by Joan Tupponce
Mark Fernandes went to Verona, Italy, to look at stone, but even on a business trip he could not escape the spell of Romeo and Juliet in their hometown.
Fernandes and his wife attended an operatic version of the famous Shakespeare play in Verona’s 2,000-year-old Arena di Verona and were spellbound. “We sat under the stars with 15,000 Italians,” Fernandes recalls. “It was unbelievable. Acoustically, the Arena di Verona is the best in the world.”
Fernandes is president of the Charles Luck Stone Center Division of Luck Stone Corp. in Goochland County. He travels to Verona each year to attend Marmomacc, a landmark show in the stone industry. “Companies come from all over the world for the event,” Fernandes says. “We go there to look for new, innovative products.”
The stone industry is as much a part of Verona’s culture as the tragic love story of Romeo and Juliet. “We want to bring that history and legacy back to Goochland,” Fernandes says. “
While he’s in the city, Fernandes meets with one of his company’s most significant business partners, Alberto Antolini of Antolini Luigi, a leading stone distributor. “Alberto travels the world looking for new stone,” Fernandes explains. “His showroom is in Verona.”
Verona is situated in the northeast Veneto Region of Italy, about 70 miles west of Venice. The River Adige curves its way through the city, which has a population of about 250,000 residents.
The center of Verona contains a variety of architecture from the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. “Verona has a giant wall that is anchored by a couple of castles built in the 1300s,” Fernandes says. Castelvecchio, one of the city’s most historic castles, now houses a museum.
Rosa Verona marble is commonplace throughout the city. “It’s local to the town,” Fernandes says. “You’ll find it in the walkways, buildings and roads.”
The city’s narrow streets offer a glimpse of the past. Its architectural treasures include the Basilica of Saint Anastasia, the Cathedral of Santa Maria Matricolare and the Basilica of San Zeno Maggiore.
But a tragic love story, not architectural history, draws visitors to the 13th-century Capulet House. It features the balcony where, according to Shakespeare, Juliet spoke to Romeo. In the courtyard, you’ll find the bronze statue of Juliet created by Nereo Costantini.
Also in Verona is the 13th-century home of the Montagues (Romeo’s family). Tours are not permitted inside the house. A nearby restaurant contains some rooms that formerly were part of house.
Visitors who want a more modern-day experience in Verona can take a ferry ride to Italy’s largest lake, Lake Garda. Or they can shop at stores that feature the designs of Dolce & Gabbana, Gucci and Armani. “You’ll see products you don’t see in the U.S.,” Fernandes says. “They are so fashion conscious and fashion forward.”
The city’s economy
Verona sits at the crossroads of major routes linking Germany and Austria with Italy’s central and western provinces. Verona’s economic base includes manufacturing, agriculture, forestry, fishing and tourism. Major companies include Trevisan Cometal Group, a world leader in the field of extrusion and aluminum coating systems; Niv Verona, a major supplier of sanitary-ware casting technology; Everel Group, which makes electromechanical components used in small appliances; and AGSM Verona, a provider of municipal services. Also in Verona is GSK Italy, the Italian unit of GlaxoSmithKline, the pharmaceutical and health-care company.
Where to eat
Italy and good food go hand-in-hand. One of Mark Fernandes’ favorite haunts is Ristorante Maffei in Piazza Erb. On his last visit, he was delighted that the restaurant had set up a table for his party in the wine cellar. “Those are the kinds of things that happen in Verona,” Fernandes says. “They are wonderful people.” Fernandes’ menu choice: risotto. “The chef will make it special for you. You might not know what you are getting, but it’s always fabulous.” Other recommendations include Bottega Dei Vini with about 80,000 bottles of wine in its cellar; the romantic La Fontanina near the Roman theater and Trattoria Tre Marchetti near the Arena, known for its gnocchi.