Verona is a city on the Adige River in Italy’s Veneto region. It is one of the seven provincial capitals of the region, and the 3rd. largest city in northeast Italy.
The origins of Verona remains a mystery. One theory is that due to the geographical position of the city, it was a key stop for people traveling along the Via Claudia Augusta from Eastern Gaul across the Alps then onto to Rome. The theory supposes that Verona is short for Versus Romae which means “In the direction of Rome”. Over the years the name was shortened and mispronounced to become the current city name of Verona.
Regardless of its somewhat mysterious origins one of Verona’s claim to fame is the romantic legacy endowed upon it by none other than poet laureate William Skakespeare. It is not certain whether the 16th. century poet/playwright ever visited Verona, but his love for the city is clear. The city is the setting for 3 Shakespearean plays; Two Gentlemen from Verona; The Taming of the Shrew; and most notably the romantic tragedy Romeo and Juliet.
The story of star crossed lovers, feuding families, interfering clergy, and early deaths may or may not be true; the matter is still up for debate. However there is no debating that Verona deserves her place as one of northern Italy’s must see cities. The only debate in my opinion is whether or not Verona deserves to be a day trip from Venice or a destination in itself.
Depending on how much time you have in the area Verona can be both. If you have several days planned in Venice and you must stay in Venice then by all means make Verona a day trip. It’s about a 45 minute train ride from Venice’s St. Lucia train station. Trains to and from Venice stop in Verona about every half hour.
The least expensive way to get from Venice to Verona is via regional train. The cost is about €6 each way. You can opt for a more luxurious ride on one of the fast trains if you feel like splurging. A first class seat on a Frecciarossa or Frecciargento is about €24 each way. Honestly the travel time is almost the same but on the fast trains you’re guaranteed a comfy seat. You may find yourself standing in a crowded train car if you catch a regional train. But either way you’ll get there!
On the other hand if you have several days to stay in the area and don’t have to stay in Venice then Verona would be an ideal base from which to explore the Veneto region. Again it’s a 45 minute train ride from Venice making Venice an ideal day trip from the city.
Choosing Verona as your destination has several pros, the first being hotel costs. As you may know hotels in the city of Venice itself are very expensive, even the lowest rated ones. Expect to pay over $100 a night at the cheapest Venetian hotel. It’s $500+ a night at the 5 star luxury hotels like the Daniele and Cipriani (hotel rates are seasonal so off season rates will be slightly lower).
Another point in favor of staying in Verona is that there is no need to haul luggage over cobble stone streets and bridges. When one stays in Venice one has the honor of hauling one’s luggage to your hotel from the train station, Piazzele Roma, or where ever the water taxi drops you off. Of course if you’re staying in a luxury hotel they’ll send someone to fetch you and your luggage (it was awesome when we stayed at the San Clemente Palace Hotel a service you’d expect when paying well over $300 a night in the off season). And of course you could hire one of the porters from the train station assuming you can find one. I’ve no idea what that cost, I’ve never had to hire one.
There are many things to see and do in Verona, both in the modern city and the Centro Storico. The Centro Storico is the historic center of the city, it’s probably also the most touristy party of the city. If you have plenty of time you can use Verona as your base and explore the area. There are amusement parks, zoos, shopping malls, and an outstanding outlet mall in and around Verona.
Other than Venice you can take day or half-day trips from Verona to cities like Padua (Padova in Italian), Mantua, Treviso, Chioggia, Lake Garda, Bologna, and more. If you want to wander further afield you can easily get to Bolzano, Revereto, Belluno, Ravenna, and Rimini. Verona is really a great place to start from with it’s centrally located train station.
But before you wander off to other cities take at least a day to explore Verona. It really is a destination worth exploring. Here are some must see and do sights in Verona.
Panoramic Train Tour
One of the easiest ways to get an overview of Verona’s historic center is to hop on one of these little trains. You can catch it on Piazza Bra across from the Roman Arena. Trains run from 10:00 am to 7:00 pm.
The train tour costs €5/adult, €3/child 5-15 years, or €13 for a family with 2 adults and 2 kids over 5.
The train takes you around the old city. The tour takes about 25 minutes and makes no stops. There is a audio narration in several languages including English during the tour. The narration highlights points of interests as they pass like Castel Vecchio, Arco Dei Gavi, Porta Borsar, the Duomo, and a couple of other churches.
It’s a great introduction to the city and gives you an idea of how to get to the sights you want to take a closer look at. Like Juliet’s house – the train doesn’t pass the house itself, but it points out the street you need to take to get to the house. The same goes for Piazza Delle Erbe.
If you prefer, you can skip the train and grab a day ticket on the Hop-on Hop-off Bus. It’s a great way to get around the city!
Also known as the Duomo the Verona Catherdral is a Roman Catholic church dedicated to the Virgin Mary and is officially called Santa Maria Matricolare. It is the seat of the Verona diocese.
It was built on the same site where 2 earlier Palaeo-Christian churches stood before they were destroyed by an earthquate in 1117. The current cathedral was built in the Romaneque style and consecrated on September 13, 118.
The current interior dates back from the renovations done in the 15th. Century. It features a nave with two aisles divided by tall pillars of red Verona marble, which support Gothic arcades. The first three chapels on each side are in the same style, and house mostly Renaissance artworks by Veronese artists.
The church is a lovely mix of two styles Romanesque and Gothic. It’s worth a stop if you’ve got the time.
This church in the oldest part of Verona was built by the Dominican Order. It was designed by the Dominican friars Fra’ Benvenuto da Imola and Fra’ Nicola da Imola.
Construction on the current church began in 1280 and finished in 1400. It was constructed on a pre-existing temple build by King Theoderic the Great and since 1307 was co-entitled to St. Peter of Verona, the martyr and co-patron Saint of the city.
The interior is home to several tombs and frescos and sculptures by notable local artists.
This museum houses a collection of sculpture, statues, paintings, ancient weapons, ceramics, goldworks, miniatures, and old bells mostly from the Romanesque period of Verona.
The collection includes:
- Sepulchre of the Sts. Sergius and Bacchus, basrelief from 1179.
- “Crucifix”, a 14th-century tuff work by the so-called Master of Sant’Anastasia, from the church of San Giacomo in Tomba.
- “St. Cecilia and Catherina”, from the same Master of St. Anastasia.
Equestrian statue of Cangrande I della Scala, coming from complex of the Scaliger Tombs.
- Madonna of the Quail by Pisanello
- Madonna of the Rose Garden by Stefano da Verona or Michelino da Besozzo
- Crucifixion and Madonna dell’Umiltà by Jacopo Bellini
- Madonna with Child by Gentile Bellini
- Madonna of the Oak by Girolamo dai Libri
- Holy Family by Andrea Mantegna
Not only does this museum house some interesting collections, but the building itself is of historic and architectural interest. The museum is housed in the medieval castle built in 1355 by the Scala family, the ruling family of Verona of that time. It was successively modified by future invaders such as Venetians, the French and the Austrians. During the second world war Castelvecchio witnessed the dramatic Verona trial (Processo di Verona), in which Mussolini condemned to death the traitors of the regime together with his own son in law.
Juliette’s House and Balcony (Balcone di Giulietta)
Located between Piazza Bra and Erbe, sort of, is Juliette’s House. It’s an easy walk from either piazza, just follow the signs and the crowds, they’re all heading to the same place.
As I mentioned the actual existence of these doomed lovers is still debatable but the names Montague and Capulet were two real-life important aristocratic families from Verona. Dante Alighieri mentions them in his Divine Comedy.
Real or not these lovers are icons of the city and the most famous spot(and arguably the most crowded) in Verona is Casa di Giulietta or Juliette’s House.
As the story goes it’s the home of the Capulet family. It is here that Shakespeare’s Juliet would have lived, and today it is a museum dedicated to her. Juliet’s house dates back to the 14th century, and the Capulets’ emblem can be seen on the external façade.
Sometime in the 20th. century the house was abandoned and the city of Verona purchased it from the dell Capello family. The house and courtyard were renovated in styles inspired by the middle ages and the museum and of course gift shop dedicated to all things Juliette (and Romeo) came to be.
It’s pretty campy I admit, but it’s a hoot anyway! Specially if you’re a romantic or a Shakespeare fan. I’m not exactly a romantic but I do enjoy the Bard.
From the courtyard you can see Juliette’s tiny balcony where she according to the Bard utters her famous line “O Romeo, Romeo! Wherefore art thou Romeo?”
I could almost hear Romeo declare “What light from yonder window breaks? It is the east and Juliet is the sun!” I just wonder exactly what bushes he was supposed to be hiding behind! Perhaps he was ducking behind the tourists! By the way rumor has it that the city added the balcony in 1936 to attract more tourists!
Anyway in the museum is home to the furniture used in Franco Zefirelli’s 1968 film version of Romeo & Juliet starring Olivia Hussy and Leonard Whiting. (By the way it’s my favorite version of the play!) The bed displayed in “Juliette’s bedroom” is the one Ms. Hussy used in the film. The museum also displays artwork from the period in which the lovers supposedly lived. It’s definitely a fun way to spend about a half hour or so.
In the courtyard surrounded by hoards of people is Juliette’s bronze statue. Urban legend has it that touching the statue’s right breast will bring one luck in love. Hence the shoving match to grab the poor sculpture’s breast and snap a photo.
The notes behind her are notes from couples written in a multitude of languages. Again urban legend says that couples leaving their names written here will grant them eternal love. The wish of course granted by the fictional Juliette!
I told you the place was campy! Entrance to the courtyard and shops are free. There is a small fee to enter the museum.
Ok if pushing your way into Juliette’s courtyard is not your idea of fun, or you’re a more serious tourist who’d rather see real historical sites, then wander over to Piazza Bra and have a look at the Verona Arena.
The arena is a Roman amphitheatre built in the first century, 30AD to be exact. It is still used today and is internationally famous for the large-scale opera performances and concerts performed there .
It is one of the best preserved ancient structures of its kind. In ancient times, nearly 30,000 people was the housing capacity of the Arena. Nowadays, for security reasons, the maximum attendance is 15,000 people.
Enjoying an opera at this arena is on my bucket list. The opera season runs pretty much all summer long. Seats start as low as €18 for any open spot on the stone stairs. You can rent cushions at the arena or you can spring for assigned seats with cushions.
During the day you can buy a ticket to see the arena on your own. Hour long escorted tours are also offered for about $35 a person. Click here for tour information or to book your tour.
Piazza Bra is the largest Piazza in Verona, with some claims that it’s the largest Piazza in Italy. I’d don’t know about that, but it’s a huge piazza.
It’s home to many restaurants and cafes and to 3 important buildings; the Verona Arena, Palazzo Barbieri, and Palazzo della Gran Guardia.
The Palazzo Barbieri is the Town Hall and the Gran Guardia is used as a venue for conferences and exhibits.
The Piazza itself plays hosts to large events and exhibits. When we were there last month we were lucky to stumble upon an exhibit by the Carabinieri. They displayed the vehicles they used thru the years. The boys loved it! Actually the big buys aka my husband and son-in-law got a kick out of it too! In the winter the Piazza hosts the Christmas Market, one of the best winter markets in the country!
Piazza delle Erbe
I have to admit this is my favorite piazza in the city. In ancient times it was the town’s forum, meaning was the heart of the city.
During ancient times the forum was almost always located in the actual center of the city and was where everything happened. It served as a public area in which commercial, religious, economic, political, legal, and social activities occurred.
Today Piazza delle Erbe is probably the social pulse of the city. It’s surrounded by bars, cafes, restaurants, and shops.
But it’s also filled with sculptures, fountains, and ancient buildings including the ancient town hall, the Torre dei Lamberti, the Casa dei Giudici (“Judges’ Hall”), the frescoed Mazzanti Houses, the Baroque Palazzo Maffei, decorated by statues of Greek gods, the crenllated Casa dei Mercanti (“House of the Merchants”, also known as Domus Mercatorum), now the seat of the Banca Popolare di Verona.
Other buildings, the tall houses of the Ghetto, are reminiscent of medieval tower-houses.
The square’s most ancient monument is the fountain (built in 1368 by Cansignorio della Scala), surmounted by a statue called Madonna Verona, which is a Roman sculpture dating to 380 AD.
Pretty much where ever you look in the square you’re eyes are sure to land on some piece of art.
I especially enjoyed the frescoes painted on the buildings’ outer walls. Sometimes you have to look up to see them!
As I said this Piazza teems with restaurants and cafes. It’s a great place to have lunch or dinner and soak up the atmosphere.
And last but not least do not leave this city without a trip to Amorino!
Amorino is a gelato franchise with locations worldwide. They have 2 in Verona. One in Piazza Bra and the other on Sant’ Anastasia which is actually right at the top of Piazza delle Erbe. (In Italy they have locations in Venice, Milan, and Florence too)
They have gelato in lovely flavors made from fresh organic ingredients. You can choose as many flavors as you what and they will fashion it into a rose on your cone or in your cup and top it off with a macaroon. Can it get any better than this?
Ready to plan a romantic trip to Verona?
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