This last weekend has been one of those where I’ve been so thankful to live the life I do. As it’s my birthday next week, my parents wanted to come over and see me, so I suggested we leave the changeable Munich weather and spend the weekend in Verona, Italy instead. Early on Friday morning, I took the bus from the train station and drove the six hours to Verona. The journey took me through some of the most spectacular mountain scenery in the world and I half wished we were going skiing instead. Finally, at lunch time, I arrived in Verona and took the bus to the Piazza Bra in the city centre. Within seconds, I was being smothered in a hug from my parents who had been waiting to meet me. I was so happy, I burst into tears. It had been four months since I’d last seen them, and a LOT had happened. After walking through the city, we reached our apartment for the weekend, an adorable, cosy affair hidden down a narrow side street in the Carega district. I freshened up and caught up with my parents for a while, after which, we headed out to explore this beautiful city. For the rest of the afternoon, we got ourselves lost in the winding, cobbled, ancient streets of Verona, all bathed in warm Italian spring sunlight. After a while, we came to the famous Ponte Pietra bridge and stopped for a gelato and to look over the city. Then it was onward, past the amphitheatre and the Piazza Erbe, by which time it was time for dinner. We stopped for pasta at a tiny locals’ restaurant not far from our apartment, then walked through the city some more in search of an Aperol spritz or two.
The next day dawned just as sunny and id had one of the best nights sleep id had in ages, so it was off to a good start. We got out early and headed first to the Roman theatre on the opposite side of the river, built into a steep hillside overlooking the city and presided over by an ancient castle. The views of the city from here were amazing, all church towers, vineyards and slate rooftops. Then, we walked along the river towards the Castellvecchio castle and bridge, a huge imposing fortress at a bend in the river. Here, we spent a few hours getting super cultural in the museum and art gallery. By now, it was lunch time, so we grabbed some calzones from a hole in the wall pizzeria and ate them at the Piazza Bra, people watching and marvelling at the amphitheatre. After admiring it from the outside, we decided to go inside, so climbed the steps to the top seats and looked down into the arena. It was set up for a summer concert series and it’s amazing to think that it’s still being used for it’s original purpose. The sun here was warm and the view spectacular, so we spent a while just sitting and soaking in the atmosphere. Once we’d (probably) burnt to a crisp, we headed back down for some more gelato, and ate it wandering through yet more sun-glazed narrow streets. We walked some more, had a peek inside a few old churches and a small art gallery, then stopped at the Piazza Erbe for an aperol spritz and some more people watching. Soaking in the warm, yet not intense, sun and finally reunited with my parents, I thought to myself, “I’ve never been happier”, and I hadn’t. After a quick return to the apartment to shower, (stopping for the obligatory postcard purchase, of course), we headed to a small restaurant for what would be my “official” birthday dinner. After a starter of fancy vegetables and a main of pumpkin and ragu pasta, I was stuffed… but not so much so that I couldn’t squeeze in another spritz! On returning to the apartment that night, I opened my presents: a CD from my sister, some perfume from my Grandma, some chocolate and a beautiful ring from my parents. I went to bed full, a little bit drunk, and unbelievably happy.
The next morning, we went to a small bike hire shop to pick up some bikes, and headed north along the river. With my sit up and bed bike and leather loafers, I’d never felt more European! We cycled through lush, verdant vineyards towards the village of Parona, where we stopped for a gelato. Then, we cycled back south, through the city (stopping for a quick pizza slice at the Castell) and followed the river through yet more vineyards and picturesque countryside. By now, it was getting late, so we returned the bikes, showered and headed into the city for the evening. First, we stopped at Piazza Erbe again for another Spritz and were surprised by an impromptu parade by the Veronese militia. After a stroll to the city hall (Verona is twinned with Salzburg, believe it or not!), we headed to a restaurant we’d seen earlier and drank too much wine whilst eating homemade pizza. Then, it was back to our favourite bar from the night before for one last drink, before we headed back to pack.
Saying goodbye this morning was emotional; spending three days with my parents just didn’t seem like enough, and I was in tears by the time my bus left. I’m back in Munich now, reflecting on the most perfect birthday weekend and thinking about just how lucky I am. They were some of the happiest days of my life. Everything was perfect and it was so lovely to be with my family again. It’s such a beautiful city and I had the most beautiful time. Looking back, the whole experience is shrouded in a golden haze, like the morning sun through those narrow, cobbled streets as we ambled along. I miss my family more than I realised and sharing this with them, for my birthday, was the best.