Grandma Gertie always said there's not a savory dish that can't be made tastier by just a touch of tarragon.

Tsunami and Me

Tsunami and Me
too big to escape now....

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Italy: Three Truths and a Lie

An ersatz photo op in Verona

On a gondola in Venice
A jazz flautist in Milan

Linda and me after 4-course feast at Hotel Mediterraneo Rooftop Restaurant, Rome

I'll be writing more about my recent trip to Italy with old friend Linda Safford for the summer 2015 issue of Uncle Jam, but here's my capsule summary of Italy. First the truths:
  • The food and wine can't be beat...from pasta to risotta to seafood, nothing proved short of the highest quality...and the gelato is indeed to die for! Chianti isn't California-harsh when made from Tuscany grapes.
  • Music indeed accompanied our gondola glide through Venice, though our gondolier didn't sing. The gondolas contained six passengers, and the gondoliers are too busy navigating and maneuvering around the narrow canals. But a supplemental gondola with only three passengers accompanied our bevy of boats, with an accordionist and vocalist aboard. So, yes, we heard Italian love songs.
  • And I'd love to hear more music in Milan. I was thrilled with the La Scala Opera House, where we took a sneak peek at a rehearsal for this week's performances of Giselle. Afterwards, I sat in the adjacent square, marveling at the jazz acrobatics of a pert flautist who played both Beatles and Bach.
And now for the LIE...and it's a big one. Juliet's balcony in Verona, Casa de Guieletta? It's phony, fake, and made in China! It's also a playground for pickpockets, according to our tour guide. So instead of trudging down the street to see it, I wandered the Verona open market, admiring paintings, delicacies, and even a floral display with a prettier version of the alleged balcony of Verona's favorite the top of this page.

Here's some info from WikiTravel:
In fact, the house has no connection with Shakespeare's fictional characters - although the house is old, the balcony was added in 1936 and declared to be "Juliet's house" to attract tourists. You can visit the house itself (€4 entry) - it contains a sparse collection of Renaissance frescos rescued from other demolished palaces, and the bed from Zeffirelli's 1968 movie, but not a lot more.
The balcony overlooks a tiny courtyard containing a statue of Juliet. There is an unbelievable amount of graffiti and general scrawling on the walls, floor, seats, anything that will hold ink - there is a tradition of writing love messages to Juliet, and visitors leave notes, trinkets and bits of chewing gum fashioned into love hearts. Juliet's house is a popular romantic shrine, but its popularity belies its value; compared to some of the treasures around Verona, Juliet's house has very little to offer.

Now for the Super Shock...and steel yourself for this. Per Lois Leveen, Shakespeare didn't set that scene before any balcony at all! The direction in the play reads, [Juliet appears above at a window.]

Read Leveen's fascinating article in The Atlantic:
An architectural atrocity...

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