Verona: Piazza Erbe
Article submitted to MadeinItalyMall blog by OneDayInItaly: http://onedayinitaly.tumblr.com/post/46074447907/verona-piazza-erbe
Piazza Erbe. My aunt told me before I left the US that if I did nothing else in Verona, I had to go to Casa di Guilietta and Piazza Erbe. The architecture, she said, is stunning, the market stalls quaint and yet lively, the energy truly Italian.
Then I did a little pre-trip reading (OK, a lot) and found out that this once-quaint square was now garbaged up with tourist paraphernalia, like miniature models of the Arena and “I ❤ Verona” condoms, Venetian masks (in Verona!) and overpriced cafés.
My B&B, Casapiu, was right around the corner from Piazza Erbe in Piazzetta Navona so, listening to my aunt’s advice regardless of the recent traveler feedback, I checked in with Marco and head back out to see the touristy goodness for myself.
And there definitely was a whole host of touristy goodness. Over the next four days I wound up spending quite a bit of time in Piazza Erbe. It was so close to my hotel and a great place for people watching, even if they were tourists (but really, you’re not going to get away from tourists in this part of Verona). I strolled through the stalls selling everything from (fresh?) fruit to calzones to the standard souvenir chotchkies. I listened to the vendors try to sell their goods, overheard with amusement the comments from some of the shoppers, dodged kids running helter skelter and parents chasing after them. I’m not sure if I’d call the atmosphere “Italian”, but it was certainly lively, and it was certainly fun.
One thing my aunt hit right on the nose: the architecture is beautiful.
I know I’ve said it before, but somehow Italy has a way of making what would be a derelict building in the US seem somehow romantic and beautiful.
The plaster on many of the buildings around the square is chipped: how lovely!
The paint is uneven and fading in places: gorgeous!
Slates are missing in many of the shutters, panes of glass may be broken, roof tiles missing: perfect!
Then there’s the fountain. I love water. Anywhere I can sit and listen to water – dry, clean and without sand running through every uncomfortable spot in my body – I’m happy. Piazza Erbe has a fountain right in the center, topped by a statue called “Madonna Verona”, the piazza’s oldest feature dating from 380AD. Nearby are two umbrella-decked bars (what we, in the US, call “cafés”) where you can sit and sip on an aperol spritz, read a book, munch a chip (which comes gratis with the spritz) and watch people go by.
On several of the days I was in Verona it rained in the late afternoon. I took this as an other-worldly sign to retreat to my table by the fountain, sheltered (mostly) by the large cream umbrellas and bide my time before dinner with an aperitif and a bit of relaxation as most of the tourists ran for the shelter of their hotels.
I love the rain. It makes everything look so pretty!
Across the square from “my table”, is a statue. It wasn’t till my last day in Verona that I walked over to it and attempted to read the inscription:
“Dal Luogo Sacro
La Civilta Italica
Apra di Liberta e Civstizia
Tende La Spada”
“From the sacred place
the Italian civilization
opens for freedom and justice
tends the sword”
The verdict? Yes, Piazza Erbe has become a place for tourists rather than locals buying herbs. Yes, sometimes souvenir stalls can be annoying (as can be tourists) and the piazza is lacking in an “authentic” Italian experience (though some might say tourists have become the “authentic” Italian experience). BUT also, yes, it is lovely. Yes, it has interesting architecture. Yes, it is lively and wonderful for people watching.
Particularly on rainy days with a spritz and a good book in front of the fountain. Perfection.