Saturday again. On a normal fortnight holiday the Saturday two weeks after you arrive would be the day you go home. We’re not normal, though, so we’d booked an extra night and as a result Saturday could be parkrun day again.
In Italian terms you’re kind of spoiled for choice in Mirano, because it’s halfway between two different parkruns – Treviso and Farfalle (in Padua), although I thought Farfalle was a kind of pasta – you know, the one that’s like little bow-ties.
The desire to do parkrun meant getting up and out of the hotel fairly early. We grabbed a very quick breakfast and got out by 7.45am, setting off in the general direction of Treviso. We picked this run because it’s a 2 lap course, whereas Farfalle is a 4-lap course. The fewer the number of laps, the better.
The drive there was uneventful until we got into Treviso. It then got very eventful when it turned out that the postal code on the parkrun website is essentially the whole of Treviso, so Violet very diligently took us right into the town centre. We basically had to drive round in circle for a while until we found somewhere I could pull off the road while we pulled up google maps on the phone and navigated the way to parkrun that way. We still managed to arrive 20 minutes before the start, and there were a few people there already.
The parkrun itself was a couple of laps around a long, thin loop in some woodland, running on gravel road on the way out and woodland path on the way back. There were sufficiently few people taking part that I knew my finishing position well before actually finishing. I got 8th place running round on my own. At the turn on lap one I was still in 4th, but I got overtaken on the return leg and was in 8th at the end of the first lap. I ran the second lap more or less solo – I could no longer see the guy in front, and whilst I could hear the people behind I managed to maintain about a 200m lead over them. I was happy with 8th place and 27.30 minutes (ish) even though only 24 people finished. In fact, one sixth of all the finishers that day were us. Kas ran round with the girls and they were a little bit slower. One of them had the now mandatory trip and fall. The other key feature of the woods was the apparent prevalence of insects. It felt like bitey-city all of a sudden.
On the way out of the car park I discovered that the nearest geocache to us was right by the road, about 500m away in the direction we were travelling. Province of Treviso – tick.
As we’d rushed breakfast and because it was hot, we decided we needed cooling drinks before heading anywhere else. It was going to be a bit of a drive over to the evening’s resting place in Verona, so we googled McDonalds and found one within a short distance. They had milkshakes and clean toilets, which is kind of what we wanted them to have.
Violet took us along the motorways towards Verona, and that proved very handy because there was a geocache in a motorway service station near Padua. Another province done then. The motorway also passed through the Province of Vicenza but there weren’t any caches by the side of the motorway and we weren’t really in the mood to divert away from the journey to look for one. Instead we continued on our way to Verona, or more correctly to the Airport Hotel Verona Congress & Relax, which is a bit of a mouthful of a name for the place we were staying. Our room was ready when we arrived at 12:30, so they allowed us to check in and we had a quick shower and change of clothes before heading out to see what the city had to offer.
It was a 20 minute drive into central Verona from the hotel and we managed to find a car park pretty easily. It was branded as the car park for the Verona Arena but was actually a decent walk away. That helped though, because it meant we could get a late lunch at a nearby “Eataly” before doing anything else.
By the time we’d finished lunch it was already mid-afternoon, and as we walked over to the Arena we were aware of a bit of an event looking like it was in preparation. It was a night where there was going to be a big operatic performance, and as a result they’d started putting out the crowd control measures and had also limited last access for non opera-goers to about 3pm, which meant we’d missed it. A quick adjustment of expectation, then, and we headed off in the general direction of the supposed Juliet Balcony. Once you were “in the zone” it was pretty easy to find the house with the balcony without using maps or signs. You just have to elbow your way in through the massive crowd. It’s really in a tiny space and the packed feeling is enhanced by there being souvenir shops and a ticket office inside the courtyard as well as the famous balcony and a statue. Apparently you have to have your photo taken with the statue. We had to queue for a while before getting anywhere near it.
From here it’s a short walk to the Piazza delle Erbe, which seemed to be a buzzing heart of the town. It wasn’t frightfully busy, but that’s maybe just because everyone was round the corner, having their photo taken with the rather statuesque Juliet. We took a few photos in the square and then continued walking towards the river, arriving on the bank just to the south of the Ponte Pietra. We were starting to wane a bit by this time and I was getting a bit frustrated about not being able to find any of the geocaches on the route either. I hate urban geocaching. So we didn’t spend a huge amount of time at the riverside and we didn’t walk out onto the bridge either, but contented ourselves with a few riverbank photos before turning around and heading back in the general direction of some ice cream.
We passed (and actually found) a couple more geocaches on the way back, and stopped at a gelateria on the north side of Piazza delle Erbe. Its speciality was to hand-shape the ice cream into petals so that each cone looked like a rose. Very pretty, but a little time consuming to construct when there’s a big queue. The girls loved them though.
We walked along in the direction of the Arena again whilst eating the ice creams, and a little way along the road we had a pop at a geocache that required us to find a fossil ammonite. Initially we were on the wrong side of a crossroads junction and couldn’t find anything, but then Kas crossed a road and after a small distraction caused by an ammonite in the wall she spotted the one that we believe we were supposed to find. The cache description said to take photos of others that we passed in Verona, and once you start looking for the things you see them absolutely everywhere. Then someone started humming the Muppets song – “an ammonite, do do do do do !” I can tell you quite confidently that once you begin to hum that, it is very hard to get it out of your head.
We’d about had enough by this time, so we plodded back to the car and drove back, reaching the hotel at about 6:30. None of us was really hungry enough for a proper dinner, so we contented ourselves with some crisps and other snacks with beer in the hotel’s “American themed” bar. It was kind of quiet in there.
We gave up on the day pretty early and just went to bed. We couldn’t get the room’s air conditioning to go very cold, so we opened a window instead, and as a result a couple of us got absolutely bitten to hell by insects that came in through the window. It’s a good job we still had a tube of the Bergamo itchy cream left over.