Verona, the second city of love?
Paris may wear the crown, but Verona is a close runner up as the home of star-crossed lovers, Romeo and Juliet. The main town square is even named Piazza Brà… Could it get any more romantic? 😉
In honor of Valentine’s Day, I thought it fitting to take a journey through this enchanting medieval town in the Northeast of Italy. Just an hour out of Venice, charming Verona is well worth a day trip.
Casa di Giuletta
Love is in the air at the 14th-century Casa de Giuletta or House of Juliet. Thought to be the home of the Capulet family and the famous balcony love scene from Romeo and Juliet, there is no deifinitive proof in the connection with Shakespeare’s fictional characters. But it’s worth a peak inside for the novelty factor!Ironically enough, the most unromantic part of Verona is Juliet’s balcony, overlooking a tiny courtyard which is chaotic, crowded with tourists, and surprisingly unkempt. Good luck trying to get a photo with the bronze statue of Juliet, as everyone is pushing through to kiss her and grasp her bosom (thought to be good fortune and make one lucky in love?!) There is a tradition of writing love messages to Juliet through notes and pieces of chewing gum fashioned into hearts. Pin a heart lock of your own if you’re with that special someone you hope to spend forever with.
The walls of the entrance, known as Juliet’s Wall are scribbled with names of couples, many believing that this will make their love everlasting. Less Noteworthy: Juliet’s Tomb at the Capuccin Church, which also houses the Antonian Fresco Museum. Open Tuesday-Sunday 8:30am-7:30pm and Monday, 1:30-7:30pm. Entrance is free, but to the top of the balcony is €6.00 or € 1.00 the 1st Sunday of the month from Jan to May and Oct to Dec.
Hot tip: Pick up a Verona card which will grant entrance to all important museums, monuments, and churches in Verona. € 18.00 for 24 hours or € 22.00 for 48 hours.
Arena di Verona
Because ancient Romans considered Verona an ideal resting spot before crossing the Alps, the city has a wealth of Roman ruins. This massive ancient amphitheatre in the main square of Piazza Bra was built in 30 AD is still well-preserved in its original stone, despite a 12th-century earthquake, destroying its outer wall.To this day, it is used for opera performances. In ancient times, the arena boasted crowds of nearly 30,000 spectators, cheering on Roman gladiator battles, medieval executions, and plays. Nowadays, for security reasons, the maximum attendance is 15,000 people, and hosts modern plays and Verona’s popular summer opera festival, which leverages the arena’s superb acoustics.From the top, get sweeping views of the city and surrounding hills, at ground level you feel a gladiator might step out through the grand arches.
Open Mon 1:30-7.30pm, Tues-Sun 9am-7.30pm, closing 3.30pm during opera season; admission €6, or €1 on first Sunday of the month Oct-May. Opera tickets from €24 up to €226,00 for gold level seating.
This main square is the central hot spot of Verona. On the southern side of the square, sits the bold yellow, Neoclassical style Palazzo Barbieri. With its colossal columns, the palace towers majestically over the Piazza Brà. Once used as a base for the Austrian troops, after Italian unification the building became the seat of the city government. During the Second World War the palace was heavily damaged by airstrikes but was reconstructed and has served as the Town hall since the 1950’s.
Torre dei Lamberti
In the Middle Ages, the entire city was dotted with tall towers-residences, a predominant symbol of the wealth and power of noble families. Only a few remain today. The tallest and most notable is the Torre dei Lamberti tower built in 1172 in Piazza delle Erbe. Climb the tower for a sweeping 360-degree view of the city.The tower houses two bells, the Rengo and the Marangona, which kept time and regulated city life. The Marangona signaled the end of the working day for the artisans, while the Rengo summoned the town Council and citizens of Verona in times of war. The bells still ring during funerals.
Shop along Piazza delle Erbe
All streets of the old town lead you to this stunning square. Shop do you drop along Verona’s golden mile. The Madonna Verona fountain dominating the middle of the square was built to celebrate the building of the aqueduct supplying Verona with water from Avesa’s Low River.
Other notable shopping streets to check out are Corso Porta Borsari, Via Mazzini, and Corso Santa Anastasia. Most of the major Italian labels are represented, and even if you can’t afford them it’s great to wander and window shop.
Ponte Scaligero also known as Ponte Castelvecchio or Stone Bridge in Italian), crossing the Adige river,was built in the 14th century was destroyed by retreating German troops in 1945. It was restored to its full glory in 1951.
Indulge in Veronese cuisine
Start the evening with an aperitivo and a refreshing spritz drink. Beyond pizza and pasta, The Veronese are partial to horse-meat (cavallo). Branch out and try a local specialty. Pastissada or Picula de caval. Neigh!
Risotto and Polenta a thick cream made with corn flour, are tradition in Northern Italy; eaten very hot, with salami, cured meat and cheese. Why not try dining favorites of Al Carro Armato, Al’ Duomo, Cat Alley, Osteria Pigna, Locanda 4 Cuochi, Enoteca Can Grande.
Don’t miss out on the gelato, a staple in all Italian cities. Boutique del Gelato is flavored with real, natural ingredients, not from artificial dyes or colorings. A wide range of unique flavors are available from around the world such as Sorbet of elderflower of Vicenza mountains, fresh dates of Israel, and Macadamia nuts with salted butter A unique offering of wine sorbets in flavors of frozen moscato, spumante, and amarone are sure to delight!
Take a wander and get lost!
Throw out the map and stroll the winding laneways and cobblestone streets. Who knows what hidden gems you may stumble upon!
Will you be lucky in love this year? Where is the most romantic city you’ve ever visited?