Think Verona and the first thing that comes to mind is the story of Romeo and Juliet. In fact, Shakespeare based two other plays in the city – “The Taming of the Shrew” and “The Two Gentlemen of Verona” – but it’s his tale of the doomed lovers that brings many people to Verona. The star attraction here is Juliet’s balcony, which was actually built some 400 years after the play – yet, there’s a veritable tourist circus here at all hours of the day. The small courtyard is choc-a-bloc with people and every few seconds a new wannabe Juliet makes an appearance on the balcony – getting this clean shot was a miracle ;)
A gorgeous city with a rich history, Verona has been listed as a World Heritage site by UNESCO and rightly so. And it is so much more than this one balcony. Beautiful architecture, ancient Roman ruins, lively piazzas, the river Adige running through the city – and everything clustered in the historical city centre.
Ancient & Medieval Architecture
Giving the Colosseum in Rome a run for its money (and pre-dating it by 50 years), Arena di Verona is a remarkably well-preserved ancient amphitheatre, which hosts a very popular opera season every year. Dominating the city’s largest piazza, Piazza Bra’, the arena has been a venue for everything from gladiatorial battles to Verdi’s operas; even rock concerts by the likes of Pink Floyd, Dire Straits, Deep Purple to name a few.
Remains of the ancient Teatro Romano (Roman Theatre) still stand on one of the banks of the Adige and today it’s a setting for classical concerts. There’s also a fascinating Archaeological Museum nearby.
As with most Italian cities, Verona boasts of several basilicas and churches. The Basilica of San Zeno Maggiore is dedicated to Verona’s patron saint and is flanked by a beautiful bell tower, which finds a mention in Dante’s Divine Comedy. Verona’s Cathedral or Duomo di Verona is a Romanesque church with beautiful arches, elaborate carvings and Renaissance paintings. The Basilica of San Lorenzo is another important church in Verona, which dates from the 12th century but is built on the site of an ancient church going back to early Christianity. The church of Santa Maria Antica is famous for the Gothic Arche Scaligere, a series of tombs celebrating the Scaliger family of Verona.
Of Piazzas and Castles
Apart from Piazza Bra’, the other main squares in Verona are Piazza delle Erbe and Piazza dei Signori. Surrounded by Renaissance-era palazzi and with a beautiful fountain in the centre, Piazza delle Erbe hosts a fruits and vegetable market by day and by evening it’s dotted with outdoor cafes.
|Piazza delle Erbe|
|Piazza dei Signori|
The neighbouring Piazza dei Signori is quieter, surrounded by historically important buildings such as the Loggia del Consiglio and the former City Hall; a statue of Dante graces its centre.
The imposing Castelvecchio is a 14th century fortress worth visiting, not to mention the museum it houses. But my favourite place in Verona was undoubtedly Castel San Pietro, not so much for the castle but for the sweeping view of the city that it offered. A long flight of stairs, flanked by pretty houses on both sides, takes you up to the viewing point and it’s a climb worth making.
|View from Castel San Pietro|
Eating & Sleeping
While Verona makes a great day trip from Venice, we chose to spend a night here. I highly recommend picking a BnB over a hotel – it’s cheaper, usually in a better (central) location, and you generally get more personalised service and attention.
We stayed at Le Due Terrazze so named since the apartment has two lovely terraces where you can enjoy a drink. One of the terraces had a direct access from our room itself, which was very convenient.
It’s safe to say that this was one of the best BnBs we had stayed at – the room and the bathroom were very large (by Italian standards) and well-furnished. The host Alessandro is friendly and helpful and I got a chance to practise my Italian with him :) The BnB is new, slightly over a year old and is located in the city centre – most of the sights mentioned above are within walking distance. I wish our stay in Verona was longer; we really loved the apartment!
There are two restaurants opposite the apartment. We had a delicious lunch at Ristorante Tabia – spaghetti carbonara and canederli in brodo (a broth with a spinach and cheese ball & a meatball in it), and rounded off the meal with a caffe’.
Tabia has a small beer brewery in its premises and we also sampled their limoncello – it was potent! Pizzeria Leone next door has been around since 1924 and it’s known for its pizzas and ripieni (stuffed pizzas). We had the ripieno pulcinella, which was stuffed with ricotta, provolone cheese and salame – went really well with the Prosecco we had picked up in Venice. We bought our dinner to go and had it on 'our' terrace. It had rained earlier in the day and the evening was cool and clear. As the lights in the neighbouring apartments came on, we savoured our hot meal and raised a toast to Verona.
I have just about scratched the surface here; I would love to make another (longer) trip to this enchanting city of amore!