Welcome to the city of love
For years Verona has been a tourist destination, with Shakespeare calling it a hotspot for lovers and honeymooners. It is an perfect place to spend a few days relaxing and taking in the sights with the moderate climate and beautiful scenery. The city center itself is compact and walkable, with little need for public transportation. Come and discover these top ten activities and attractions…
1. Piazza delle Erbe
This lovely square is in the centre of the historical heart of Verona, and there is really no excuse not to roam around. You can take advantage of the square’s marvelous architecture, including a town hall (on the north) with its magnificent Lamberti Tower, the intricately frescoed walls of the residences of Mazzanti, the Baroque style of Palazzo Maffei (known for his Greek gods) and the oldest building in the square: the fountain. It features a statue of the Madonna, dating back to the Roman times. There are also a few restaurants and bars in Piazza delle Erbe, if the tourist price doesn’t matter.
2. Juliet’s Balcony
Hidden from Piazza delle Erbe just a few hundred meters away, Juliet’s balcony is the reason most visitors flock to Verona, the town of tragic love tales. Indeed, Shakespeare took inspiration from a real tale of family competition, prohibited love and feuding for his renowned play, all of which took place in Verona in the 1300s. At the moment, the names Montecchi and Capuleti (from which we get the Capulets and Montagues) were real competing political parties, and their corresponding homes can also be visited. Long popular in Verona has been the love story between Romeo and Juliet, and Shakespeare was just one of many playwrights to jump on the bandwagon and put his own spin on it. In the Casa di Giulietta museum (which includes Juliet’s balcony), there are extracts from a number of different sources and performances which help tell the tale to visitors. During high season, it is best to visit first thing in the morning to be able to take some time over the exhibitions. It is possible to see the balcony without entering the museum, but true fans will want to be able to pose on it for themselves!
3. Verona Arena
This huge piece of Roman architecture is nestled in the comically named Piazza della Bra and is truly impossible to avoid, not least because it is so enormous. The arena will be hosting the Arena Opera Festival from June to September, featuring famous operas such as Carmina Burrana by Orff and Il Barbiere di Siviglia by Rossini, to name a few. The arena was allowed to seat 30,000 spectators in its glory days (around 130-1100 AD) and was one of the largest of its kind in the world. Often the sports featured here were so spectacular that Verona attracted a big and impressive crowd of people to attend.
4. Ponte Pietra
One of the city’s oldest bridges is the Ponte Pietra, formerly also known as “pons marmoreus.” A wooden bridge crossed the Adige River here at the beginning of Verona in 90 BC, replaced by a stone bridge by the Romans. The bridge was demolished several times by floods in the Middle Ages and reconstructed over and over again. Having been destroyed once again in the 16th century, the five-arch bridge seen today was built. The last time the Ponte Pietra was destroyed was in 1945 when German soldiers blew it up on their retreat. The bridge was restored to its former glory in 1959.
Located on what was likely once a Roman fortress site just outside the city walls, the Castelvecchio is a square-shaped fort that during the Middle Ages was the most strong military building in this region. The castle is now home to the Castelvecchio Museum and Gallery, although not especially decorative (it was designed to be functional after all). It is readily accessible from the city to the castle and museum and is ideal for half a day entertainment in Verona.
6. Teatro Romano
The Teatro Romano, older than the arena, completed in 100BC, is now a set of ruins, some of which have been partially reconstructed to be operational as a cultural center during the summer months. The site includes the semi-circular atrium that is easily accessible and close to the river, and then a wider area of Roman ruins set in the hillside behind the theatre. The panoramic view is from the city’s iconic Ponte Pietro bridge as well as the city’s lovely red-tile roofs. Definitely worth a visit, although there is little or no data provided about the ruins; as you explore its confines, you just have to have a feeling of imagination and history!
7. Lamberti Tower
Torre dei Lamberti is one of Verona’s only surviving towers, each of which would have initially shown the wealth and relevance of a specific aristocratic family. This tower began in 1171, but was developed on an ongoing basis, giving it a strange look; the latest portion is the top marble. Such towers would have assisted to organize village life during the Middle Ages, with one bell (the Marangona) ringing to signal the end of the working day, or alert residents to a fire, and the second bell (the Rengo) ringing to invite war councils.
8. Shopping in the historical Verona
Maybe it’s all lovely and fashionable Italian love, but Verona’s shopping scene is good! The major shopping street (Via Mazzini), which has everything from Zara to Versace is home to the center storico (ancient city). There are also a number of really odd high-street stores in Italy or Central Europe that are mainly unavailable in the United Kingdom or the United States (such as Calzedonia and Stradivarius), selling a range of creatively produced and patterned products. This is where you can sprinkle, grab a coffee and walk!
9. Castel St. Pietro
Take the steps next to the Teatro Romano to Castel St Pietro, a mysterious and apparently deserted fort with the most gorgeous tree-lined streets surrounding it, for an evening stroll up the hill behind Ponte Pietro. These cypress trees are featured in every imagined photograph of Italy and this place is not disappointing! After taking photos of the perspective over the town, head into the hills behind the fort and take a leisurely stroll back down, admire the sharp corner bends along the highway and enjoy Verona’s slightly more suburban neighborhood.
10. Piazza dei Signori
This square is readily and often ignored but once was very crucial for the town of Verona’s governance, not to mention an intricately organized and lovely square on its own. The square features a number of high arches and Dante’s monument, as well as all the former city council’s main houses, such as the courts and the governing family’s seat of authority of the moment, the Scaligers. Worth a quick look (just a few meters from the Erbe square), this square is both a place of beauty and history.