Tag Archives: Verona

Shakespeare’s Cities (1)

Looking through my photographs one evening last week and re-assigning some to other folders, I realised that many of them have attachments to Shakespearean locations, so I thought I’d give them an airing on Travels with my Camera today.

ROMEO and JULIET – Verona

Juliet;s Balcony

Juliet’s Balcony – Mari Nicholson

First up, one of my favourite Italian cities, Verona, a favourite because of the operas that are performed in the vast Roman amphitheatre, it’s proximity to the Dolomites, and the wonderful herb market I remember from my last visit.  Verona is actually the setting for three of the Bard’s plays but it is the Casa de Giulietta that is now a place of pilgrimage for young lovers because of Romeo and Juliet.  The walls of the building are covered with love notes all of which get a reply from a volunteer in the Juliet Club which operates from the premises.

It is a town worth seeing even if you are not interested in visiting Juliet’s house which, let’s face it, is fiction after all.  The Renaissance houses and beautiful squares make one want to linger at the sidewalk cafes where the black-aproned waiters with slicked back hair seem to have a special Veronese air about them.  The evening passagitta is still a big occasion in the city and young and old stroll around in their finest clothes, unselfconsciously partaking of ice cream as the sun goes down on the golden stones of this lovely place.



Wild Ponies on the Mountains in Navarre – Mari Nicholson

Navarre in Northern Spain is the setting for the fantastical Love’s Labour Lost, and although it is almost certain that Shakespeare had no knowledge of this area during the writing of the play, its rolling pastures and fertile valleys seem a perfect setting.  Home to the famous bull run in Pamplona during the San Fermin fiesta in July, Navarre also has a quieter side.   Famous for the Gregorian chant sung in its monasteries, its  Pyrennean cows, wild horses, National Parks, Botanic gardens, its traditions run deep.  One of these is the fast game of Pelote which you should see if you get a chance.

The autumn colours are eye-wateringly beautiful and a perfect contrast to the coastal houses which are painted either green and red or green and white.   The wines are exceptional – with a wide range of organics among them – and less well known than most other Spanish wines.   The population speaks Basque and the language is not easy to read – especially if you are driving – but Spanish is widely spoken everywhere.



Othello’s Castle, Famagusta, Cyprus – Photo Pixabay

I first visited Famagusta when it was in the Greek-controlled part of the island of Cyprus and the Turks lived in the area where the castle (now named Othello’s Tower) stood.  Since the war and the division of the island, Famagusta is under Turkish control but can still be visited from all parts of the island.

The land of Aphrodite and the tourist towns of Limassol, Paphos and Larnaca are hard to reconcile with the turbulence and the tragedy of Othello. yet drive into the mountain villages, or sit awhile and look at the seas around the island, and the story seems all too plausible – especially if you have visited Venice beforehand.

It is an island that can be visited at any season, although if you want heat, summer is best: it is also the time to experience the Greek Drama festival and the many flower festivals in the villages.  It has a thriving winter season, however, a time to enjoy winter sports in the Troodos Mountains when walking and hiking take precedence over more relaxed summer activities.

I feel if Othello had indulged more in the sensual delights of the island and listened less to Iago, Desdemona’s life may have been spared.

THE COMEDY OF ERRORS – Ephesus, Turkey


Ephesus – Mari Nicholson

Ancient Ephesus is the setting of the Bard’s shortest play, about twin brothers separated at birth.  It is also considered the apex of the Roman-Greco Empire and visitors may wander among the ruins of the fallen state, from the Corinthian-style Temple of Hadrian to the glorious Library of Celsus, and to the brothel which had connecting underground tunnels to the rooms  Much of the city is still to be excavated, but the solitary structures that remain showcase its former capital splendour.

There is little in the nearby town but there are a lot of ruins and excavations to see, including the house where it is thought that the Virgin Mary had lived.  Izmir is about 30 km. away (about an hour’s drive) and for those who wish to combine a relaxing resort holiday with some serious sightseeing, the popular Kusadasi lies just a mere 19 km. away. Istanbul, the capital, is about 650 Km away and trips can be arranged but it needs a good 3 days to do it in comfort.Although flights are advertised they are not recommended.


Italy’s Opera Offerings

For opera lovers, the upcoming summer season of glorious music in Italy is something not to be missed.  All over the country festivals are about to open, many in small villages but all the more passionate because the town or village will have a personal tie to the composer whose work will be honoured.    Places like the San Galgano Opera Festival at Chiusdino, Siena that runs from June – August, the Rossini Opera Festival in Pesaro 10th-23rd August, and dozens more are set to keep opera fans happy during the summer months. My own favourites, the ones I hope to visit each year, are the Verona festival, the Puccini Festival in Torre del Lago and the Ravenna Festival, not just because of the music they offer but because they are in areas that allows touring during the day and longer trips on either side of the musicfest.

Arena di Verona

The Arena di Verona is one of the most magnificent arenas in Italy, capable of seating 20,000 patrons per performance but limited to 15,000 for safety reason.  The setting is truly magnificent, open to the elements and capable of staging the world’s most famous operas and adding props like real elephants and camels when the work calls for them.  This year the Arena celebrates 100 years and is offering Aida, Romeo and Juliet, Nabucco, Traviata, Trovatore, Rigoletto, and a Verdi Gala.    Among the special guests for the opening Gala are Placido Domingo, José Carreras and Andrea Bocelli.    June 14th – September 7th.

Verona from the hills outside the city.
Verona from the hills outside the city.

The home of the legendary Romeo and Juliet, there is no lack of sightseeing in Verona itself, but nearby is Lake Garda surrounded by delightful towns, further afield but an easy day trip is Venice, and the Dolomites are on the doorstep.  What could be better.   http://www.arena.it

The Amphitheatre of Verona
The Amphitheatre of Verona

Puccini & ClefThe 59th Puccini Festival takes place in Torre del Lago from July 12th – Augst 24th, a festival created by the great man himself in 1930 and since continued.  The outdoor theatre close to Vlla Mausoleo where Puccini’s remains lie, is a wonderful setting in which to enjoy the music of one of the greatest opera composers of all time.  This year the offerings are Cavalleria Rusticana, Il Tabarro, Tosca, Turandot and Rigoletto. There is little accommodation in Torre del Lago and most visitors to the event choose to stay either at nearby Viarragio or Lucca (my favourite).

Madame Butterfly in Mosaic Tiles in Lucca
Madame Butterfly in Mosaic Tiles in Lucca

Lucca has the Puccini museum, is the only town remaining with its surrounding walls intact, the top of which can be walked or cycled around as they are very wide, and is known as the “tower town” due to the number of intact tall towers there.  A charming cathedral, free concerts in the evenings when not at the opera, some great restaurants, and Lucca could be the prize of the season.  Besides, it is just a short rail journey from Pisa and so perfect for connecting flights.   http://www.puccinifestival.it

Puccini Statue in Piazza in Lucca (beside Museum)
Puccini Statue in Piazza in Lucca (beside Museum)
Magnificent 5th Century Mosaics in Ravenna
Magnificent 5th Century Mosaics in Ravenna

The Ravenna Festival from May to June  is hosted in its many theatres and churches.  The Byzantine basilicas, cloisters and piazzas combine to make a superb backdrop for the art and music on offer.  The finest opera companies with the finest singers converge on this small town for a very special festival, this one the 24th, and apart from opera and classical music, they will offer jazz, films and exhibitions.   http://www.ravennafestival.org

For all other festivals, check out the following site which lists them all.  www.festivalopera.it