Quick guide to Verona
We’d always thought of Verona as a place for young lovers and opera aficionados, but it turned out to have plenty of attractions for everyone regardless of age and interests. Here’s our quick guide to Verona.
A very brief visit to Verona in Veneto many years ago had turned on our tourist trap alert, so we neglected to go back and check it out for real. What a shame. Verona is a real charmer with lots of space and attractions. Here’s a quick guide to the main sights.
Verona for culture collectors
The entire city of Verona is classified as Unesco World Heritage as “an outstanding example of a town that has developed progressively and uninterruptedly over two thousand years, incorporating artistic elements of the highest quality from each succeeding period”. You can hardly walk 100 metres within the walled city without seeing something that calls for a camera. Culture collectors can easily spend a week in Verona without getting bored. With less time at your disposal we’d recommend the opera, the churches and the castle.
All summer outdoor operas are staged in the Roman Arena. An iconic amphitheater built to entertain the masses sometime around the 1st century. Even for people with no interest in opera, an evening in the Arena under a velvety, starlit sky with old, Italian drama and pop songs on the repertoire makes an unforgettable holiday experience. And you can almost always buy unnumbered seat tickets for the evening’s performance at the ticket office in the morning.
Another iconic Verona sight is Castelvecchio. A massive and militant looking fortress that now holds a museum of sculpture, paintings and various other artifacts. The fortress links to a three arched bridge over the Adige river, so that the noble Scaligera family could escape to the countryside if the people of the city started to riot.
The main churches in Verona are Cattedrale di Santa Maria Matricolare with its beautiful cloister and a stylistic patchwork façade. And the Romanesque San Zeno Church containing relics of the saint, who according to legend saved believers that sought refuge in the church from flooding during the Adige inundation in 589.
The city of lovers
Verona markets itself as the ‘city of lovers’ and there are numerous references to Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet and tragic love affairs throughout the city. For a day of gothic romance, look for love locks along the Adige river. Visit Giulietta’s grave in the Capuchin convent. Line up in front of the Scaliger Tombs to see Gothic funerary monuments like no others. And end the tour below Juliet’s balcony where Shakespeare’s fictional character was wooed by her Romeo. La Casa di Giulietta is a monster attraction where lovers from all over the world go to have their pictures taken, fondle the right breast of the bronze statue of Juliet for good luck, and leave their mark on the walls through graffiti, love locks, love letters or chewing gum. Customs, the more blasé might see as confirmation of the link between love and temporary insanity.
Two steps and a bar
For those who just want to enjoy the beauty of a historic city by walking from one outdoor café to the next, Verona offers a string of charming, lively piazzas. Start the day with a cup of cappuccino and a view of Castelvecchio in Via Roma. Queue up at the Gelateria Savoia for the best ice cream in town. Then sit down for lunch and people watching in one of the elegant porticoed restaurants in front of the Arena on Piazza Bra.
Continue to the stunning beauty of Piazza delle Erbe lined with bars and cafes not to mention the historic buildings and monuments. In the centre of the square, the weekend vegetable market gives way to souvenir stalls and there’s a very old fountain called ‘Madonna Verona’. Walk through the Arco della Costa and wait for the whalebone to fall on the first innocent person to pass underneath (Popes and Kings have failed this test miserably). Take a deep breath and a(nother) pre-dinner drink with Dante at Piazza dei Signori, and remember to look into the courtyard of Palazzo del Capitanio to see the nice tower, before you continue straight out to the river and Via Sottoriva, where many of the best restaurants are located. After a day like that you will really need the exercise of an evening stroll through the quiet cobbled streets back to the hotel.