A 16th-century scholar once wrote that to know Verona is to love her. In fact, there are many reasons to fall in love with this city once you have got to know her. Her links with Shakespeare's timeless love story of Romeo and Juliet is the prime reason to admire her. As you walk through the streets or underneath the balconies of the houses of the two ill-fated lovers, you can't help feeling passionate emotions yourself. However, Verona is also the city of the
The historic center of Verona is surrounded by walls (around 10 kilometers in length) which were erected on the orders of the Scaligeri. The city is divided into four different zones: the ancient city, with its Roman remains, the Cittadella zone which stretches southwards, San Zeno where you can see the splendid cathedral, and finally the Veronetta with origins in the Early Middle Ages.
Centro storico Every tourist winds up in Piazza Bra. Trains terminate here and cars tend to park around here. Piazza Bra is dominated by the Arena, where it is possible to enjoy opera productions during the summer. It is impossible not to be charmed by the majesty of the Arena, the third-largest remaining Roman amphitheatre. It is also worth noting that in Via Pallone (just outside Piazza Bra), you will find the
Cittadella The economic center of the city lies in Piazza delle Erbe. It is crowded with multi-colored stalls; this is also quite a prestigious area, with its famous shops that face the square (
San Zeno This area is home to the world famous church of San Zeno, you definitely need to visit this quartiere, if only to see the church with its famous porch and triptych by Andrea Mantegna. Returning towards the center, following the Adige river, the
Veronetta This zone faces the left bank of the river; it is here that you will see the Ponte Pietra (stone bridge) and the
This wonderful city located along the Adige River and at the foot of the Lessini Mountains (today a National Park,) has been the site of various human settlements for the past 300,000 years. Early settlers, who began working with materials other than flint, used stone as one of the principle natural resources. They fashioned numerous objects from instruments for use in daily life to religious artifacts.
At the time when the region was first touched by Roman civilization, it was probably inhabited by Celts. The Emperor reinforced the city's defenses with strong city walls. Extraordinary monuments were built and the urban structure began to take shape—it was an interesting mix of the Medieval and modern.
Over the years, Verona became a very important city due to its geographical location (even today, it is an important industrial and commercial gateway to the north of Italy) and its ports provide access to northern Europe. For this reason, it became one of the most highly developed urban centers in Italy.
After the successive barbarian invasions between the 5th and 10th Centuries, Verona was finally made an independent city at the beginning of the 13th Century. After a long struggle against Frederico Barbarossa (also known as "Redbeard" in many mythological traditions), the city came under the rule of the Scala family in 1260. It was the Scala family who transformed it into one of the most important kingdoms of its time. It took in most of the Veneto, as well as the large regions of Emilia and Tuscany and was dotted with magnificent buildings and stunning works of art.
In 1405, it became part of the Venetian Republic. In 1796, it was occupied for six months by Napoleonic troops. By 1801, the French and the Austrians had successfully divided Verona, and it was annexed by the Habsburg Empire in 1814.
During the 19th Century, Verona took on an important administrative and military role. The city's defenses were reorganized and strengthened: Verona became the principle stronghold of the "Quadrilateral" (the other three being Mantua, Peschiera and Legnano) which became the pivotal point of the Lombardy-Veneto defense structure during the War of Independence. The province of Verona officially became part of the Kingdom of Italy in 1866.
There are several artistic spots to visit around the city, the following are a few which are not to be missed: the Piazza dei Signori, which is a truly beautiful sight, flanked by the Palazzo del Comune with its neo-classical façade; the imposing Medieval Torre dei Lamberti (272 feet/83 meters high); the Palazzo Tribunale, or Palazzo del Capitanio, a Scaligieri palace with a characteristically angular tower (the Scaligeri ruled Verona from 1260 to 1387); the Loggia del Consiglio (a splendid example of Veronese Renaissance architecture) and the "Duomo" (cathedral).
This was built in the 12th Cenutry, on the site of an early-Medieval church. It underwent many renovations between the 15th and 16th Centuries. The façade successfully blends Roman and Gothic architectural elements. Its gateway and Roman entrance hall are beautiful. The interior is Gothic and houses many priceless artistic treasures including an altar-piece by Tiziano depicting The Assumption (1535), which is in the first chapel on the left.
The Palazzo Pompei (now home to a museum of natural history) was designed by the architect Michele Sammicheli. In fact, Sammicheli's work is quite visible throughout the city as he was responsible for its complete restructuring.
The Piazza delle Erbe (once the site of an ancient Roman forum) is characterized by monuments dating back to various periods which stand opposite the market. It is also home to the Arena - one of Verona's most famous monuments. It was built in the 1st Century CE and has been expertly preserved, thus making it one of the world's most evocative and important operatic theatres. The interior is elliptical and measures 44.43 x 73.58m (146 x 241 ft).
The Castelvecchio is a splendid example of military architecture. It was built towards the end of the 14th Century, when the nobility began to doubt the allegiance of the city.
Last but not least, is Juliet's House—where Shakespeare's heroine was said to have lived. It is now a place of pilgrimage for many star-crossed lovers.
The first problem any visitor to Verona is faced with is where to stay. This will depend on a number of factors including the beauty and location of the hotel, how much it costs, etc.
Città antica The city center is full of all different kinds of hotels. A good place to start is from that famous symbol of Verona: the Arena. On the Via Tre Marchetti, right in front of the colossal monument, stands the Giulietta e Romeo. Although it is not extremely large, it has a conference room that can be used for business meetings. There is a second hotel on the same street: the Milano, which offers fewer services, but is cheaper. On the other side of the Arena, on the Vicolo Listone, stands the Torcolo which enjoys an excellent location. The Cavour is on the Vicolo Chiodo. Moving away from the Arena and heading towards the centrally located Piazza delle Erbe, you will find the extremely elegant Accademia on the Via Scala, reserved for a very discerning clientele. Still more luxurious is the Gabbia d'Oro in Corso Porta Borsari, which is probably the most beautiful hotel in the city. Halfway between the two—both in terms of quality and price—is the Victoria in Via Adua. If, however, you would like to spend a little less, and would be happy with a less ostentatious hotel, the Touring is ideal: it is extremely close to the Piazza delle Erbe and offers an excellent selection of services, at a price which is still fairly high, but considerably more affordable than the others. Finally, if you leave the Piazza delle Erbe, and walk away from the Arena, you will get to the Piazza Sant'Anastasia. This is where the Due Torri Baglioni is located.
Cittadella On the outskirts of the Città antica is the area known as Cittadella, which is where you will also find the Grand Hotel and the Firenze, both of which are situated on the Corso Porta Nuova. Although these are situated in very close proximity to each other, the difference between them lies in the services offered. The former is in a superior category—with obvious consequences in relation to both services offered and prices. The Mastino is situated on the same street. It is a small hotel with only 33 rooms, but still offers a pleasant stay. All of these establishments offer breakfast for its guests.
Borgo Milano One of the easiest ways to get to Verona is by train, so the Porta Nuova Station would make a good point of departure. A stone's throw from here stands the Novo Hotel Rossi which is very good value for the money. For example, if you are a football fan wishing to catch a Series A match while in Verona, the Leopardi and the San Marco hotels are both near the football stadium. They both have a fair-sized meeting room, with adequate amenities. If looking for somewhere a bit more secluded, there is the Montresor Hotel Palace in Via Luigi Galvani.
Borgo Roma Before returning towards the more central tourist areas, it is important to point out several other places that may be of interest. If, however you wish to stay somewhere a little more secluded, you could try the Sud Point, in Via Enrico Fermi.
Depending on your tastes and where you like to go, Verona and its surrounding areas have a lot to offer: there are large establishments who go all out to be worthy of their stars, forks or chefs hats; there are traditional eateries, sometimes located in the heart of the countryside, and finally there are restaurants located in Garda where first-class produce is at hand to make sublime dishes.
Città antica If you are looking for major names and don't mind splashing out then head for Arche in Verona, where the fish dishes on offer are worth dying for! Or you could visit Desco (to try the veal and ginger with leeks and fried sage).
San Michele Extra The Milio which is in Verona and just outside the central section of the city, does wonderful fish dishes and after dinner relax under the beautiful pergola, diners will often come here to smoke after their meal. With this in mind, the restaurant has a Cuban cigar list as well as a list of spirits.
East of Verona Even traditional Veronese cuisine can offer up some interesting surprises, for instance, it is not unusual to see horse meat. If seeing horse on the menu, (maybe in pastissada) is a bit of a "rediscovery" a dish containing donkey will definitely be a new experience both as an ingredient in a first course or as the main ingredient in a stracotto (normally a stewed beef dish). Which restaurants can you go, to try traditional fare? Well, the Gabbia d'Oro on Isola della Scala is famous for its risotti, which Tastasal is used to get the correct level of piquancy in salami before they are ready to go on sale. Alpone, in Montecchia di Crosara, makes dolce di tagliatelle (a sweet pasta dish). Bacco d'Oro in Mezzane di Sotto is known for il brasato all'Amarone (donkey braised in the local Amarone wine).
South of Verona Outside the city on Isola Rizza is the wonderful Perbellini, which does everything well, but is legendary when it comes to desserts, especially when they bring in the offelle (traditional sweet biscuits). Coming here is definitely money well-spent; in fact, it's a real investment, given that: the guest (they are not called customers) is treated like a king, the cuisine and the wine cellar bring tears of emotion to the eye, and service is absolutely first-rate. There are also acclaimed dishes at Capucci in Buttapietra; here you can try a traditional dish known as tastasal (a spiced pork mix). While Castello in Valeggio makes torta di grano saraceno (a buckwheat cake) to tempt everyone. If you like to round off your meal with a great dessert (and who doesn't?), go for one at the Pergola di Trevenzuolo they serve i fogassin (dried focaccia), at the Bottega del Vino di Verona they prepare the Scaligera version of the budino diplomatico.
West & Towards Lake Garda Want to try a recipe using asino? Il Ponte in Brentino Belluno is the place to go for stracotto d'asino, or for those who want to be a little more adventurous should try the filetto di struzzo (ostrich fillet) at Tamburino Sardo in Sommacampagna. If you like to indulge in cheese after your meal then il Vèzzena (stored in an ancient cave in barrels) in Sasso di Bovolone. At Pino Due in Garda (also well known for their fish recipes) they serve the traditional recipe for Sanvigilini with shortcrust pastry and raisins., and at Dalla Rosa Alda they have discovered a traditional recipe pissota con l'oio, focaccia cooked in the oven traditional copper receptacles. The riches of Garda include fish (naturally) and also olive oil; the best restaurants actually have a list of different oils for you to choose from. There are also Malga cheeses and truffles from Monte Baldo. The Porticciolo in Lazise does a fritto misto di lago (the choice of fish used in this dish depends upon what the fishermen have caught that morning). In Peschiera del Garda, the Cantinone specializes in trout. If you have never tried couscous, then the Caval in Torri del Benaco offers an intriguing fish and couscous recipe.