Verona is one of Northern Italy’s most beautiful small cities and its packed full of awe-inspiring sites and things to do. It’s also consistently underrated and overlooked by travelers, who often skip it to hit Milan or Venice. But their loss is your gain – from the rich culture and beautiful architecture, to intriguing history and unique cuisine, there are so many things to do in Verona is gaining popularity as a base for people who like to spend extended vacations in Italy. Of course it’s also known as one of the most romantic cities in the world due to its association with Romeo and Juliet, but it has inspired more than just Shakespeare; many important people are associated with the town like Goethe who passed through in his travels, Julius Caesar who vacationed here, and Dante who featured it in his works and was even buried here.
What stands out about Verona above all else is its beautifully-preserved ancient, medieval, and Renaissance architecture. The city center alone has probably the best collection of Roman buildings in Northern Italy. This incredible inheritance won it UNESCO World Heritage Site status in 2000 and continues to make it a must-visit for anyone interested in the cultural history of Europe. Its location nestled between the Alps to the north and the banks of Lake Garda to the south also makes it an ideal base to explore the region, especially for families looking for diverse experiences during a long vacation.
Perhaps the most impressive thing to see in Verona is the Coliseum-like Verona Arena. Located in the main square of Verona, Piazza Bra, the arena is a beautifully preserved reminder of Roman rule. Slightly smaller than the Colosseum in Rome, Its construction actually predates the Colosseum by about 50 years, and unlike its more famous cousin, it’s still in regular use.
“O Romeo, Romeo! Wherefore art thou Romeo?” Ah, Shakespeare’s famous, tragic love story. Why am I bringing up an English play write when discussing the best of an Italian city? Because the minute you step foot in Verona, you’ll understand why Shakespeare chose this glorious city as the setting for his masterpiece. Located in Northern Italy, Verona is close enough to Venice that you can make it a day trip, or stop by on your way to or from Venice.
In search of a nice bar, we passed from the Roman to the medieval era, walking through the pedestrian streets inside the walls of the old town. What really hit us was that almost all the area is pedestrian, something that we haven’t seen in any other stops so far and that really made us enjoy the walk. We finally found streets full of people going for shopping, for an ice-cream or chilling at the bars with their Spritz.
While the others were looking at shop I raced ahead to Juliet’s house and balcony, then back to Piazza delle Erbe. This place has always been the heart of Verona: it is the oldest square of the town and lies upon the ruins of the Forum of the Roman town, it’s was the setting for the market and today. We took a while to breathe and continued the tour. We just had to make 20 meters at the back of the House of Municipality to get to another amazing square: Piazza dei Signori, with at its centre the statue of Dante Alighieri. The imposing statue made the Veronese people give the square the name of Piazza Dante. It’s another square built in medieval times and surrounded by monumental buildings. The very curious thing is that each of them is linked to the next through arches. In a corner of the square there’s maybe the most particular monument of Verona: the “Arche Scaligere”, monumental tombs in the open air topped by arches in gothic style. They were considered the most honourable burial for the illustrious lords of the Scaligeri family, who ruled the city in the 14th century.
We then headed back the way we come and had a quick bit and back on the bus. I’d like to return to Verona one day, not just because it’s beautiful, but because I keep trying to imagine the wonder of the opera playing out in the Arena and I simply can’t. I just get the sense that I need to see it and feel it. Even if it does mean having to join the summer crowds.