I remember like it was yesterday. I received an email from Ms. Gaia Bozzo, event promoter for Motor Bike Expo in Verona, Italy, asking if I’d like to come to Verona to cover what she called the largest weekend bike show in the world. Who needs a good excuse to go to Italy? I don’t. I’d been before and vowed to return one day, so essentially this was fate knocking at my door. I replied immediately with, “Sure, I’ll go,” hiding my boyish excitement inside when in reality I felt like break dancing!
After arriving in Verona late January 17, I grabbed my golf-cart-sized Fiat Panda rental car, loaded up my gear, and sped off on the Autostrade (freeway) towards the Verona Fiere (Expo Center) to have a look around the city before the crowds arrived for the weekend show, January 20-22. The Autostrade is what I imagine Formula One racing to be like. The Panda did a good job of fitting in those nooks and crannies when parking and traversing around the infinite amount of scooters, but accelerating past other motorists, not so much. Enough about that.
After pulling into the parking lot of Hotel Fiera, I walked into the hotel entrance. The foyer was pleasant and the concierge and hotel staff were extremely friendly and very well versed in English. My Italian is horrible, my Spanish on the other hand is pretty good, which worked a little, I think. Who knows? Maybe I’ll forever be known as that American idiot who tried to speak Spanish like it should be known universally. Overall, Italians are very warm and helpful. They also appreciate the attempt of being spoken to in their native tongue, so do yourself a favor and learn some common lingo if you decide to go. The hotel room was cozy and quaint and included a fridge, a couple of American electrical outlets for charging your electronic devices, and of course, a bidet. I looked at it in wonderment for a few minutes. I didn’t know what to make of it. After trying it out, I can say that I was pleasantly surprised at how clean I felt downstairs. After that little adventure, I settled in for the night after having a couple of cold Peronis from the hotel room refrigerator.
Italians are passionate about their motorcycles. They’re very handsy with conversation, almost like simultaneously using sign ...
I set aside a day to myself for exploration, but first I wanted to check out the Motor Bike Expo grounds as vendors and exhibitors set up shop. My first thought was, “Holy shit is this place huge!” Picture your biggest convention center, now multiply that by 10, and you have the Verona Fiere. My second thought was, “How are they going to fill these gargantuan halls? Is there enough content?” I was skeptical. Especially because January in Verona is cold (Italy does border Switzerland after all), and I associate the success of bike shows with the amount of…uh…bikes I see at the show. Were dudes going to ride here from all over the world in this weather? I’d have to wait and see. After staring for an hour at the chaos that happens during setup, I decided to venture to the city’s largest square, Piazza Bra, which houses Verona’s Roman amphitheater among other points of interest. Constructed around 30 AD, it’s the third largest arena in Italy behind Rome and Capua. Having been to Rome, Verona’s arena is far more intact than the Coliseum, but not as vast. After a walk about the square surrounded by ristorante after ristorante (many are very high priced because of the square’s tourism popularity), I decided to trek off the beaten path and much to my delight, I stumbled into one of the many pizzerias situated throughout Verona, Pizzeria San Matteo. Located in the basement of an old church, San Matteo redefined my pizza-eating experiences. Eating pizza alone is good enough for me, but to do so enveloped in beautiful architecture and surrounded by historical artifacts is extraordinary. I stopped in for dinner. I left a loyal customer for life. Try one of the Pizzas con la Burrata (thin crust pizza with your choice of toppings, but as an added cheesy bonus, melted buffalo mozzarella is placed atop the surface). It’s heaven on Earth!