My relentless pursuit of “off the beaten path” sometimes has me miss out on the most obvious of locations. And the fun discovery of truly making them my own. For example, Puglia is having an international moment right now. I first went there and fell in love with the region about 10 years ago. Luckily, my partner’s pride in both his culture and my work leads me to exploring Northern Italy and sharing it with you! Here’s a quick guide and photo diary to get you started on a great trip to Verona!
Naturally, the first thing you think of when one mentioned Verona is the story of Romeo and Juliet. Shakespeare probably chose the city as the setting for this beautifully tragic play as it was based on an old Italian tale. The Montagues and the Capulets were indeed two real life aristocratic Veronese families.
Whether this is Juliet’s famous balcony is highly unlikely as the balcony was added to this 14th century house in the 20th century, but the backdrop of the city in Franco Zeffirelli’s 1968 Romeo and Juliet highlighted modern day Verona. But the del Capello family did indeed live in the famed site, Casa di Giulietta.
Today hundreds of thousands of tourists flock to Verona annually to see Juliet’s house; many more write letters, from around the world, to the Juliet society. Juliet has become a sort of deity for lovers giving this Italian city the honor of being considered the most romantic in the world.
Now that we’ve gotten all the Shakespeare references out of the way… There’s more to Verona that the star-crossed lovers.
The city is beautifully set on the Adige river connected by many bridges. Two of Verona’s oldest and most characteristic bridges are the Ponte Pietra and the Ponte Scagliero, both destroyed during World War II but rebuilt using the original materials.
Did you know Verona has an arena as well? Not as big as Rome’s Colosseum, but impressive nonetheless. You see Verona’s Arena as soon as you walk through the impressive medieval city gates into the historic center. Be sure to also visit the city’s Roman gates dating from the 1st century AD Porta Borsari.
Like many Italian cities, the architecture is Verona is incredible. Michele dragged me around marveling at Verona’s famed torre built by ancient aristocratic families. My favorite was the Lamberti Tower and it’s brilliant stripes built in 1172.
The wealth of Verona is also seen in its beautiful preserved frescoes throughout the city – you don’t even had to step foot indoor or in a private gallery to have an eyeful! Start at Piazza delle Erbe. You can’t help but to look up! During the Roman Empire, Pizza delle Erbe was a part of the town’s forum. A lively square Piazza delle Erbe is a great place for people watching in one of it’s buzzing cafes and grabbing an apperitivo. It’s also home to the beautiful baroque Palazzo Maffei and the Arco della Costa with it’s hanging whale’s rib. Walk under it if you dare. Legend has it that it will fall on the first just person to walk underneath it. Another must-see Verona piazza is Piazza dei Signori with it’s statue of Dante Alighieri. This square was the former seat of power in Verona for the Scagliere family (rulers of Verona from 13th and 14th century) with its government buildings.
Stunning painted frescos dot the buildings and archways along both of these piazzas.
You know I’m morbidly obsessed with high-design tombs and cemeteries so it was a happy surprise stumbling on the Scagliere Tombs, gorgeous Gothic works. The gate around this tomb is a call to the della Scala family (of the stairs).
Another great church to see Chiesa di Santa Anastasia. But really, get lost in Verona. There’s something really magical in every part of the old city.
Take a great (and a bit exhausting!) walk up to the Castel San Pietro.
I always wonder, if you have a cute house, do you get tired that you can’t just sit in the window without someone coming by to take a photo? I liked how these homeowners handled it, A MIRROR!
As I mentioned in a previous post, Airbnb is offering a stay at Casa di Guilietta and there is a boutique hotel inside the courtyard, Il Sogno Di Giulietta but I absolutely fell in love with this hotel Michele and I stumbled on, Hotel Gabbia D’Oro.
We first went to Verona on a bank holiday weekend so the main shopping street was flooded with visitors. Where you want luxury brands at Al Duca d’Aosta or contemporary brands like Maje, Verona has it. A few side streets had local Veronese shops that I would love to explore more of.
Michele and I often travel for food and Verona was no exception with our initial plan being to go there for a late lunch or early dinner. Ristorante Greppia was on our list, then we hiked up to Re Teodorico near the Castel San Pietro for an apperitivo with a view. BUT, due to it being a bank holiday, many prime dining locations were closed and starving, we ended up having pub food.
Fast forward to the following weekend, after a day at the lakes, we were able to enjoy a true Veronese meal with friends. The evening started as we enjoyed a 5 euro spritz under the colorful frescoes of Casa Mazzanti at Casa Mazzanti Caffé in Piazza Erbe. Then we headed to renowned Antica Bottega del Vino and I tried the classic Verona dish made with Amarone wine, Amarone risotto! It was a delicious distinct taste that I would definitely order again, but very strong and is a sharing dish for me.
I know we’ve only scratched the surface of Verona, but this is more than enough to get you started for a day in the city. Even with the crowds, Verona lives up to its reputation of magic and romance. If you’re in Northern Italy, it’s absolutely worth a day trip!
PHOTOS BY NNEYA RICHARDS & MICHELE SCAGLIONE