Why You Should Visit Verona, The City Of Love!
I live near Venice so it is pretty normal for me to spend my weekends there, but very often I like to go and explore other parts of Veneto. During summer 2016 I decided to pay another visit to Verona.
Forever associated with Romeo and Juliet, Verona has much more to offer than the relics of a tragic love story.
Known as Piccola Roma for its importance as a Roman city, its actual Golden Era was during the 13th and 14th centuries, under the rule of the Della Scala Family (also know as the Scaliger family), a period noted for the savage family feuding, on which Shakespeare based his play.
It is the second city of the Veneto, after Venice, and it is a vibrant trading center.
It is one of Italy’s most beautiful cities and I am now going to explain you why.
Verona, a must see city in Italy
Why you should visit Verona.
A site born on the border at the crossroads of the main axes of Europe, located at the foot of a hilly territory inhabited since the Paleolithic times: this is Verona.
Verona has been, since ancient times, a place of convergence of people with different cultures and histories, reflecting, in part, a certain otherness than the rest of the Veneto Region.
Verona preserves a rich culture, which is very hard to find elsewhere, with its variety of life and documents, as well as its hardships and arrogance.
The city was first the Roman Colonia Augusta Verona, then the Renaissance Urbs picta Verona and, finally, the Verona fidelis of the Habsburgs: a whirlwind of invasions by the Barbarian, the Carolingian, the Visconti, the Carrara, the Venetians, Napoleon and finally the Austrians.
The character and color of the Veronese people and their city derives from this series of events, making them always available and ready to the powerful, but at the same time, always tense within, and yearning for their autonomy.
The River of Verona: The Adige
Coming to Verona, you get to cross a river and going around the city you are eventually reunited with it: it is the river Adige. The Adige comes from a large canyon, along the hills, forming a double loop, where Verona lays.
Just below Verona the Po Valley begins.
Verona was born on San Pietro hill; it developed inside the loop, keeping its green hills, while the surrounding areas got totally urbanized.
Located 59 meters above the sea level, Verona is the pin of the motorway to Venice, Milan, Mantua and the Brenner and it is also a very important railway junction.
Verona: a day itinerary
The old part of the city of Verona is relatively small: it’s very easy to wander and find your way around. But do not be mislead, there is a lot to do and see.
Here is an itinerary that we managed to follow on a day trip from Venice, but personally I recommend a stay of at least 2 to 3 days in the city of Verona, to really enjoy this historic jewel in Northern Italy.
We started our itinerary from Portoni della Brà, a giant arch located at the entrance of Piazza Bra, one of the most beautiful squares in Italy, site also of the Roman Arena.
The Portoni della Brà or gates of the Brà, is one of the entrance doors of Verona, which was built along the medieval walls, to connect Piazza Bra to the countryside. At the center of the large arch door there is a giant clock.
Piazza Brà in Verona
Once you pass under the arches, you are greeted by one of the most amazing sites in Italy: Piazza Brà, the largest square in Verona and one of the biggest in Europe.
It constitutes the “anteroom” of Verona, before reaching the historic city center. The “Bra” designation originally derived from the German word “breit” (= large).
The square is surrounded by several historic buildings, from all different eras. The long wide sidewalk in rose stone is called Liston. It was paved in the eighteenth century, following the curve of the square, and lined with palaces. They are now the location of bars, pizzerias and restaurants, always crowded with tourists and locals, the perfect spot to take a break and relax enjoying the amazing site. A bit like a large open-air aperitif room!
In the middle of the large square stands the equestrian statue of the Italian king Vittorio Emanuele II (1820-1878). It was erected in 1883 to mark the fifth anniversary of death of the first ruler of Italy.
The fountain in Parco Delle Alpi is more recent and was donated to the city of Verona by the Germans in 1975 on the occasion of the twinning between Monaco and Verona. In exchange the people of Verona sent a copy of Juliet’s statue to Monaco.
Roman Arena In Verona
To the north the impressive Roman Arena towers over the square.
The arena was built in the first century A.D and It is the ancient amphitheater with the best level of preservation.
It was the amphitheater where the Romans carried out their famous shows and games, then it became the site for hunts and wars between ships, then along the centuries, it was used for medieval knightly festivals, tournaments and bull hunts with dogs.
It was completely abandoned in the twelfth century and the work of safeguarding began only 300 years later.
The Arena is now Verona’s Opera house: in the summer it is home to the celebrated opera festival and here many international singers and musicians take the opportunity to perform, surrounded by amazing settings and acoustics.
We walked along Via Mazzini, a lovely pedestrian walkway filled with all sort of shops and buzzing with locals and tourists alike.
Once you arrive to the end of Via Mazzini, you can turn right and head to Casa di Giulietta or you can turn left and visit Piazza Delle Erbe.
Juliet’s House in Verona
Casa di Giulietta or Juliet’s house is located at N.23 of Via Cappello, another of the pedestrian streets of Verona. Although the young lovers Romeo and Juliet were fictional characters, you can stand beneath the balcony of this medieval house and picture Shakespeare’s love scene if you like or rub the left breast of the bronze statue of Juliet by the entrance if you want a new lover. This place is always very full of tourists and there is always a big queue at the entrance.
Open Mondays from 1.30 pm till 7.30 pm
Tuesday till Sunday from 8.30 am till 19.30 pm
Piazza Delle Erbe in Verona
Piazza Delle Erbe was the site of the Roman Forum. Today is one of the liveliest areas of Verona.
Upon entering the square you have the feeling to look out from the audience into a theater, ancient and modern at the same time, where the scene surrounds the viewer wherever he looks.
At the center of the square the market stalls, covered by the characteristic wedged umbrellas, fill the space and swarm with life. The benches of the “piassaroti” nowadays do not display just fruits, vegetables and flowers, but they are very touristy, full of souvenirs and knick-knacks.
Piazza Dei Signori and Arco Della Costa
We headed towards Piazza Dei Signori, passing under the Arco Della Costa.
During the rule of the Venetian Republic, Arco Della Costa allowed the various magistrates of the government to be able to move from the Domus Nova, the place that at the time was the city court, the Palazzo della Ragione, without necessarily having to show themselves in the square below where they could be easily prey of malicious people.
Piazza dei Signori is rightly nicknamed the “living room of Verona”, for its beauty, its views and the magnificent palaces that overlook it.
At the end of the twelfth century the first seat of the Town Hall was built, with its characteristic squared layout and with four corner towers, of which today survive the Torre dei Lamberti and the so-called “Torrazzo” which had the main facade on the Piazza delle Erbe.
At the center of the square stands a solemn monument to Dante Alighieri, which is why the square is also known, by the people of Verona, as Piazza Dante. The statue, placed there in 1865, recalls the desire for unity and independence of the population at the time, and the presence of the poet in Verona, host of the lords of the city, during his exile.
Castelvecchio in Verona
We then decided to head towards Castelvecchio, the impressive castle built between 1355 and 1375, which now houses one of the finest art galleries of the Veneto region.
The castle was the fortress of Cangrande II of the Scala family, but was also used by subsequent rulers. Damaged during the Second World War, it was restored In the 1960 with the help of the famous Venetian architect Carlo Scarpa.
Here Scarpa made a summary of its artistic and architectural world. Even today there are many architects and architecture students from around the world who come to study the approaches taken by Carlo Scarpa for the Veronese museum. A container becoming a work of art, as much as the content.
Castelvecchio is now the City Museum with a large collection of paintings, frescoes, jewelry and medieval artifacts, among which works by Bellini, Tiepolo, Carpaccio and Veronese.
The view from the castle is breathtaking and you have to walk to the top and enjoy the beautiful panorama gazing over the Adige River, the hills and the city of Verona.
Open Mondays from 1.30 pm till 7.30 pm
Tuesday till Sunday from 8.30 am till 19.30 pm
Ponte Scaligero in Verona
Once the visit at the museum was over, we took a walk along the Ponte Scaligero.
It is a 120 meters bridge leading from Castelvecchio over the Adige. Two solid foundations carry the columns of the three large arches of the bridge. Even though the looks of the bridge remind us of a defense bridge, the structure was built as an escape route for the hated Scaliger family in case of a popular uprising. With the help of the bridge, the noble family hoped to build themselves a safe escape route over the river and a successful flight into the Adige Valley.
Aperitif in Verona
We then headed back towards Piazza Bra along Via Roma, a street full of shops, bookstores, cafes and ice cream parlors. In Piazza Bra we enjoyed a nice cold and refreshing cocktail sitting in one of the nicest cafes along the Liston: Café Vittorio Emanuele.
And this was the ending to our lovely Sunday in Verona. There was a lot more to see, obviously, but there will be other opportunities for me to visit this wonderful city that never ceases to amaze.
And this is why i truly think you should make sure to visit Verona!