Fictitious city of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet
Too many years have passed after my first and only time in beautiful Verona, but finally returned, and not only once, but couple more times through the years. Of course much more knowledgeable and appreciative to the architecture and arts than how it was my first time, a rushy few hours stop-over along the way travelling between Venice and Milan on what was the end of high school trip. Nowadays, much more prepared and organised, and adding more notes revamping this guide after the latest trip, although with other plans in mind included: visiting the neighbouring cities of Vicenza, Padua, Mantua and Sabbioneta.
From the very first time I could perfectly still remember parts of the city like the Arena and Juliet’s House, but not much more, and what a surprise that was! The city is so pretty, with so much to see and do that definitely it won’t be long until I book another weekend city break here. There’s always so much more to discover along its large UNESCO World Heritage Site listed old town.
But even with so much history and sights, the city is actually more known for something that it is not even real. Juliet’s House. It has no connection whatsoever with Shakespeare’s fictional characters, furthermore to mention that the balcony was added in 1936 to further emphasise it as a tourist destination. Nevertheless this place will be of course a mandatory stop over along your sightseeing route and believe me, it will pretty much disappoint you.
Due to its size and compact city centre a 2 day visit is good enough in order to not miss anything and fully enjoy without any rush. But be aware that as one of the most visited cities in Italy, everyone else have the same idea you have of visiting the places therefore expect crowds everywhere. Forget about having that perfect picture with no one around, specially during high season. And if you are the kind of well prepared tourist that can see everything well on time following a pre-planned route, then you will end up with enough spare time that you can use to go to Lake Garda!
We used Sunday for going there. Right from the front of the train station frequent buses depart to many destinations along the Lake. We decided to go to the very end of the route, Riva del Garda, therefore we got to see the lake in its full and capture great pictures even if this was from the bus. Riva del Garda is also a beautiful village, but having done this trip there I will not recommend to anyone, basically because it takes over 2 hours to get there! Instead get a ticket to Garda o Malcesine as the farthest location. I cannot wait for the next time I get here and go directly to Malcesine. That was looking a great village, with a beautiful castle and lots of historic buildings, while of course the views of the lake and the mountains are amazing too.
Food is not any different to any other city in Italy, therefore having that great pizza or pasta is always easy to find, not to mention the very competitive prices. But of course mind where you are going. Tourist places and traps can be easily avoided. To my experience anyway, any place having any name to do with the fakes of Romeo & Juliet is a no go; and of course any place with only tourist inside is another bell ringing.
And how about having a great Aperol spritz on any of the many terraces you will find anywhere in the city? Honestly give yourself the time for it, it’s much worth it. And for the price you pay you get a quite large nice glass and free tapas to accompany it. Really worth it specially to refresh yourself during the heat of summer months.
For more information about Verona check Wikipedia and Wikitravel sites. Italy’s currency is the Euro (EUR). Please note that any price reference is true as from when this guide was created, therefore check prices in advance as with the time they change.
What to see and do in Verona
- Roman remains Scattered around the city, some impressive remains are still preserved, while of course the unmistakable street grid pattern where the cardo and decumanus, principal streets would meet at the forum is intact as of today. The original pavements still at their original location buried some 6 meters below the current street level.
-Arena Built in the 1st Century AD and still functioning today. It is the world’s third largest amphitheatre to survive from Roman times. Located in Piazza Bra, the largest square in the city.
-Theatre Built in the 1st Century BC has come to our days thankfully for having built upon to provide housing centuries ago until the 18th century when all the extra constructions were demolished exposing the original monument. Located across the river from Ponte di Pietra.
-Ponte di Pietra Translates as Stone Wall Bridge, completed in 100 BC it crossing the Adige River connecting the east bank with the rest of the city on the west.
-Porta Borsari From the 1st Century AD, a beautiful archway designed in three levels, located at the end of Corso Porta Borsari.
-Arco dei Gavi Built in the 1st century AD was demolished by the French troops in 1805 and was rebuilt in 1932. Thankfully the original stones were kept inside the Arena. Located next to Castelvecchio.
-Porta Leoni From the 1st century BC is nowadays included in part of the wall of a medieval building.
- Duomo Is the cathedral, occupying the place of an older church destroyed in the 1117 earthquake. With a Romanesque façade the inside has some Gothic alterations.
- Juliet’s House Just a tourist attraction that nothing has to do with the supposedly location of the famous balcony love scene from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. For 4 Euros you can visit the house itself which is a museum containing Renaissance frescoes rescued from other demolished palaces. Located near Piazza delle Erbe.
- Piazza delle Erbe Or Market Square, occupies the space of the former Roman Forum and still today one of the main squares in the city with lots of historical buildings on its sides.
-Britney Verona Fountain Located in the middle of the square dates from the 14th century.
-Gardello Tower Built in 1370 in order to give prestige to the city, it became by 1421 the main clock in the city.
-Lamberti’s Tower This bell tower was built in 1463 and is the tallest in Verona. You can go up to the top where you will get the best views over the city. Don’t panic on the 238 steps, there is a lift too.
-Mazzanti Houses You will easily spot which are those buildings as are completely frescoed, with allegories to the Envy, the Ignorance and the Good Governance.
-Palazzo Maffei Built in 1668 in Baroque style, is one of the highlight buildings in the square.
-Casa dei Mercanti The House of the Merchants, currently the seat of the Banca Popolare di Verona is the unmistakably medieval brick building.
- Piazza dei Signori Former centre of power in the city is literally next door to Erbe Square.
-Casa dei Giudici and Palazzo dei Tribunali The Court and Judge’s halls are side by side connected by an arch.
-Palazzo del Podestà Also known as Palazzo del Governo or Governmental Palace, The Arco della Tortura connects the Palazzo del Podestà with the Palazzo dei Tribunali.
-Loggia del Consiglio Built in 1476 by Fra Giocondo, a masterpiece of the Venetian Renaissance and unique in Verona.
- Sant’Anastasia Church Built from 1290–1481 by the Dominicans. Located not far from the Ponte di Pietra on the northern side of the old city centre.
- Castell San Pietro This castle just across the Ponte di Pietra and above the Roman Theatre is a former Austrian barracks dating back to the Austrian occupation of the city, and although you cannot get inside, the views from the hill over the entire old city are a must do.
- Basilica of San Lorenzo Is one of the finest and most important in the city. Built on the site of a Paleochristian church dates from around 1177. Its characteristic architectural feat is the alternating layers of brick and stone, quite typical on the churches in this region. Located to the west side of the old city on Corso Cavour.
- Castelvecchio A 14th century fortified castle located on the west side of the old city, on Corso Cavour near Basilica of San Lorenzo. Most of the buildings host the Art Museum.
- Ponte Scaligero Completed in 1356 it connects the city, next to Castelvecchio, with the northern bank of the river. Cross it for the best views over the castle.
- Basilica of St Zeno Located to the west of the city, some 20 minutes walk from Castelvecchio. Built after the 1117 earthquake in Romanesque style.
- Lake Garda Easily accessible by bus which you can take from the bus stand at the front of Porta Nuova train station is a great day/half day away from the city. Of course if you have a rental car then you will be in heaven for having the chance to stop anywhere you wish and all the beautiful villages along the way. In any case, the main places of interest are Garda, Lasize, Malcesina and Riva del Garda, being this the very last village on the northernmost side of the lake.
Villafranca, also known as Valerio Catullo airport is 12 kilometres from the city centre with frequent buses connecting the airport to the main train station, Porta Nuova every 20 minutes at the cost of 6 Euros for a single ticket.
Reaching Verona by bus or train from other main cities in Italy is quite easy, with short travel times as is for Bologna at 50 minutes, or Venice and Milan at little over 1 hour.
Within the city and around the historical centre there is no need for any public transportation. The city is not big at all and the only best way to visit and explore everything is obviously by walking.
With so much choice in accommodation in the city it will be hard not to find something to suit your needs. Still be aware that during high season prices can really go too much up and vacancies to run out on the better hotels. As usual I would tell you, a good point to start your search is by checking some of our preferred affiliate hotel search engines such as Hotels.com, Booking.com, Expedia, Otel.com, Agoda, Opodo, LateRooms or Ebookers.
Since we visited the city just before the main season started, we found a great deal at the 4* Hotel Fiera. A really nice property although not by the city centre; located on the opposite side of Porta Nuova Train Station but not far from the old city centre if walking, or good bus connections towards the city centre.