My guide to Verona, a city to explore by foot and take in the historical treasures.
My First Trip To Verona
Late last year we visited Verona for the first time, as Mario’s family is from the city (can you half tell by his name?!). Whilst both of us had spent a fair amount of time in Italy, neither of us had made it out to Verona. Despite it only being a train ride from Venice and a short enough drive from Lake Garda.
Where To Stay:
Since we stayed with Mario’s family, I didn’t investigate any hotels or accomodation that I can recommend. Though, if I had needed to, I liked the look of this one, Byblos Art Hotel. That is by far the most interesting hotel I spotted in my online search (how quirky!).
We were lucky to have Mario’s family to guide us through the city. So we got to see the best spots and get a little insider local knowledge of where to eat.
START WITH A STROLL
The number one tip with European city travel:
When first arriving in the city- walk! This slow wandering of the streets is a great idea. You can get a feel for the town, it’s people, suss out some good food and make a note of which buildings to explore fully the next day.
Arriving by train to Verona from Milano, we met Mario’s Cousin at the main train station and drove out to their apartment just outside of the city, a short bus ride away. On our first night, we were given a short tour of the historic centre. The city was buzzing with locals as the sun set.
What to see in Verona on the first night:
The shopping in Verona looked pretty darn good to me- but I resisted checking out yet another Cos store and instead window shopped to my imagination’s content!
Pictured here you can see me wandering through the Piazza delle Erbe. A square lined with cafes, restaurants and stores inside some of the most beautiful buildings in the city. The buzzing Piazza opens up as a market, around its water fountain and held much of the cities atmosphere. Live music drifted around while friends laughed over their meals in the restaurants spilling onto the square. One of the cool sites to spot is the monumental arch known as the Arco della Costa which is hung with a whale’s rib.
We don’t exactly see things like that hung in public squares in Australia, so I thought it was pretty neat.
What you think you should see in Verona (but could skip!):
We ducked into the courtyard of Casa di Giulietta, famed of course for being ‘the’ balcony from Romeo and Juliette. Honestly the whole site was an example of tourist fodder if I ever saw one. The characters were fictitious but this does not stop thousands of people from visiting and snapping up all sorts of souvenirs. At the time of day that we wandered into the courtyard it was relatively quiet. Just one busload of tourists were finishing up their selfies but I hear that most of the time it is jam-packed.
THE VERONA CARD
We were lucky that Mario’s cousin was kind enough to take a day off to show us around the town. He had organised us all to have Verona Cards. A MUST have for all day access to the cities top sights and historic buildings. With the card you have access to places without having to pay entry fees again and again. In addition it gives you free city bus travel for the day so you can get around easily. The cards can either be valid for 24 hours or 48, depending on how long you have and how much you want to fit into a day. They are € 18.00 for 24 hours or € 22.00 for 48 hours. You get access to:
- Lamberti Tower
- Juliet’s House
- Juliet’s Tomb and Fresos Museum “G.B. Cavalcaselle”
- Roman Theatre *
- Lapidary Inscriptions Museum *
- Castelvecchio and Museum
- Natural History Museum *
- San Zeno Church
- Sant’Anastasia Church
- San Fermo Maggiore Church
- Old Radios Museum
- Centro Internazionale di Fotografia Scavi Scaligeri
- GAM – Modern Art Gallery
We didn’t go to all of these in the one day. Actually looking at the things on the list, there were probably places I would have been a whole lot more interested in visiting. I am really not much of a church person. Visiting most of these main ones was sadly pretty lost on me. I appreciate the architecture, but I had no desire to go into another cathedral or church for the rest of our trip. If you are interested though, Verona is a great place to explore those kinds of buildings.
Given the Verona Card gives access to so many churches, we went into the top five main ones to visit. Pictured are a sample!
Basilica di San Zeno (pictured above) Maggiore Romanesque architecture, the striped brick and stone basilica was built in honour of the city’s patron saint.
The San Fermo Maggiore Church was built in the 11th century. The lower church, with its 4 naves, is Romanesque while the upper Gothic.
Basilica of Sant’Anastasia, a Gothic church constructed between 1290 and 1481. Note outside the unfinished façade with the splendid Gothic portal. See the fresco ceiling.
The Verona Arena is a pretty obvious highlight! Situated in Piazza Brà, the amphitheatre of Verona was built in the first half of the 1st century A.D. (between the end of Augustus‘ reign and the beginning of Claudius). After the Colosseum and the Capuan amphitheatre, the Arena is the third largest of its kind in Italy. For me, I loved the cool feeling of walking into the entrance before making our way out into the main arena in the sun. The climb up to the top of the arena steps to look out over the entire thing was pretty magical. At one point seating 20,000 people, I can only imagine how incredible it must have felt. Unfortunately we didn’t organise ourselves to see one of the many Opera’s and performances held at the Arena, so we have something to look forward to next time.
Carmen, that would be my pick!
My second favourite spot to visit was the Torre Lamberti– a high bell-tower rising above Piazza Erbe and Piazza Signori. You can take the lift for an extra fee or climb the stairs (included in the Verona Card) right up to the top. From the top experience sweeping views over the town and hills- even out as far as the Dolomites. The air up at the top was cool and not a lot of people were up there, so it felt peaceful.
One of the remaining Roman legacies is the picturesque bridge, the Ponte Pietra, ‘Bridge of Stone’. Dating back to the Roman era and partially rebuilt in the Middle Ages, it was destroyed in the Second World War (by retreating German forces). The bridge was later rebuilt with as many of the original materials found in the river. Towns with beautiful bridges always stay in my mind. From Prague to Paris and Lisbon, there is just something about the connectivity and architecture of a bridge that I love.
Giardino Giusti is the one spot that I am totally GUTTED that we missed! I think in a case of blind ‘go with the flow’, I forgot to mention that I am OBSESSED with gardens, so these were not on our list for the day. NOOOOOOO!!! Next time, I will explore these gardens and report back!
The last two main stops we made were the Castle- Vecchio and the Modern Art Museum (located at the bottom of the tower). These were great spots. Actually, some of the best. I love exploring galleries and castles, so this made me happy. Both buildings are some of the most beautiful in the city, I loved walking along the short castle wall.
To end our afternoon we stopped for Gelato in one of the squares overlooking the Porta Leoni open Roman ruins beneath the street level. Sitting in the shade after a long day walking, gelato is your best friend. That night we headed out to a local suburban pizza spot with Mario’s extended family. My recommendations for food would include finding a restaurant that over looks the river, followed by a walk up to the Castel San Pietro just for the view back over the city and bend in the river from the top of the hill.
If you missed my Venice city guide, head back here. I have more of Italy to come over the next couple of weeks, be sure to bookmark and check back in regularly!
Have you been to Verona? Got any food recommendations to share? If you can comment with some below, we would love that! What did you think of Juliet’s House? Did you buy into? Did you go to a HEAP of churches? Or those gardens? I would love to know what the gardens are like!