One cannot think of Verona except as the tragic scenario of the love story of Romeo and Juliet. Shakespeare’s drama has certainly made the fortune of the Venetian city: a good part of the city’s economy is based on this “romantic tourism”, which finds its worthy conclusion under Juliet’s famous balcony.
Yet identifying Verona as the city of Romeo and Juliet has hidden other beauties of this city, not by chance called the “Gateway to Italy”, because it anticipates to those coming from the north, the face, the beauty, the substance of our country.
A concentration of artistic, historical, and cultural testimonies immersed in the evocative atmosphere of alleys and squares completed by the flavors of traditional and local cuisine. If you like to look beyond the famous balcony, we propose a journey through the famous places of Verona, typical flavors, and pleasant entertainment to let you be seduced by a city whose charm will convince you to come back. So here are the 5 things to see in Verona during a weekend or a short holiday.
1. L’Arena di Verona
The Roman Amphitheatre, better known as the “Arena,” is, together with Romeo and Juliet, the symbol that makes Verona famous all over the world, and the first thing that tourists choose to see as soon as they set foot in the city.
Probably built around the 1st century, the Arena, like all amphitheaters, hosted gladiator shows. It was the fourth amphitheater after the Colosseum in Rome, the one in Capua and the one in Milan with a robust and imposing structure with the exterior covered with brick and Veronese stone that create a sparkling chromatic effect. Inside, with the concentric movement of the tiers of steps, it awakens in the spectators a singular impact of majesty. It takes its name from the “rena”, the sand in the central part on which the shows were held. It could accommodate up to 30,000 spectators, leaving ample room for movement for those who performed. The great stage of important musical performances, the Arena continues to preserve its millenary function, even if with less bloody shows!
2.The House of Romeo and Juliet in Verona
Verona is the theatre where the tragic love story of Romeo and Juliet, made immortal by William Shakespeare‘s pen, took place. In a 13th century building located in the historical center,
The Veronese have recognized the house of the Capulets: the legend is linked to reality, finding in its points of reference. A splendid brick-covered facade with a Gothic-style portal leads visitors inside: in the courtyard, you can see a bronze statue of Juliet and the famous balcony that saw the birth of love between the two young people. Juliet’s house is a must, although very touristy, for those who want to discover the places that inspired the love story par excellence. Whether you believe the legend or not, it remains one of the things to see absolutely in Verona. Less fortunate is Romeo’s House, now a private home, not far from the Arche Scaligere.
3. Castelvecchio Verona
Cangrande II della Scala wanted the construction of the Castelvecchio to ensure a fortress against the external dangers that could arrive from the bridge, but also against possible uprisings of the population following the internal struggles of the Scaligera family.
The Scaliger Bridge to which it is connected, in fact, projected the Castle across the river, ensuring an escape route to the countryside. Like the bridge, the Castle lived alternate fortunes. After the fall of the Scaligeri, it was used by the Venetians as a weapons depot and then became a barracks during the French and Austrian domination. The restoration in 1926 removed the military elements and inserted late Gothic and Renaissance references. Castelvecchio has two nuclei: in the one on the right, there are the main courtyard and the parade ground; in the one on the left, there is the Scala palace where the lords lived with a narrower courtyard and a double wall. In the center, the high Tower of the Mastio from which you can access the Ponte Scaligero on the Adige. Today it houses a museum with works of medieval, Renaissance, and modern art. The museum is not very large, but there are at least 20 masterpieces: among them the Holy Family of Mantegna, the Child with a Puppet by Caroto, the Female Portrait by Rubens, The Madonna of the quails attributed to Pisanello, Saint Girolamo penitent by Bellini and many others.
4. Verona Bridges
The Adige river crosses and cuts in two Verona: bridges, therefore, have always played an essential role in the city. Today there are 7 of them that shared the fate of having been destroyed by the retreating Nazis and then rebuilt in the following years.
The oldest of all is the Stone Bridge, dating back to Roman times, which still connects the Roman Theatre with the city center. Luckily the stone blocks and bricks, projected into the river bed by the explosion, were recovered and used to rebuild the bridge very faithful to the original. The other representative bridge is the Scaligero bridge, right in front of Castelvecchio. Built-in the second half of the 14th century with three unequal arches, it suffered the same fate as the Stone Bridge, and like this one rebuilt in 1951 with the original stones and bricks recovered at the bottom of the Adige river.
5. Piazza Dei Signori
The administrative power of Verona has always been concentrated in this beautiful square surrounded by monumental buildings connected by arcades.
In the centre of the square is immediately struck by the large statue of Dante who found refuge in Verona immediately after his exile from Florence. You enter the square from the Arco della Costa and immediately you will find on the left the facade of the Domus Nova. Continuing clockwise, you come to the Loggia del Consiglio and the Palazzo degli Scaligeri, Lords of Verona from 1260 to 1387. Then there is the Palazzo del Capitanio with the corner tower that dominates the square, connected by an arch to the Palazzo della Ragione. The arch leads to the courtyard of the Mercato Vecchio with the splendid Scala della Ragione. From the Lamberti Tower, you can admire a splendid view of the square and the roofs of Verona. Almost in a separate small square is the Church of Santa Maria Antica in whose courtyard the Arche Scaligere rises. The impressive funerary complex is an extraordinary example of Gothic architecture in Italy. The Arche was built to house the remains of some representatives of the della Scala family. Those of Cangrande I, Mastino II, and Cansignorio stand out for their monumentality and decorations.