Passionate about Italy, spending time travelling the country to cover football matches, meeting people, the history and the food culture.
“Two households, both alike in dignity, In fair Verona, where we lay our scene,” goes the famous line from William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. “From ancient grudge break to new mutiny, Where civil blood makes civil hands unclean.”
Today, centuries after the play was written in 1597, tourism in Verona is still fuelled by the tale as visitors flock to the city in order to visit the setting of arguably the world’s most famous love story. What makes this a little disconcerting is that those who make the journey have somehow confused these fictional characters for real, historical figures, and the city has understandably cashed in.
You can actually visit the “Casa di Giulietta”, a reconstruction of Juliet’s house from the play’s text. The museum contains a balcony where you can stand in a queue to appear to your loved one beneath you, uttering the famous line “O Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo” while they, and many others with camera phone in hand can capture the moment.
If this has you reaching for the sick bucket, or makes you question the sanity of the human race, fear not! For “fair Verona” has so much more to offer than phony historical reconstructions.
Far more impressive is the 1st century Roman amphitheatre, the third largest in Italy after Rome’s Colosseum and the arena at Capua. It is located in the large, open Piazza Bra, an ideal place to relax and enjoy some food and drink in one of the many bars and restaurants situated around the edges.
Perhaps the main allure of this city is its laid back pace. Aside from the aforementioned ode to Romeo and Juliet, it’s rare to see oppressive crowds at any of the main attractions. Unlike in Rome, there are no major queues for the amphitheatre and – while Verona’s arena may not be on Europe’s top “must see” list of monuments – it is much better preserved than its counterpart in the capital.
For those looking for a picturesque setting for a relaxed weekend away, Verona is the place. A Verona card, priced at €20 for 24 hours or €25 for 48 hours allows you access to all of its main sights, however a mere wander round this very walkable city provides ample entertainment without any investment.
Piazza delle Erbe is a superb spot either during the day or at night. In daylight hours it hosts a local market, and lit up at night it becomes a romantic spot for a delicious evening meal. Don’t forget, this is the Aperol region, so it would almost be rude not to indulge in a spritz or two.
Before the spritz has taken effect, a trip up the Torre dei Lamberti gives a stunning view from high above the city, and the nearby Porta Borsari is an intact gate into the city from the 3rd century AD.
A walk along the Adige river will bring you to Ponte Scaligero, a medieval bridge initially built in 1345 as an escape route from the adjacent Castelvecchio. Ponte Pietra is another beautiful bridge to look out for as part of a calming walk next to the water.
For those who like to shop, Via Mazzini is a pedestrianised haven, and is used by the locals for their evening passeggiata. Day trips to Lake Garda and even Venice are possible via train, making Verona a worthwhile base to spend a little longer in order to explore this beautiful region of Italy.
In short, Verona is a city to fall in love with. Just avoid Romeo and Juliet if you want to do so.