I had a something of a busman’s holiday recently. I went back to Verona for a few days to visit some of my friends Massimilliano and Alfonso who work for the emergency services there (See my previous posts on visiting an Italian ambulance service: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3).
Last time I went to Verona, it was during a very hot summer period so this time was in stark contrast to that visit. In fact, the cold was biting and not unusually for the region at this time of year, a thick fog hung low in the air for most of the week. Alfonso kindly ferried me around, picking me up and dropping me off at the airport. Massimilliano, who also works for the Croce Verde ambulance service, had arranged for me to have a look around various places that I indicated would be of interest to me.
We started with the Vigili del Fuoco ~ Fire Station. As well as a guided tour of all of the usual fire engines and equipment, friendly fireman Paolo took us to see the amphibious vehicle that had proved so helpful rescuing stricken victims during the recent floods in the area. He also treated me to a hair-raising ride as I was elevated 30 metres on the aerial ladder platform where the views of the city were quite stunning. I was somewhat surprised and amused when Paolo then led us to a beautiful fully stocked bar. Looking just like a regular bar you could find on any little Italian side-street, it seemed perfectly incongruous situated in the middle of a utilitarian fire station. We paused briefly to have an espresso break – well it would have been rude not to, ‘when in Rome’ and all that!
The afore mentioned fog was responsible for grounding the emergency medical helicopter for the majority of the week of my visit, except by some amazing stroke of good luck, the day Massimilliano took me to see it. I was delighted by the offer of an impromptu flight over Verona in the yellow EC146 as she flew back to base at the end of the shift. It was just before sunset, and still light enough to see some of my favourite sights from a whole new perspective. The fabulous Arena, home to the opera. Piazza Erbe with it’s bustling bars and market stalls and the Roman Theatre perched on the side of the hill, all twinkled invitingly below in the evening light.
Finally, the next day the capo ~ head of the Verona polizia stradale ~ traffic police gave me a tour of their station where I met a beautiful dog who was the very friendly station mascot! I think Massimilliano may have misrepresented me ‘as someone important from London’ because during the tour his aides were continually taking my photograph as I was shown around the station looking at the different vehicles and equipment!
I was extremely interesting to see how things are done the Italian way, and everyone made me feel so welcome. The thing that remains most in my mind though was the flight over Verona, a very special moment indeed ~ thank you Massimilliano for making it possible.