My Airbnb was quite noisy Saturday night, with sounds from the bar below, but I was so exhausted after my late night at the opera that I slept like a log and had a lie in - didn't get up til 7am!
On Sunday I took a day trip to Mantua (Mantova), a 45min train journey from Verona. Once again the Afro-Carribbean presence was very noticeable, with over half the people on the train being black. I don't know why but I had not expected to come to Italy and near Jamaican accents. I love discovering things like this about places, the sort of insignificant detail that you'd never discover unless you actually visited.
Arriving in the town, I headed straight to tourist information to get a map, where I had my first conversation entirely in Italian - I said I wanted to hire a bike and took directions to the bike hire shop! Walked out the shop and hired said bike, also in Italian - there's no stopping me now!! I feel like I've reached stage 2 of Italian. Stage 1 was understanding things - either odd words or entire sentences. Stage 2 is making the effort to ask for things in Italian - even if I can't fully understand the answer I can normally catch enough to work it out. Stage 3 is when somebody speaks to me in Italian, understanding it AND responding in Italian. This is the hardest, it's easy to understand, harder to express and hardest still to understand, then think fast enough to reply... I'm so glad I'm here for two weeks as it takes a few days to get the confidence to use my Italian. Hopefully now if I practice every day I can make some real improvement by the time I go home.
I only hired the bike for 1.5h as I had to return it before the bike shop shut for two hours for lunch, in order to make my train back. Mantova is situated in between three lakes and it has bike paths running right round the edges of the town. 1.5h was just enough to cycle right the way round three sides of the lake and back and definitely enough for my undercarriage, which is not so used to cycling any more - it's hard on the bum!! I took my trainers off and tied them to the handlebars, stuck my backpack in the basket on the front, rolled up my top and had a wonderful time leisurely cycling along barefoot, stopping to take photos from time to time. It was completely flat, making for easy cycling. Apparently the bike paths continue away from town in several directions. To return and cycle the 40km from Mantova to Lake Garda is definitely now on my travel bucket list.
After returning the bike, I sat on a jetty to eat my lunch then spent the next couple of hours exploring the town? Apparently Mantova is renowned as a gastronomic centre. It's kind of hard to appreciate this aspect of a town just from wandering the streets. I don't tend to eat in restaurants when I'm travelling, partly because it's not something I particularly enjoy doing alone but also because it's expensive and I'd rather spend my money on activities or more travelling. I did however very much enjoy a visit to the wonderfully ornate Teatro Bibiena, which cost just €2 to get in. I love finding cheap entrance things.. The expectation is so low when I've only paid a couple of € that these places almost always turn out to be worth far more than the entrance fee. If I pay €15 by comparison, I'm often left feeling like I've been overcharged..
Back in Verona, I bought picnic ingredients and went to spend a few hours sitting in the evening sun in a park, then people watching in Piazza Bra.