A contaminated travel guide to Verona and beyond

Or alternative title by artist Arthur Cordier: How to survive dazzling hot temperatures in Verona by doing some air-condition-hoping over the span of the residency — bringing artists to create at the edge of their comfort zones

At the end of July, in 30+ degree temperatures, I had the opportunity to meet with four artists in Verona, Italy — Arthur Cordier (BE), Valentino Russo (IT), Davide Ghelli Santuliana (IT), and Flaviu Cacoveanu (RO). Our mission? To consider the contamination and consumption of contemporary images in our everyday social, political and artistic environment. Our conversations surrounding this mission, aided by one or two Aperol Spritzes, are the foundation of an exhibition opening mid-September. Throughout our 10 days together, sustaining ourselves on all kinds of carbs (more on that later), we exchanged hypotheses with the intent to infect each other’s practice while producing new works. Below I share some highlights plus tips on where to eat, drink, shop, mix, and mingle in the city of star-crossed lovers.

Copa con Aperol Spritz
Scenic views

It’s hard to imagine anyone not feeling inspired while in Verona. The city will charm your socks off with its laid back attitude, hospitality and warmth. In the time we spent wandering the cobblestone streets, Verona came off as relaxed and not as crowded with tourists as nearby Milan or Venice. Filled with Roman ruins, the city center is an attractive place to explore, with many side-streets practically begging you to wander down them.

During our days in Verona, we were hosted by Francesco Biasi and Chiara Bandino, artists and founders of Fonderia 20.9. Fonderia 20.9 is a private gallery dealing in contemporary photography. They curate visual arts projects, with a specific focus on contemporary photography. Their exhibitions include emerging and established artists, as well as local projects. The space is located in the neighborhood of Veronetta. Out of the hustle and bustle of the city center, Veronetta is a vibrant district on the left bank of the River Adige. The area is home to the University of Verona, and has a young, lively atmosphere. With bars, pop-up shops, and fast-casual food joints lining the streets, here we did most of our eating, sipping, and socializing.

Fonderia 20.9

Verona’s hardest-to-miss attraction? The Capulets’ famous balcony (no relation to The Balcony) and tourist magnet from the play Romeo and Juliet. It makes sense that the beauty of the city inspired Shakespeare to write the famous “O Romeo, Romeo! Wherefore art thou Romeo?” scene. Not to risk upsetting my high school English teacher, I waited in line to join a group of people crammed into this small courtyard to see the balcony and have their picture taken rubbing the left breast of Juliet’s statue, which supposedly brings good luck. Huh.

I caught up on some much needed ZZZs during my visit at the four-star Hotel San Marco, located just outside the city’s historic walls and a stone’s throw away from the main train station, Verona Porta Nuova. It was great to be just outside the action of the center and to even have a Lidl within walking distance. Every morning in Verona began with an impressive breakfast buffet and a buongiorno from the friendly staff. Last but certainly not least, the hotel’s indoor and outdoor pools were a godsend during the days pushing 40 degrees.

Contemporary art installation by Davide Ghelli Santuliana inside Hotel San Marco
View of the outdoor pool

Oh, and did I mention the food? You would be committing a crime by visiting Verona without stopping for a quick bite at Panzerè. With four locations throughout the city, and one just outside in neighboring San Giovanni Lupatoto, there’s always one nearby. Try the panzerotti or the triangolo con crudo and thank me later.

A contaminated travel guide to Verona and beyond
Panini display case at Panzerè Università

A gelato a day keeps the doctor away! That’s what they say! … Right? Zeno Gelato e Cioccolato, located on beautiful Piazza San Zeno, was expertly recommended to us by Valentino’s dad. This artisanal gelato shop boasts decadent flavors made with organic ingredients from local producers, like grapefruit-ginger and vegan dark chocolate-pistachio. Don’t let the long line scare you away!

For more substantial bites, locals (and us included) dine at Zio Lele. Delicious pizza at an even better price. The square slices are sold by weight so you can try a couple of their impressive varied selection. The friendly staff will talk you through the pizzas available, which are made the same day with fresh ingredients and a lot of care. It’s possible to make the wrong decision. Pair it with a cold Moretti. What more could a person want?

If you are looking for a place to unwind at the end of a long day, then look no further than Osteria ai Preti, where most of our nights ended. This tavern and cultural association has a welcoming and unpretentious vibe. And in case you haven’t overdosed on culture yet, there is always an exhibition by a local artist. Remember to bring cash, as they don’t take card payments for anything under 10 euros.

A contaminated travel guide to Verona and beyond
Participating artists during their last evening together at Osteria ai Preti

Our days in Verona were relaxed but during our visit to Bologna, we picked up the pace tenfold. Although Bologna deserves a contaminated travel guide all its own, I would be remiss not to at least quickly fill you in on some of our adventures as the vibrant city was a highlight for all artists participating. Located between Florence and Venice, Bologna was jokingly (but lovingly nonetheless) called the “Berlin of Italy” by several locals we met during our time there.

A contaminated travel guide to Verona and beyond
Mousse Magazine on the train somewhere between Verona and Bologna

After arriving in Bologna after a short, comfortable train ride from Verona, we visited the cosy studio of artist Giuseppe de Mattia, and saw his work in progress for his upcoming show at Matéria Gallery, located in Rome. De Mattia collaborates frequently with the Home Movies Archive (Archivio Nazionale del Film di Famiglia) which we visited later that afternoon.

At the end of the day, we visited the project space and artist initiative, Nelumbo Open Project where we met artist and curator, Zoe Paterniani, along with artists Alessia Certo e Giulia Vannucci/Dydimos collective and Barbara Baroncini. The overarching theme of the day was the absence of an air conditioner.

Studio visit with artist Giuseppe de Mattia

My favorite part about Italy was how easy it was to take delight in just being there. The only shared regret from our ten days together was not being able to meet a much-talked-about pillar of modern Veronese decadence, Cesare Gori, also known as “Sisar”. Thankfully, all participating artists will have another chance to be together in the city of love in September.

The exhibition, entitled Contamination and maybe even more opens on September 14th at Fonderia 20.9 and runs until September 29th.

A contaminated travel guide to Verona and beyond