As the train emerged from the tunnels through which it hurtled from Florence to Bologna, I got to look out the window again. Still many shades of green, fields of carefully-lined armies of trees or vines, but not a hill in sight - the agriculture becomes as one-dimensional as a photograph laid flat at eye level. There are parking lots here, and supermarkets. A field of bright red poppies redeems the landscape slightly, but still I find myself overwhelmed by homesickness for the landscape of Tuscany. It is time for the afternoon walk now in Cortona, with a new week's worth of tourists and even warmer weather. Too late now to turn back, though, so instead I search for more poppies.
I jumped into wandering around Verona as soon as I arrived. It is truly the cleanest city I have ever visited - there is no trash anywhere to be seen in the streets or the alleys, and even the cigarette butts are few to be found. Trash and recycle bins line up neatly against curbs, not a single one of them overflowing. The city buses run on natural gas, and thousands of people ride bikes - this place is like the poster child for a cap and trade system. (Tony, don't tell anyone I said that!) I walked all over town tonight because I had to get Cortona out of my system before I could accurately judge Verona. Every place on Earth, after all, suffers in comparison to Cortona. This really is a gorgeous city, though, and I plan to read some guidebooks tonight that will help me to better appreciate the history. I'm most excited about the Arena, where famous operas had their first showing - I get chills just thinking about it. They still do operas there, but unfortunately I'm a couple of months too early for the season. My only complaint about Verona is the people - they really are the most unfriendly bunch of humans I've ever encountered. They're very kind to each other - there's so much laughing and kissing on the street that it begins to feel like you're in the middle of a Broadway musical. But to those they don't know, they're remarkably grouchy. I kept experimenting in styles of friendliness: I tried nodding politely, and they stared; I tried a warm 'bona sera,' and they stared, I tried smiling like a long-lost friend, and they stared; I let the air out of their bike tires, and then they really stared. I'm just kidding about the tires part, though I did consider scowling at them to see if maybe it was Opposite World. I decided I didn't really care that much. They're very, very friendly to dogs here - everyone stops to pet them - so they can't actually be terrible people.
I ate the best pizza of my life (with spinach for me and ricotta for you, mom!) at the most beautiful restaurant I've ever sen, then wandered back to the hotel in the twilight. (I should be careful how I use that term - I seem to remember something about those dumb vampire stories being connected to Verona somehow.) I only have a few hours to spend here tomorrow before heading to Venice, but this super-cheap hotel is super-chic. The plate-glass front doors were so modern and stylish and CLEAR that I walked confusedly by them SIX times before I came inside...I thought they were just a window. A slightly awkward beginning but so far I have at least avoided walking into the plate of glass that is directly in front of the plate glass door (these people are not sympathetic to klutzes) and have not yet walked into a mirror, which are all over the place.
Now I'm off to use the super-trendy computer to write my blog. Like, totally. Ciao!