VERONA: THE CITY OF LOVE
If you want to find out about the things to do and see in Verona, I’ll let the famous writer Charles Dickens speak:
“Pleasant Verona! With its beautiful old palaces, and charming country in the distance, seen from terrace walks, and stately, balustraded galleries. With its Roman gates, still spanning the fair street, and casting, on the sunlight of to-day, the shade of fifteen hundred years ago. With its fast-rushing river, picturesque old bridge, great casteel waving cypresses and prospect so delightfull , and so cheerfull! Pleasant Verona!
In a few words, this incredible giant of literature described all the things that only Verona can give. I guess you would like to know as more as possible about this city… Before I start, did you know that you can travel here from lake garda with our coach guided tour? I am sure you do not want to visit only the touristic places. Don’t worry: this tour is exactly what you need as our local guide will lead you to the most hidden things to see in Verona!
Everytime you visit Verona, you are able to experience something unique. That’s why Verona is considered the first of the cities to visit near Lake Garda. Consequently, this is the reason why our tour leaves from both of the sides of the lake, twice a week!
But now back to my list of things to do and see in Verona. We’re talking about my beloved city. For this reason, I will try to give you a synthetic description, devided in 6 categories to explore during your daytrip to Verona.
There are many reasons why Verona is so special. First of all, because of the international recognition as the one and only city of love in Italy. Of course all credit goes to the brilliant William Shakespeare. He chose Verona as the main setting for his “Romeo and Juliet” play, a tragedy that you certainly know.
If you have decided to visit this city with your sweetheart, there is an incredible number of romantic sceneries and activities. Either for a little day-trip, a romantic weekend or a holiday, Verona will always give you some memories to keep in your heart for life.
NOT ONLY SHAKESPEARE
Verona is also well known in terms of music. We must not forget, of course, that the Opera Festival takes place every year in the Arena di Verona. Interesting to know that the 100th Festival will be organized this 2023! In this program we find Nabucco, Aida, La Traviata, Rigoletto by Giuseppe Verdi, Carmen by Georges Bizet, Il Barbiere di Siviglia di Gioachino Rossini, Tosca and Madama Butterfly di Giacomo Puccini. It is therefore not surprising that this opera festival attracts thousands of passionate people worldwide.
Note: we are an authorized ticket sell point for this Opera Festival and we also organize the Opera transfer to bring you to the opera and take you back to Lake Garda when it finishes.
In addition, many other shows were born in the Arena. Such as the “Festivalbar“, the “Music Awards” but also concerts by, for example, Zucchero or Eros Ramazzotti and many international artists have regularly taken place here. And last but not least, Verona has been declared a UNESCO heritage site since 2000. A city rich in art, history, tradition, culture and flavours: Yes exactly: flavours. You will not only be enchanted by a “love is in the air” feeling. We are still in Italy and so food is one of the main things to taste during your visit! For more info, read our article about local dishes you will only find in Verona.
YOUR PERSONAL GUIDE TO THE THINGS TO DO AND TO SEE IN VERONA:
So, let’s get to the point. Grab a pen and paper and take note of my list of things to do and see in Verona. If you organize well in advance, I think you can manage to visit them all!
1. City center: the Arena, Piazza Bra and Via Mazzini
2. Juliet’s House and Tomb
3. Bridges: Ponte Scaligero and Ponte Pietra
4. Squares: Piazza Erbe, Piazza dei Signori, Cortile Mercato Vecchio
5. Churches: Duomo, San Zeno, San Fermo and Sant’Anastasia
6. Viewpoints: Castel San Pietro and the Sanctuary Madonna di Lourdes
Some of these things to do and see in Verona can be admired for free, for some points of interest you will need an entrance ticket. I already anticipate that the costs in any case are not excessive for these monuments.
1. The Arena, Piazza Bra and Via Mazzini
The Arena di Verona is the symbol of Verona and one of the most important examples of Roman architecture in Italy. This amphitheater is located in the heart of the historic center, and because it is so well preserved, it really gives you a glimpse of the past. Get ready to walk in like a Roman emperor or empress or play the “Gladiator” soundtrack in your head and make your entrance like a true warrior!
Like mentioned before, the Arena is not only the symbol of the city but also of the location of the Opera Festival.
When was the Arena built?
Unfortunately, it hasn’t been found the right answer yet, because of the lack of written sources. Some experts said that the building process has taken place from the I to the III century. Otherwise, the historian Pirro Marconi has suggested about locating that in the I century, at the beginning of Tiberian Era.
The enigma hasn’t been solved yet, but the technical resemblance with the Amphitheatre of Pola suggests that the two belong to the same period. Most of all, the Arena is the best-preserved amphitheater of the entire world. That’s why it is on the top of the list of the things to do and see in Verona.
In fact, the Arena di Verona can be appreciated even admiring it walking around. Outside, especially if you stop in front of the entrance of Via Mazzini, you will notice that once the amphitheater was surrounded by an extra external ring. The rest of this ring has been partially demolished because the city urgently needed a second wall to protect itself and so these stones were needed elsewhere. This happened under the reign of Theodoric (AD 493-526). We call the piece that we still see today Ala; which means “wing”.
It is possible to walk all the way around the Arena and if you are curious to see the inside, you can buy an entrance ticket for €10 also on site. I only advise you to check the opening hours and days online in advance.
One of my greatest passions is going to the arena on a summer night. A gentle evening breeze replaces the heat of the day and long lines of opera fans wait their turn to enter. It is strange to think that, the same kind of lines, where also here to attend gladiator fights…
Anyway, If you decide to treat yourself with a concert or with an Opera show, let me give you some advice. If you are sitting on the bleachers, it is better to bring a pillow with you, as the stonesteps are not that comfortable. If you don’t have one with you, don’t worry. You can also rent one at the entrance.
Among the places to visit during you visit on Lake Garda, Verona is on the top of the list and this is not only thanks the Arena. There are many more interest points to see!
But before continuing, while we are in the area, let me tell you a few words about the square where the Arena is located. Piazza Brà welcomes local inhabitants and international visitors every day. It is the biggest square of the entire Verona, but it hasn’t been always like that! It was about during the VI century that the architect Michele Sanmicheli managed to define the western side.
The name “Piazza Brà” comes from the Italian word “braida”, ancient “breit”, that means “large”. Turning around by 360° you will be able to admire all the things hiding around this square. Starting from “Palazzo Barbieri”, the townhall, let’s turn a little bit on the right. What you are looking at is the marvelous “Palazzo della Gran Guardia”.
On its right side, two arches and an impressive clock. Well, I’m sure you didn’t know that this one is standing there from 1872! Following in that direction, here it is the Liston: it was opened in 1770 and paved in 1782. One of the favorite places to have a walk or have a taste of the traditional cuisine. At the end, there will be the beginning of Via Mazzini. We must not forget that Piazza Brà is a very requested location during the year for a lot of events, especially on Christmas. Some of them are the Saint Lucia markets, the giant comet coming out from the Arena and the International Exhibition of Nativities under the arches.
Before moving on to the other things to do and see in Verona, there is one last thing you should know about this square. It is equipped with several fountains that will give you refreshment on hot days. It may seem strange to some, but it is absolutely forbidden to bathe in the fountain.
The most important street connecting Piazza Brà and Piazza delle Erbe is via Mazzini. Here you’ll find lot ice-cream parlours and mainly luxury shops.
Via Mazzini is a long and narrow street: in the past its original name was Via Nuova. We call it the “shopping street”, connecting Piazza Brà with Piazza delle Erbe. The first part still follows the course of the ancient Roman Decumanus. The second part of this street was added later after the demolition of some medieval buildings that stood there. Once at the end of this street you will find the beautiful Piazza delle Erbe on the left and Via Cappello on the right.
2. Juliet’s House and Tomb
In Via Cappello 23 you will find the second symbol of Verona: Juliet’s House. It is told that this used to be the house where the Capulet family lived. Standing there, the most famous balcony of all the Europe, and maybe of the world as well. This small inner square with the balcony lies hidden behind an iron gate. It is in this same square that you will find a bronze statue of Juliet. Even though, the original one has been moved inside Juliet’s house, people still touch her right breast to bring good luck in your life!
If admiring the Juliet’s Balcony isn’t enough, I suggest you visiting Juliet’s House! A real museum, where Del Cappello Family has lived until the XIII century. Is it just a coincidence that the surname of this family is very similar to the Capulet’s? Who knows, maybe Shakespeare knew perfectly what was happening in Verona at that time, without being there himself … The ticket to visit the house-museum is 6€ per person.
A curiosity: the large gate behind the statue of Juliet is the secondary entrance to the Teatro Nuovo of Verona. The starting point for the itinerant play of Romeo and Juliet, an annual theatrical performance.
“There’s a place in Verona where the broken-hearted send their message to Juliet”. If you are in love with romantic films, you will certainly remember this sentence from the film Letters to Juliet (2010).
How beautiful are hand-written letters… With today’s tecnological devices only a few still write with pen and paper. Luckily this does not apply to Juliet‘s Club!
Every year, thousands and thousands of lovers in the world write to the Shakespearean character. And yes, Juliet’s Club answers to each of them. Anyway, letters aren’t only written by someone with a broken heart! Sometimes they are about the first love, a new relationship, past love stories or to get an advice. And so, I am glad to say that in case of need, the club is ready to give you suggestions and reassurance.
Even though the letters are signed by Juliet, you might ask yourself who has written it? These sweethearts are called Secretaries and they are romantic volunteers with the passion of writing. It doesn’t matter who will be the one answering you, the letter you will receive back will be as lovely as the others.
The club was born in 1972 thanks to a brilliant idea of Giulio Tamassia and a group of both intellectuals and artists. Actually, the first sent letter dates back to 1930. During that year, the keeper of Juliet’s Tomb, Ettore Solimani, began to answer to the tender letters left by the visitors to Juliet. Then, officially, he has been the first Secretary of Juliet.
Currently, this tradition is famous all over the world, thanks to the film Letters to Juliet too. That’s also why Verona has become the city of love.
“’ll bury thee in a triumphant grave… A grave? Oh no! a lantern, slaughter’d youth! (…)For here lies Juliet, and her beauty makes This vault a feasting presence full of light”
– William Shakespeare
The last scene of Shakespeare’s love tragedy takes place around Juliet’s Tombe. Because Julia did not want to be married off to Count Paride, she had drunk an herbal drink to fall into a deep sleep for over forty hours. The next morning everyone thought she had died, and word also reached Romeo who went to her grave and committed suicide. As soon as Juliet woke up, she saw Romeo lying there. Overcome with grief, she takes Romeo’s knife and stabs herself in her heart. Once both families get this message, they are so impressed that they finally end their enmity. At the end love always prevails
The entranceticket has a price of €4,50 per adult but if you already have bought a ticket to enter the house of Juliet you do not have to pay an additional entrance fee.
In this same location, it is also possible to visit the Museum of Frescoes dedicated to the 19th century historian and art critic Giovanni Battista Cavalcaselle. In addition to his works, it is also possible to see the frescoes recovered from the Grotta dei Santi Nazaro e Celso, one of the most antique chapels of this area.
3. The bridges: Ponte Scaligero and Ponte Pietra
If we look at the map of Verona, we see that the city is crossed by the river Adige. For this reason I have also included the two most beautiful bridges in my list things to do and see in Verona.
PONTE SCALIGERO AND CASTELVECCHIO
This magnificent crenelated – three arches bridge upon the river starts from the keep tower, located in the center of the medieval fortress. Unluckily, the Germans have bombed the ancient bridge, during the Second World War in 1945. After that, thankfully, the bridge has been rebuilt using only the original stones, recovered from the river.
Castelvecchio is the medieval fortress, wanted by the prince Cangrande della Scala II, it is now recognized as another important symbol of Verona. The castle’s name was originally “Castello di San Martino in Aquaro”. Then, when Visconti built Castle of San Pietro, they gave to Castelvecchio the name it has today.
Nowadays the castle hosts the Civic Museum of Verona, exhibiting wonderful pieces of medieval, renaissance and modern art. Here, you will visit 29 halls, about 622 works of art, closets and photo libraries, and maybe some temporary exhibitions. If you are interested to visit this Museum the entrance ticket is €7,-.
PONTE PIETRA AND THE ROMAN THEATRE
The second bridge you surely will see during your visit is called “Ponte Pietra”, built by Romans in the I century. The bridge was originally called in latin Pons Lapideus.
Due to several damages, the two arches on the right were rebuilt in the Scaligeri period with bricks. The same for the central arch in 1500. Unfortunately also this bridge was bombed during the Second World War and only the left arch was saved. The city tried to recover some parts but most of them were too damaged to be used. In the end, thanks to a great cooperation, the bridge was entirely rebuilt, respecting each past Age: the Roman, the Medieval and the Venetian.
Today, you can cross Ponte Pietra on foot, from there, you can enjoy an amazing panoramic view of the river. You may also spot the Castle of San Pietro and the fascinating Roman Theatre.
Dating back to the end of the I century, the Roman Theatre is one of the biggest ancient theatres in North Italy. The building process followed an old Greek technique, using the natural slope of San Pietro Hill. During the Roman period, there were several rules for the urban planning. Time after time, those rules passed, and the theatre made space for houses, a church and even a convent.
Thanks to doctor Andrea Monga, fond of archeology, the theatre has been brought to light again, even if it took several efforts and attempts. It was decided to keep only the Church of San Siro and Libera. A little bit on the left, you will be able to find the Convent of Gesuiti, overlooking the theatre. Inside the convent, there is the Archeological Museum, with artifacts discovered thanks to the excavations.
If you decide to visit the Teatro Romano during the summer, you also have the possibility of doing so by booking one of the numerous concerts or theatrical shows that are organised here.
4. The squares: Piazza Erbe, Piazza dei Signori, Cortile Mercato Vecchio
Piazza delle Erbe is the ancient Roman Forum: it has always been a meeting place for the inhabitants. Anyone coming to Verona, certainly can agree that this square has to be on your list of things to visit in this city. Infact, it is a fixed stop in every guided visit in Verona, included the guided tour during our Verona coach trip.
Let’s talk a little bit about its history. Most know about the typical Roman urban pattern… In case you don’t, you just have know that they used to build a city on a square plan, surrounded by walls. The Roman planimetry was then characterized by both perpendicular and parallel roads, in a regular way. We know that Verona had two main roads, named Cardo Massimo and Decumano Massimo, crossing exactly at the centre of the citycentre; also known as Forum.
The Forum was the real heart of society and the most important square in which market exchanges took place and religious ceremonies. Even if 2000 years have passed the Forum is still standing there… Today it is known as Piazza delle Erbe.
The special thing about Verona are the archaeological finds that can be found nearly everywhere, 3 meters below street level. In the cellars of a famous restaurant overlooking this square, you can find the foundations and some columns of an ancient temple. Under another prestigious café, instead, you can see the remains of a church, a Roman paved road and the foundations of an early-medieval tower. But there are many other things hidden under the surface!
PIAZZA DEI SIGNORI
Two squares, near to each other: how is it possible that they have so many differences? If Piazza delle Erbe is typically Italian, Piazza dei Signori is a very different kind of square. Harmonious, aristocratic and quiet. The name of the square derives from the Lords of Verona: in the Middle Age, their court was hosted inside Piazza dei Signori.
Piazza dei Signori is easy to reach. You have just to move away from Piazza delle Erbe, walking through the arch called “Arco della Costa”. The arch is located between the thirteen – century palace, the townhall, and the Domus Nova. On the other hand, another option could be walk along a little alley, crossing the space between Case Mazzanti. By entering the square from Via della Costa, you will find, on the right, the ancient “Palazzo della Ragione” and the Scaliger “Palazzo di Cansignorio”.
At the bottom of the square, there is a special monument, dedicated to Dante Alighieri. It was built in 1865 to celebrate the sixth centenary of the poet’s birth. Why has been the statue located here? When Dante was exiled from his Florence, he was gently hosted in Verona. The beautiful statue is made of marble and is three meters high!
Near Palazzo di Cansignorio, you can spot the small Church of Santa Maria Antica. This Romanic religious place was particularly loved by Della Scala family. Inside this church, there is the sarcophagus of Cangrande della Scala, a powerful member of the dynasty.
Near to an iron gate, there’s one of the most suggestive sites of the city: the Scaliger Arches. The site is a small private cemetery, as scenic as monumental, preserving the first Signori’s graves of Verona. Among them, there are also the monumental tombs of Cangrande, Mastino II and Cansignorio; with their sculpture picturing them on a horse.
CORTILE MERCATO VECCHIO
Among the things to do and see in Verona, don’t miss the Palazzo della Ragione, currently a museum. Built in the 12th century, this building is where the city’s magistrates used to work. The courtyard of this building is called Cortile del Mercato Vecchio where the city market took place.
Here you will also find the marble staircase “Scala della Ragione” with the entrance to the highest tower in the city: Torre dei Lamberti. The tower is named after the powerful Lamberti family who built it.
To admire the view that this 84-meter-high tower offers, you can walk up, but if you have difficulty walking, you can also take the elevator! The price per person is 8€.
5. The churches: Duomo, San Zeno and Sant’Anastasia
THE DUOMO OF VERONA
The Duomo of Verona is the most beautiful church of Verona. Extremely harmonious and much higher then the other surrounding buildings. It was built on an older Paleochristian Basilique. In 1187 it was sanctified by Papa Urbano II, and dedicated to Santa Maria Assunta. The Duomo is absolutely a must among the things to do and to see in Verona.
Over the centuries the Duomo of Verona has been subjected to multiple interventions, to increase and improve the forms of the structure. Towards the middle of the fifteenth century the church was enlarged vertically, raising the naves, and inserting late Gothic elements on the facade. In 1880 the floor was replaced with the marble that we see today and it was only in 1913 that the bell tower was completed.
The facade, divided into three parts by the triangular buttresses, is a fusion of Gothic and Romanesque style: a colorful architecture dominated by the magnificent prothyrum; the large portico, on two floors. Both porticos are supported by pillars, the front of which has an elegant spiral shape.
If you will decide to walk inside, you will surely be amazed by the high vaults supported by super tall pillars. This “slender” appearance is typical of the 15th-century Gothic architecture and remains special to look at. However, the touch of Renaissance style was added at the beginning of the 16th century by the painter and architect Giovanni Maria Falconetto.
SAN ZENO CHURCH
The Basilica of San Zeno is dedicated to the eighth bishop of Verona, San Zeno, also patron of the city. Local people celebrate this saint, of African origin, because of his many miracles and success in converting a large number of veronese people to the Christian Religion.
The large round rose window on the facade is certainly what distinguishes this church from the others. Designed by Brioloto, it is decorated with six statues that depict moments that each of us can empathize with. The man on the throne, who then falls, is crushed by misfortune, and recovers and rises again, creating the Wheel of Fortune.
Otherwise, besides the rose, I will tell you another typical thing of this church: the three levels division. The crypt is located below, under the first parish church; then, at the top, there is the presbytery. Two splendid marble stairs will take you there. Then, you will find the most interesting art works inside the major apse… A wonderful Trittico of Mantegna and the giant marble statue of San Zeno, dating to the XIII century.
The largest church in Verona is located in a small square at the end of the medieval main street with the same name. Do you want to know which religious site in Verona I am talking about? Everything important about this place in the following lines!
At the end of the ancient Roman via dei sepolcri you can admire the great medieval basilica of Santa Anastasia. It is an indispensable stop during a city tour in Verona, as it is not only the largest church in the city, but also the most significant Gothic monument.
Built in 1290 and consecrated in 1471, this basilica has a beautiful terracotta facade and is divided vertically into three parts that correspond to the internal naves. When you look at it, you are immediately enchanted by the beautifully finished portal decorated with paintings and sculptures, by the pointed arches and the marble pillars.
This church is fascinating both inside as outside. The building is structured in three naves, divided by twelve columns made with red and white marble. These ones are also decorated with flourish capitals. Most of all, here you will find a lot of inestimable art works. Among them, the famous and spectacular masterpiece of Pisanello: the fresco of “San Giorgio and the Princess“. Spot it inside the Pellegrini Chapel. Certainly, this is one of his best representation, of a fairy-tale chivalrous world.
6. VIEWPOINTS IN VERONA
To complete a city trip, I always look for viewpoints myself and that is why I would like to give a short overview of this as well. There are actually two of them and I hope you will have time to visit them! The perfect places to view Verona and the Adige river from above, to relax and especially to take a lot of beautiful photos to stick in your holiday album.
CASTEL SAN PIETRO
The first, in my opinion, is one of the most beautiful viewpoints and is called Castel San Pietro. The hill on which this building stands has been inhabited since ancient times. During Roman times there was a temple with the theater below that we can still admire today: Il Teatro Romano. This theater is still used for numerous shows during the summer! In the Middle Ages, the temple was replaced with a defensive castrum, wanted by Berengar of Fiuli, king of Italy (888-924). But only built around 1393 by order of Gian Galeazzo Visconti.
When Verona became part of the Serenissima Repubblica di Venezia, this castle was used as the residence of the military commander. The castle was partially destroyed by Napoleon’s troops in the early 19th century. Around the middle of the 19th century, it was rebuilt as a military barrack by order of Josef Radetzky.
Thanks to its elevated position, you can enjoy a beautiful view of Verona. On the clearest days you can see the Arena, Castelvecchio and all the bell towers of the churches. At your feet you will be able to observe the course of the river Adige and if you stay very quiet you can even hear the current from above!
This is also a nice place to visit in Verona during the evening. Especially during the nights of the shooting stars in the period of San Lorenzo (the nights around August 10th) this is really the place to be to give everyone the chance to make a wish!
How to reach Castel San Pietro
This panoramic point of Verona can be reached in various ways:
- On foot: You will have to cross Ponte Pietra, cross the road, and turn left at the traffic lights where you’ll see stairs in a small alleyway. You will have to fatique a little, but I assure you that you will not even notice the steps in front of you. Infact, you will be too busy admiring the view. However, if you need to freshen up once you arrive, there will be a bar and restaurant waiting for you.
- By funicular: Open from 10.30 a.m. to 09.30 p.m. in the summer and until 05.30 p.m. in the winter. For residents the cost is €1, for non-residents €3 one way or €5 return. The funicular starts from Piazzetta Santo Stefano.
- By car: If it gets too hot or if you can’t walk there for other reasons, don’t worry. Passing through the Torricelle, the gentle hills that embrace Verona, you will get there in the blink of an eye.
- If you don’t have your own car and wish to arrive here quickly, I suggest you contact Taxi & Autoblu of Verona.
SANCTUARY OF MADONNA DI LOURDES
The other viewpoint to visit is located in the Sanctuary of Madonna di Lourdes. This massive sanctuary stands on the San Leonardo Hill: here, a secret story is waiting to be heard… Dating back to 1838, on the top of the hill there was the fort of San Leonardo, built by Massimiliano of Austria. At the beginning, the sanctuary was a part of the “Stimate” complex, in the Cittadella area. Until it collapsed because of a bomb, in April of 1945.
The Virgin Mary Statue, miraculously, remained unharmed: this is why it was decided to turn the fort into a sanctuary. This sanctuary is beautiful both inside as outside. Standing on its balcony you are able to enjoy yet another beautiful view!
Verona, a city near Lake Garda, is not only the setting for Romeo and Juliet’s story. In the next few lines I will tell you about a leggend only known by locals.
It is about a miraculous healing that took place in this sanctuary. It is said that a woman who suffered from a serious bone disease, drew water from the fountain of the new shrine every day and regularly prayed here for healing. One morning her physical condition got worse. As a last wish before her death, she wanted the bishop to bless her during mass. Her request was accepted and during this liturgical service she prayed very deeply. Just a few moments later all the pain disappeared, and she was completely healed!
How to reach Madonna di Lourdes
The Sanctuary is located on the hills north-west of Verona; in Viale dei Colli 27. The building is very recognizable from the whole city, reachable on foot and by car.
- If you don’t mind taking a walk, I suggest you reach the sanctuary on foot starting from Ponte Pietra. Most of the trail will be uphill but it only takes about 25 minutes (normal pace). The panoramic square is open until 19.00.
- By car, it is about 4 km from the historic centre.
- With ATV Verona city buses.
- Or you can call a cab; Taxi & Autoblu Verona
Small note: Not far away, you find one of the most renowned and well-known lounge bars in the city: AMEN Panoramic Bar & Food. Whether it’s for an aperitif before dinner or a cocktail in the evening during a DJ-set. You will certainly not be disappointed.