If you are dreaming of a historic market square, cobbled pavements, monumental buildings and romantic side-walk cafe….then….THIS is it!
Verona, Piazza delle Erbe (market square of herbs) is a European market square, certainly with its own identity. Not only can you find fresh fruit and flower stalls during the day, but by night it’s doubles as romantic place, tinkling with light bulbs hidden beneath the canopy of umbrellas. Tourists throng this medieval city, all year round. None ever leave without setting foot on the Piazza. So what makes it unique? My postcards tell you stories.
Verona is often called ‘City of Love.’ Shakespeare’s love story of Romeo and Juliet was set here. Like hundreds of tourists, we too visited the courtyard of this 13th century house, Casa de Guilietta, belonging to Capello family to get a glimpse of Juliet’s balcony. A short walk from there, along the narrow cobbled Via Manzini led us to grand open Piazza! During the 14th century, the Romans gathered at this square to trade and communicate with neighbouring states. From here were conducted forums and municipal communes. Later chariot races were held …hear that trot,trot,clump,clump and roaring crowds? Finally, it became a trading area for fresh herbs (Italian Erbe for herbs) and seasonal fruits and vegetables.
Affluent merchants and noblemen erected mansions around the square.They decorated the buildings with Roman columns, trellis-work on windows, elaborate floral motifs and period architecture. Today, the buildings rub each other literally, and in a colour competition. Orange, red, amber, pale white, yellow. Homes have turned into hotels or designer shops to keep them economically afloat. Yet! the aura and magnificence is exciting.
One important monument is the water fountain, dating back to 13th century. Created by Cansignorio, the Roman statue of the lady ‘ Madonna de Verona’ rises out of the ancient fountain base. Madonna is holding the city’s scroll in her hand. The sculpted figure dates back to 380 AD. Verona symbolizes wealth and beauty, in her human form. The fountain details with Roman figure heads, flowing beards and piercing eyes. Water spills forth from their mouth.
Tired tourists and hugging couples sat around the cool waters of the fountain. Children were running around, dancing in the light water sprays. The constant click – click of cameras reminded me of the present selfies technological age. Oh! I’d rather be witness to the click -click, trot -trot of horses’ hoofs, flowing Roman garments and piles of fresh fruit tumbling from wooden boxes into this historic market square!
As the summer sun dipped, the large white umbrellas suddenly came alive with bright lights. Such a romantic atmosphere! Stalls were brimming with souvenir bags, trinkets, scarves, aprons, bamboo hats, magnets, post cards and second-hand Italian fashion shirts.
See the red and green Pinocchio puppets dangling from the pole ? A must have souvenir from Italy for young children. Haven’t you heard the popular story of a mischievous Pinocchio and the poor carpenter Gepeto?
What do you think sold here in the 13 and 14 th centuries? Leather jackets, swords, Coat of Arms badges, cloth, antique jewellery?
Venetian masks have a long history. They were often worn in aristocratic Venice, to hide the wearer’s identity. With opulence, parties and decadent activities, it became vital for a disguise behind elaborate headgear and masks. Made of paper mache and adorned with beads, fur, feathers and riches of gold and silver, masks add glamour. Today, there is a revival Art masks are worn at carnivals, costume parties, theatre, or used as unique wall decorations. Don’t be frivolous and start a promiscuous party!
The Piazza had plenty of fresh summer fruit stalls. Apricots, strawberries, nectarines, grapes and melons. Dry fruits like Date, figs, plums and berries too. Italian cuisine uses lots of fruit ingredients in desserts like tarts, cakes and jams. There is an old saying ‘Good cooking begins at the market’ and Italian cooking relies heavily on fresh produce – fruits, vegetables, fish and olive oil. History tells us that the Romans traded pomegranates, olives, fish, wheat grain, lemons, winter cabbage and potatoes at this market.(Courtesy: Wikipedia).
The tower or Torre dei Lamberti, is another important monument. Its tower rises more than 84 metres in height, suddenly seeming to dwarf the high poles of the umbrellas. ‘Lift your head to the sky’ said a tourist…then you will see the clock on it. In 1779 the clock was added, and there are 2 bells on this tower. Torre de Lamberti, a piece of Romanesque Art, has withstood time and natural elements. Silently, like a grandfather, it has watched the market grow and change, as time moved on.
The Casa dei Mercanti or Merchant’s Chamber was erected in 1210 and housed important merchant’s and meetings. Earlier made in wood, it was damaged in fire. Freshly renovated it stands at the corner picture-perfect in magnificent red stone, adorned by a portico facade of semi-circular arches and mullioned windows. ( Information courtesy: Wikipedia). The windows reminded me of the architecture style at Alhambra Palace, Spain and Mughal architecture in India. As you travel, you connect the dots of cultural influences, don’t you?
Lastly, here is an Italian Ristorante menu card. Relax those tired legs and sit at one of those elegant cafe surrounding the market on all sides, just like all the tourists. Order a glass of Amarone or Prosecco wines, a regional speciality. Fancy some gnocchi or tagliatelle pasta? You cannot think of Italy, without food, it is central to the heart of Italians. You cannot think of food without a market! Bon Appetit.
A tavola non si invecchia. – Italian proverb.
Translation: At the table with good friends and family you do not become old.
What do you think of my postcards and writing style? What was unique to this market?
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