impressive churches every few hundred meters, medieval reliefs,  sculptures and many Roman ruins..

But I shall delve on those sights later and will just focus on that famous balcony where the love-struck couple held their secret trysts and confirmed their love for one another.

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O Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo?
Deny thy father and refuse thy name;
Or if thou wilt not, be but sworn my love
And I’ll no longer be a Capulet.

…William Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliette”


 

Voila! the most famous balcony in the planet, finally seen by yours truly!  (I must take note of adding it to my “List of  Places I’d like to see before I leave this Earth” folder and tick “done!” before I forget.)

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This balcony, famous as the romantic setting of Shakespeare’s romantic tragedy  has become one of the most romantic places in the world,  a Must-See for tourists especially lovers as well as singles hoping to find true love!

Now, now, it doesn’t matter if Romeo e Giulietta were just a fiction of the Bard’s imagination and the balcony attached to the 14th century building known as Casa di Giulietta (House of Juliet) was built only in the 1930’s for the purpose of creating a more realistic past and eventually, to make it as a top tourist attraction for the city.  But it became a success!

Because of its fame that has grown into epic proportions, the house is now made available as a wedding venue for those who can afford its high price but who is complaining?  After all, you get married in  style only once, and get the chance to take a photo of the both of you in all your wedding attire glory, kissing on this legendary balcony only once, unless you don’t mind repeating the scene for your subsequent wedding/s !

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The courtyard beneath the balcony contains a bronze statue of Juliet.   You will notice that that part of her chest is whiter than the rest.  That is due to a legend that if a person strokes her right breast, she will find true love.

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Everyone – man, woman and even couples had to observe that legend.

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Behind her statue are the highest number of love padlocks I have ever seen!  This blanket of locks only comprises part of a wall, a quarter of it, in fact.  There are also locks attached to tree branches, on concrete urns, on other grills around the courtyard.  I’m telling you, the shopowner on the courtyard selling these padlocks is laughing his way to the bank!

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People come to profess their love on Juliet’s wall by leaving messages.  There is a tradition that everyone who visits the house should leave something for Juliet, hence, the walls are covered with graffiti, writings and chewing gums of different shapes and colours where names and love messages are minisculely written.

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Some visitors who didn’t have chewing gums nor sheets of papers have to use band-aid, yikes!

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Why are there two handsets on each phonebox? So that each couple could have their photos taken talking to Juliet. A photo of a Romeo and Juliet scene is displayed on each box.

 

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On the wall next to a shop is this mailbox of the heroine.  Notice the balcony imitation and the letters inside are real!

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And this is the view from the Via di Capello where the tunnel on the left is the entrance to the courtyard.  These love and gum messages are overflowing all the way to the neighbouring shops but I guess, the traders understand.  After all, they have been in love once in their lifetime!

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And for those newly-weds in Casa di Giulietta or simply lovers who got carried away by the romantic ambience, there is the La Corte di Giulietta, a bed and breakfast hotel whose entrance door is right on the courtyard!

Padua – Celebrating Liberation Day

During this week-long business trip of H to Padua, Wednesday, 25th of April,  had to fall on an Italian public holiday but that doesn’t mean I could tag him along with me through my Padovan exploration today.

Oh no….his home office is France,  work goes on, and that means making his virtual reporting and tele-conferencing from the comfort of our hotel room.  Also, it’s been an awesome Italian medieval art and history adventure for me these last few days – at turtle speed – which is my mode of photo sightseeing because composing shots of fountains and medieval doors and towers takes a lot of time and certainly, photoshooting and husband are not good combination!

So while he attended to his job, I went to town on my own taking advantage of the last few hours left to my 48-hour Padova Card.

But then again, because of this public holiday, the Electric Bus is also on holiday and the alternative bus came in late so I was quite pissed off waiting for ages at the bus stop, but still I’m glad I went for I didn’t expect to see the town raining with men in uniform!

Now, now, I must confess that there are only THREE personalities in this world that would make me swoon over:  The Italians…..Men in Uniform…and H coming out of the pool with dripping wet hair….not necessarily in that order!

So how lucky I was when I saw the first TWO appeared simultaneously today, and the THIRD, of course, I’ve seen already this morning….hurray!

And now, without too much ado, here are the MIU photos taken today infront of the Town Hall of Padova:

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MIUs stand down while the Mayor of Padova makes his speech.  The woman above is a sign language interpreter.

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Uniforms of all colours and rank!

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The military band is easily recognizable by their headpiece of hen feather!

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The event was well attended by veterans, descendants of resistance fighters and partisan organizations.

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MIUs of all ages

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The crowd, mostly belonging to the Grey community, are all ears and hands at the Mayor’s speech.

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The two men in black look very Napoleonic.  Italy was indeed under Napoleon for 18 years (1796 – 1814)

“The City of Padua commemorates today the 67th anniversary of the  liberation of Italy by allied troops in the 2nd world war.”

 Festa della Liberazione (Liberation Day) is celebrated on April 25th and is a national holiday.

It is celebrated to mark the day in 1945 on which the Partisans rose up and overthrew Mussolini and the Germans marking an end to World War II in Italy. It is also used to honour the falled soldiers and civilians during the war, especially the partisans.

To celebrate in most towns, gatherings take place, some with bands, concerts and political rallies. In all but the most touristic places, shops, museums, banks and restaurants may also be closed. As well as ceremonies there are sometimes historic re-enactments.

In Rome the President visits the Ardeatine Caves Mausoleum where the Germans massacred 335 Romans in 1944 and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Piazza Venezia.

One song represents the date of liberation Bella Ciao. It is a folk song about a partisan who died for freedom and who had asked to be buried in the mountains under the shade of a beautiful flower.

Source:  http://theitalywiki.com/index.php/Liberation_Day

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Padua – Basilica of San Antonio

San Antonio de Padua

He is the patron saint of lost items, travellers, the poor and the sick. A great number of devotees light candles to ask for his intercession and if their prayers are heard, people return to express their gratitude….. I grew up surrounded by people attending a novena devoted to him, every Tuesday, to ask for miraculous healings, to recover lost objects, even to find a true lover.

Yesterday, I had the chance to visit his church, the Basilica of St Anthony, where his tomb has lain since 1350.

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It’s undergoing renovation, hence, the white sheet. Photography is not allowed unfortunately, but I was blown over by the magnificence of the interior!

Undoubtedly, it has one of the most beautiful church interiors I have ever seen, even surpassing the Vatican!

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The statue of St Anthony holding the child Jesus in the Cathedral of Padova (Duomo di Padova)

The Tulips at the Keukenhof Gardens

Lisse, Holland

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 Hyacinth fields – photo taken from a picnic spot in Keukenhof gardens

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I’m back from an 8-day, 3-country tourist guiding assignment and can’t wait to post my pics of Amsterdam, The Hague, Delft, Keukenhof gardens, Copenhagen, Legoland and Malmo! It was drizzling half of the time and the average temperature was 5degreesC but we had a great time, nevertheless, especially yours truly who is a first time visitor to all these places except Amsterdam (although I got to know more of the city during this last visit!).

You might ask, how can one be a “tourist guide” to places she had never been before? It doesn’t make sense! Well, if you do your research very well, to which I did for days and days until my eyes began to swell, then you can be one! From the type of transport tickets to buy to the search for directions on how to get to places like Legoland and Keukenhof gardens and taking advantage of fare and ticket discounts if you are going as a group…

Now, let’s get your excitement going by looking at some photos of the sublime tulips and other spring flowers of Keukenhof gardens in Lisse, over an hour drive from Amsterdam. I’m telling you, if you have to plan a trip to the Netherlands, it has to be during the tulips season – from last week of March up to mid-May!

KEUKENHOF GARDENS
Facts and Figures

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It’s the most beautiful spring garden in the world

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Has won prizes as Europe’s most valued attraction
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It is one of the most popular attractions in the Netherlands and has clocked up more than 44 million visitors in the last 60 years

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It is the largest bulb flower park in the world

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More than 2,500 trees in 87 varieties

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It is the most photographed place in the world

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There are 15 kilometers of footpaths

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It covers an area of 32 hectares 4.5 million tulips in 100 varieties

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It is the largest sculpture park in the Netherlands

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Keukenhof is unique and famous throughout the world

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The bulbs are supplied by 91 Royal Warrant Holders

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7 million flower bulbs planted by hand

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If you feel like you have to have these exact varieties of tulips in your garden, say in America or Australia, you can order your bulbs on site at the end of your visit. The Keukenhof will then send you your  selected bulbs the following Autumn.

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 How to get there:

From Amsterdam:
From the Leidseplein/Museumplein you can take  the red Sternet bus 197 to Schiphol Airport (busses run 5-6 times per hour). At the Airport you can change to the Keukenhof bus 58.
You can buy your combitickets online or at the Tourist Information desk at the Trainstation and at Leidseplein.

From Schiphol Airport
The bus 58 runs on Monday till Friday 4 times an hour and in weekends even 8 times an hour and leaves Schiphol from the bus station at Schiphol Plaza bus. The journey to Keukenhof takes 35 minutes.

Cherry Blossoms at the Notre Dame Cathedral gardens

Today, I went for my annual Visita Iglesia (Church Visit traditionally done during Holy Week)  and my first stop was the Notre Dame Cathedral!

Gee!  Am I am so glad I made a side trip to its gardens for I saw the most spectacular display of cherry blossoms ever!

I just couldn’t believe my eyes…. so mesmerized I was, and near to tears for this amazing sight!  Hence, before I disappear – and so that you won’t miss me so much, I’d like to share with you the same emotions that overtook me – through these photos.

Enjoy….. and watch your heart!

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