Thursday, August 27, 2009

Opera in Verona Via Train And Bike

It took 3 trains, 6 hours and one flat tire to take my bike with me on the train from Florence to Verona yesterday. But it was worth it, and the advantage of having my bike in Verona for the day made it a snap to get around and re-visit this sparkling, compact city in the few free hours that I had before attending the opera, Tosca in the Arena di Verona.

Pictured left, is my ugly old city bike (even so, there's something very cute about it) being repaired right outside the train station in Bologna, where I was making a tight train connection to Verona.

I could have opted to take one simple, speedy, direct EuroStar train from Florence to Verona in less than 2 hours, but bikes are only permitted on the local trains. Which meant that I had to take the slow, circuitous route and 3 trains instead of one. But I planned it out very well, had my tickets beforehand, and took along plenty of reading (although the scenery became the main distraction) to entertain me on the train. I knew it would be difficult to drag this big heavy bike on and off the train, but as expected, the other passengers were very helpful in assisting me.

Little did I plan on discovering that my front tire would be flat upon arriving in Bologna with only 40 minutes to make my connecting train. But fortunately, my apparent dismay attracted the attention of a very friendly and kind Bolognese man who escorted me directly to the local bike shop. I told him that I was on my way to see Tosca in Verona, and he immediately broke out in song, passionately reciting Tosca's highlight aria, Recondita Armonia. I started singing with him, and here we were, singing together as we crossed the main trafficked street with my handicapped bike, in front of the train station in Bologna.

It just made me think how unlikely it would be for anyone in America to know those lyrics, and underscored one of the endless reasons why I so belong here in Italy.
Upon arriving in Verona, I checked into the hotel and enjoyed the freedom of riding through this very navigable town on my bike with such ease, saw everything that I wanted to see and even had time for a little bit of shopping, a shower and an aperitivo before entering the grand arena for a very memorable performance of Tosca.

The opera itself was as stunning as the spectacular ambience of the arena which echoes with so much nostalgia for me, some very special and thrilling memories of moments attending some of my favorite operas here in summers gone by.
In the morning I revisted some of the shops and then took another 3 trains back home....this time feeling like a seasoned pro. Now that I know just how to travel with my bike on the train, I have some more day-trip destinations in mind that I can't wait to plan!