Wherefore art thou, Ted
22nd April 2016 |
It has taken me 85 years to discover Verona, but I’m one of those people who like to save the best for last.
What got me there – apart from my new/old Citroen C2 – was an email from Luigi Licci who owns a travel book shop.
Anyone with a book shop will get my attention. Book shop owners are among the bravest, and most endangered people alive, and one should go any distance to find them. YOU will find him on the Via Stella in the heart of the city and the shop is named after Gulliver, who was my inspiration too.
Luigi invited me to enjoy stardom at one of those amorphous public events that I never really got the hang of, but which I liked tremendously. A PR girl in harlequin tights and a denim burqa tried to explain it to me in vain, but I had my shoes shined by an elegant gentleman in top hat and tails, so who needs explanations.
I think it was all about books and travel and motorcycles and Verona, but there were also people selling retro clothes and jewelry. The food was very nicely presented from cleverly converted trailers along the side of a sort of mews that was once attached to the city arsenal. As well as pasta and seafood there was beef from Argentina, which is a very big deal in Italy. I had some (too much actually) and it was pretty scrumptious. Everybody seemed to be doing well except for Giorgo, a short man with a huge tummy, who sat back on the saddle of his ice-cream tricycle. It wasn’t very hot and nobody wanted ice-cream. I felt sorry for him but he seemed happy enough not to have to bother.
As you can see a lot of people came to listen to me stumbling through a long interview and they seemed to be genuinely interested although it obviously helped that it was the only place where they could comfortably sit. I was interviewed by a notable Italian rider/writer called Roberto Parodi, who also translated for them since I don’t speak Italian (not to mention several hundred other languages).
What people generally want to ask me is how they too can have a journey like mine, and of course that’s impossible for all kinds of reasons. But I understand what lies behind the question and try to do my best. Anyway they all applauded enthusiastically, and I felt very much among friends.
Luigi – he’s the one in the green shirt – looked after me like a son (well, actually more like a grandfather) and invited me into his home to meet his family and friends. Of course I already knew that he must have another source of income because nobody makes money selling books off the shelf, and he was a successful broker in “real life”. So now he lives in the country in a villa with a view that Visconti would have envied. It’s heart-warming to see money put to such a good purpose.
Guiglio Fanton, who writes for Mototurismo, took me on a marvelous sight-seeing tour of the city. Of course all the stuff about Romeo and Juliet is a bit hoky, but there’s masses to see. He showed me piazza after piazza, each one more beautiful than the last, and Verona also has a Roman Arena, only a bit smaller than the colosseum in Rome. That’s Guiglio standing in front of it. (Happy Birthday Guiglio).
The city sits around a lovely green river that snakes through it. You can see someone fishing in the picture and I watched him make a catch, so the water’s clean, which is not too common in big cities. That huge castle is made, incredibly, from brick. Someone told me that brick absorbs the impact of canon balls better than stone – remember, you heard it here first.
The history, of course, goes back beyond the Romans and is pretty bloody. One member of the ruling family is credited with having slaughtered 11,000 men from Padua at one sitting, but the good old days are over and it’s pretty safe now. Can’t wait to get back.