Drawn to this beautiful city years ago by the story of Shakespeare’s starcrossed lovers, Romeo and Juliet, Verona continues to cast its spell upon thousands of other travelers from across the globe.
POSTED BY PINKY
All right, all right. The story of Romeo and Giulietta may not exactly be real. But by the time the Bard wrote what is probably his most famous tragedy, his version had already been one of several adaptations of previous writings about the real-life feud between 13th century political rivals, the Montecchi and Cappelletti families of Verona. Anglicised (or is it Frenchified?) as the Montagues and the Capulets.
So the feud was real, the love story, not quite.
Plus, I guess we can say Shakespeare borrowed the story from the Italians, as writers of his time were seemingly apt to do. Yes, the Italians and their knack for drama! And I do mean that in the best possible way, of course.
So Why Did We Go to Verona at All?
Reason #1: It was a perfectly convenient stop on our drive from Bergamo to Venice.
Not utterly romantic, I know. But practical. And we wanted to stop somewhere that’s interesting. Its central location in the Veneto region of northern Italy and, therefore, close proximity to several other popular destinations, also make Verona attractive as a base.
But on this visit, we were staying for only one night, so we decided to focus on the city’s old medieval town, where most of the important sights can be found.
Reason #2: The old town is both historic and thoroughly charming.
Though the biggest draw for visitors is undoubtedly Juliet’s balcony, it isn’t the only game in town.
Here’s a Quick Guide for an easy walk (you can reverse the order depending on where you’d like to end) :
- We begin our stroll with a short stop at Casa di Giulietta, believed to have once belonged to the Cappelletti family, as evidenced by the family’s coat-of-arms on the internal archway leading to the courtyard.
The balcony, however, was actually part of an old sarcophagus that was just added here in the early 20th century to keep the fans of Shakespeare’s iconic “balcony scene” happy. (No balcony was ever mentioned in Shakespeare’s play, but an adaptation by a later playwright added it in and the balcony has stayed in all performances of Shakespeare’s original ever since).
You can enter the house and pose for a photo by the balcony, if you wish. You can also skip this stop if you feel it’s all much ado about nothing. Verona would be just as lovely.
- Next, head on over to Piazza delle Erbe, a square that stands as a reminder of Verona’s Roman past when it once functioned as a Forum. Now bustling with lots of shops, cafes and restaurants and still the site of the town’s outdoor market, it gets pretty busy, specially during the summer months.
- And literally towering over the piazza is the Torre dei Lamberti, which you can climb either via stairs or through the 1€ elevator ride to get a lovely view of the city.
- If you have time (or if you find Piazza delle Erbe too busy), behind the tower is another square called Piazza dei Signori, also sometimes called Dante’s Square, a much quieter area that’s lined with shops and restaurants as well. Dante Alighieri is honoured here as he lived in exile in Verona for some time as a guest of the powerful Cangrande I Della Scala.
- A few minutes away is the Arena or Roman Amphitheatre, the largest in northern Italy and is located in the city’s biggest square, Piazza Bra. Concerts and opera performances are held regularly in the Arena, so do check out the schedule.
- Strolling past Ponti del Castelvecchio (or Castelvecchio Bridge) along the banks of the Adige River, we end our walk in the Basilica di San Zeno Maggiore. Built in honour of Verona’s patron saint, this minor basilica is known as a fine example of Romanesque architecture but is possibly more famous for its crypt as the site of the wedding in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet.
We stayed at Hotel de Capuleti close to Piazza Bra and the Arena (and the banks of the Adige as well), which made it right smack in the center of our route. And for a short overnight stay like ours, the ease in which we could get to all the action was key.
Oh, and when eating in Verona, make sure to order a risotto or pasta dish (or any of the many other dishes) with truffle sourced from the nearby hills around Lake Garda in autumn.
Reason #3: And the Biggest Reason of All…
I’m a sucker for a good story. Plain and simple. A love story, you say? Even better.
Fact or fiction, we do know that the story of Romeo and Juliet has pretty much taken a life of its own. It has inspired many to fall in love here, propose marriage and celebrate weddings here. And really, I can think of so many other things that could be worse about a city than one that offers visitors the promise of true love. Till death do us part ….. albeit much, much later after a looong, happy life together, we hope. Because we all know how Shakespeare’s tragedy ended.
So yes, call me cheesy if you like, but I do declare that Verona is worth a stop. For all the reasons stated above.
No tragedy required. Happy ending preferred.
Verona is just slightly over an hour’s drive from Venice and under two hours from Milan.
Dante’s Square Verona Tourism
The Arena Wikimedia Commons
Basilica di San Zeno Verona Tourism