Romeo and Juliet could not have chosen a better setting for their love affair than the lovely town of Verona. And although the city exploits Shakespeare's story all possible (including less tasteful) ways, Verona has more to it than just being this love couple's city.
The beautiful old town is nestled in a bend of the river Adige and you can easily wander here a few days. The heart of the centro storico is the Piazza delle Erbe. In Roman times the Forum used to be here, now there is a daily market being held on the square. Many stalls are focused purely on tourists. In the middle stands a fountain from the fourteenth century and around the square you can see beautiful medieval houses, their ground floor serving as a bar or restaurant.
If you walk southwest from this square you will end up at the Piazza Bra, where the famous amphitheater of Verona is located. This immense Roman theater with seating for over 20,000 people, dates back to the first century and is still in use. During the summer months this is the center of the Opera Festival. It attracts people from all over the world. Not only to enjoy the high quality opera performances, but also the special atmosphere. You are seated in a theater of twenty centuries old!
On the other side of the river, near the Ponte Pietra, is a smaller Roman theater (Teatro Romano). You can enjoy a nice view of the old city center from here. The convent next door, from the fifteenth century, now houses the Archaeological Museum. All kinds of objects that were found during excavations are on display here, including a beautiful bronze head that was found in the Adige River.
If you walk towards the south on this side of the river, you will end up at the Museo Civico di Storia Naturale. Worth the walk, if only for its stunning location: the sixteenth century PalazzoLavezzola-Pompei.
West of the city center you can find the basilica San Zeno Maggiore, dedicated to the patron of Verona. Of this Zeno a statue stands inside the church and you will notice that this saint has a dark complexion. So he was - according to the legend - from Mauritania, in Africa. The Roman church from the twelfth century is also particularly special because of its beautiful wooden doors with bronze details, also from the twelfth century.
Shakespeare probably never set foot in Verona, but the source for his tragedy is an Italian story that is set between two rival families in Verona. The city has keenly embraced the touristic opportunities and so you can buy postcards, pens, mugs, tea towels and more odds and ends with the theme Romeo and Juliet everywhere in Verona. Even a special route has been plotted, which of course runs along the "house of Juliet" (Casa di Giulietta) with its "famous" balcony. A popular attraction, where amorous couples take pictures of each other. The Grave of Juliet is a crypt under the cloister of San Francesco al Corso. In the villa next door marriages are are conducted, and the newlywed couple give each other a kiss at the grave...
For authentic Italian food you should not be on one of the two main squares. Wander around Verona and discover almost hidden restaurants in the alleyways. Where ever it is buzzing around lunch time with Italians, is where the food is the best!
In and around Verona
Verona is set in a stunning region, with in the north rolling hills with vineyards and traditional villages, and Lake Garda to the west of the city.
Wine lovers will want to visit the villages in the valley of Valpolicella. This is the region of recioto, ripasso and amarone wines. Incidentally, this region is not as focussed on wine tourists, so you may need to do a little bit of searching for wineries that have opened their doors. The heart of the region is the town of Negrar, located twelve kilometer from Verona. There are several wine tastings here, but you can of course enjoy a meal at one of the restaurants in town with an excellent glass of the local wine too.
A little further north is the nature reserve Lessinia, a diverse area of forest and grassland, with scattered quiet villages like Bosco Chiesanuova, Erbezzo, Grezzana and Selva di Progno.
Lake Garda lies at just thirty kilometers west of Verona and is easily accessible via the A4 motorway. You will then end up at the south end of the lake, which has a peninsula Sirmione. It is connected to the mainland by a narrow isthmus. The cityscape is dominated by the impressive castle Rocca Scaligera from the thirteenth century. Outside Sirmione, on the tip of the peninsula, you can find Roman remains.
Verona is a popular destination for a city trip and therefore it does not lack accommodation. There is a room for every budget. We do recommend booking your hotel well in advance. This is particularly essential during the yearly Opera Festival, as all hotels in Verona are usually fully booked.
The historical center of the town is forbidden to cars, local destination traffic excepted. There are several possibilities to park in and around the center of Verona. In most cases you have to purchase a ticket in order to park on the street. Those tickets are for sale at newsagents and shops. There are some parking lots and garages too.
Verona's airport is located twelve kilometers southwest of the city center. Verona Villafranca Airport is easily accessible with a rental car. From the city, on the A22 motorway take the exit 'Verona Nord'. From there the route to the airport is signposted.