Verona Guide - Everything to get you started in one of Northern Italy's most beautiful cities.
My friend Elaine and I are enjoying an alfresco lunch on a narrow cobblestone side street just up from the ancient Roman amphitheater. While sipping my new favorite Rose that our waiter suggested from the region, Elaine convincingly claims: “I could live here.”
It is not hard to see why Elaine is so committed to her statement. Verona is a stunning Romanesque city dropped between the gorgeous Lessini mountains and rolling green hills (producing some of the best wines in northern Italy) as well as dissected by the beautiful River Adige. Geography coupled with a pedestrian-only historical city center, architecture of every style, and well-protected monuments dating as far back as the 1st century. There is even a bridge – the Ponte Pietra, that was reconstructed using the stones that were originally used to build it in 100BC. In the heart of the city nestled between the bend of the river Adige are 37 churches and not one but two roman theaters.
Yes, Shakespeare made Verona famous. But it was his characters based on real-life Veronese (Montagues and Capulets) that captured the curiosities of this city. Even Dante lived here in exile.
I most appreciate that Verona is an easy day trip by train from Venice, Milan, Bologna, and even Florence if you catch the fast train. If you plan accordingly Verona can be reached in as little as an hour from most of the cities above by train.
As a slow travel addict, I strongly recommend a longer stay in the city. But if you only have a day to visit and you really want to maximize your knowledge of the city through its history, heritage, and traditions, I recommend a guided tour. Take a 2-3 hour tour to dive into the shallow end of Veronese culture, orientate yourself to the city layout, and get dining and shopping recommendations from your guide. Then spend the rest of your day with your newly gained knowledge and enjoy Verona as you like.
If a guided tour isn’t your cup of coffee (since we are in Italy), I offer a few suggestions for you to discover on your own.
Verona Arena – built in the 1st century AD, it is the 3rd largest surviving roman theater and sells out every opera for every season. The amphitheater was originally built outside Verona's city walls, primarily for logistical reasons, so that it could be easily reached by people arriving from outside the city. Over the centuries the city grew and now the Arena is well within the center of the city.
Address: 5-6 Piazzetta Mura Gallieno
Porta dei Borsari – If you want really old, then head north from the arena to the 1st century BC entrance to the city. Of course, this double-arched entrance was built on the ancient Porta Jovia in the days of the empire, because of the nearby temple dedicated to Jupiter. But you can still see parts of the ancient façade.
Address: 57A Corso Porta Borsari
Castelvecchio – which means old castle, was built in 1355 by the Della Scala family, the ruling dynasty of Verona in the middle ages. While there visit the magnificent Castelvecchio Bridge which connects Verona’s medieval castle to the Adige’s left bank. Like the Ponte Vecchio in Florence, all of Verona’s bridges we damaged during World War II. Castelvecchio Bridge was lovingly and carefully rebuilt looking precisely like the original one, using as much as possible of the recovered materials from the river.
Address: 30 Piazzetta Castel Vecchio (west of the Arena)
Juliet's House – I would be remiss if I didn’t tell you where to find Juliet’s balcony. Definitely a tourist trap, but if you are in the area, you have to say you saw it, right? Plan in advance if you want to go up on her balcony. There is a 6-euro entrance fee and it fills up fast.
WARNING: Pickpockets love Juliet’s house. And you will never know it happened to you. They dress very nicely so as not to be noticed.
Address: 23 Via Cappello
Piazza delle Erbe which now stands on top of Verona’s Roman Forum. Open Monday through Saturday from 7:30AM to 8:30PM. The market offers souvenirs, refreshing seasonal fruit and fruit snacks, women’s clothing, and home goods. For the non-shoppers, there are plenty of historical monuments and eye-catching architecture to keep you occupied. Al-fresco dining in this piazza is always an option as well.
Via Mazzini – the main shopping street that connects Piazza delle Erbe to the Verona Arena. Lots of high-end fashion shops, as well as local fashion boutiques, line this street.
WARNING: Pickpockets love this street. They dress very nicely so as not to be noticed.
Address: Via Ponte Pietra, 21/A
Open: Daily Noon-4PM, 7PM-Midnight
Trattoria Fluviale Vecio Mulin
Address: Via Sottoriva, 42/A
Open: Wednesday – Monday 10AM-2PM, 7-10PM
Antica Bottega del Vino
Address: Via Scudo di Francia, 3
Open: Daily 11AM - Midnight
Trattoria Tre Marchetti
Address: Via Tre Marchetti, 19
Open: Daily Noon-3PM, 7-10:30PM
Hotel Due Torri – 5star w/terrace restaurant overlooking the river
Piazza Sant'anastasia, 4
Albergo Aurora -3star in Piazza dell Erbe w/terrace cafe
Address: Piazzetta XIV Novembre, 2
Gabbia D’Oro – 5star in medieval convent w/botanical garden and more
Address: Angolo Piazza Erbe, Corso Porta Borsari, 4A
Hotel Verona – 3star near the train station
Address: C.so Porto Nuova 47-49
Worth the walk
Mercato delle Stadio – it’s a mile from the train station, but worth the walk if you enjoy local markets and people watching. Open every day of the week. Come early to see the vendors and the locals do their thing. For quality designer items at a fair price, try this market on a Saturday.
February- Verona in Love Festival is held annually on February 14th of course. The weekend festivities include poetry readings, romantic concerts, and even a Romeo and Juliet half marathon. The streets and squares are filled with red decorations and lights with different neighborhoods competing to display the best decorations while shopkeepers fill their windows with romantic treats. The real treat is the Piazza dei Signori which lines up its market stalls in the shape of a heart and a red carpet is laid out in the center. Have a seat on a local terrace for a bird’s eye view of the heart-shaped display
June – September is Opera Season at Verona Arena. As I said earlier tickets sell out early so order online way in advance. The season always ends with Guiseppi Verdi’s Aida. It is Verona’s most popular opera and the only one performed every year. I heard there are elephants and giraffes that make an occasional appearance.
If you want to visit Verona, but prefer a guided experience, you can join one of Verona's Walking Tours – City Highlights. Or if you know someone interested in Verona, please share this guide with them.
Let me know if you have been to Verona by posting your thoughts in the Comment section below.