Sandwiched between the overwhelmingly popular Venice and Lake Garda, Verona is remarkably missed by many visitors to Italy. Best known as the setting for Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, Verona has much to offer beyond a playwright’s account of the Capulet’s and Montague’s tragic love-story.
While little of the Romeo and Juliet story actually took place and Shakespeare never wandered through, a rich two thousand years of activities by the Romans, Goths, Byzantines, Venetians, Austrians, the della Scala (Scaligeri) family and more have left a treasure trove of historic buildings, a wonderful medieval cityscape and a lively Italian culture. All this has rightly earned Verona a UNESCO World Heritage listing.
Easy to cover on foot, Verona is full of narrow alleyways that suddenly open into large welcoming piazzas. Munch on a rich tangy gelato while wandering Piazza della Erbe, a marketplace for over a thousand years (and sadly full of tacky souvenir stalls), the Roman forum of its time, full of Renaissance-period palaces and an inviting 14th century fountain on a hot day. Imagine public elections or punishment of guilty folks that took place in the square.
Bravely walk along Arco della Costa under the whale’s rib to Piazza dei Signori. Legend dictates that the rib will fall on the first “just” person but given that many thousands have passed this way including popes, nuns and civic leaders and that the rib has survived for centuries, mankind is not viewed kindly! Clamber up Lamberti Tower (Torre del Lamberti) for great view over Verona.
Piazza Bra is Verona’s major square dominated by the immense pink marble Roman amphitheatre. While the external walls haven’t survived well, the interior is in superb nick. Even those who dislike opera (such as me) should consider an evening in the Arena listening to and enjoying the sweet acoustics of superb singing while seated in a structure older than the Colosseum in Rome.
Despite its 14th century creation, Castel Vecchio looks battle-ready as it was freshly rebuilt after World War Two bombing raids. It used to house the della Scala family but now a rich array of museums covering Italian painting treasures along with coins, sculpture, jewellery, historic artefacts and more. At sunset, the castellated walls are a superb sight reflecting in the bustling Adige river.
Read the second article on Verona.