Two travellers, both alike in wanderlust. In fair Verona, where we lay our scene, for a weekend of exploring, eating and shopping. See what I did there?
Ok, so I’m no Shakespeare and truth be told until moving to Padova, I really didn’t know much about the city where Shakespeare’s star-crossed lovers fell in love. But it has since become one of my favourite Italian cities. I feel like I say that a lot, but I genuinely mean it when it comes to Verona.
Often unknown, overlooked or forgotten about when planning a trip to Italy, Verona is perfectly situated for a day trip or stopover in between the likes of Venice and Milan. It’s only an hour and a half by train from both and is a stone’s throw away from the beautiful Lake Garda.
If I’m ever in need of some different scenery or want to get away for the day without actually ‘going away’, Verona is top of my list. Not only is the city itself incredibly charming, but it has a little bit of everything — museums, shopping, ancient ruins and architecture, churches and a killer look out.
How to get there
As mentioned earlier, Verona is only an hour and a half by train from Venice and Milan, both of which have large international airports. Alternatively, if you’re arriving from another European city, it also has a small airport of its own where the likes of Easyjet and Ryan Air fly in and out of.
What to do and see
- Castel San Pietro has the best views of Verona and is free which is always a bonus when travelling. It’s a short walk or drive from the town centre and is just above Ponte Pietra which also happens to be my favourite bridge in Verona.
TIP: Castel San Pietro is best visited on a clear day or around sunset as the golden sky is setting over the terracotta rooftops of the city.
View from Castel San Pietro.
- Situated just below Castel San Pietro is the Roman Theatre and it’s archaeological museum. Not to be confused with the Arena di Verona, this outdoor amphitheatre was built on the hillside giving it a unique view of Verona.
- Arena di Verona or as I like to call it the mini Colosseum, is the star attraction of Verona. Located in Piazza Bra, this first century, ancient Roman structure has been incredibly preserved and is in much better shape than its larger counterpart in Rome. In fact it’s still home to concerts, operas and shows on a regular basis.
TIP: Arena di Verona is also open to the public to explore with visitors having free reign over the entire complex unlike the Colosseum.
Arena di Verona.
- Visit some of the many churches scattered across the city, because after all you are in Italy. And as is the norm in most Italian cities, there are several noteworthy ones including the Duomo or Cathedral of Santa Maria Matricolare, Basilica San Zeno and Basilica San Giorgio.
TIP: Verona’s churches are not only a place of worship and history, but are also home to paintings and frescoes from some of Italy’s most famous painters. You can see Titian at the Duomo and masterpieces by Veronese and Tintoretto at San Giorgio.
- Take a moment to enjoy a spritz or a meal in one of the squares. Piazza delle Erbe for lunch and the daily markets. It’s located in the heart of Verona and is a great starting point for exploring the city. Piazza dei Signori to take in the history and grandeur including the Palace of Scaligeri, the once ruling family of Verona. Piazza Bra for a spritz with a view and people watching.
TIP: If you’re lucky enough to be in Verona at the right time, on occasion its piazza’s are also home to special events like food festivals in Piazza Bra and Christmas markets in Piazza dei Signori.
Piazza delle Erbe.
- Despite it being a fictional tale, Juliet’s balcony and ‘house’ is one of Verona’s most visited sites. Tucked away in a little side alley, if it weren’t for the hoards of crowds you’d probably miss it like I did the first time. The building itself used to belong to the Capello family, and is said to be the real life inspiration for Shakespeare’s Capulet family but given the fact that Shakespeare never even visited Verona, it’s highly unlikely and more a coincidence. The city of Verona bought the house from the Capello family in 20th century and subsequently opened ‘Casa di Giulietta’.
TIP: Brave the crowds and rub Juliet’s breast in order to receive good luck in love.
- Take a stroll on Ponte Pietra for some of the prettiest views in the city. On one side you have the sprawling hillside, home to Castel San Pietro and the Roman Theatre. And, on the other you have a row of the my dream apartments and restaurants.
View from Ponte Pietra of Castel san Pietro & the Roman Theatre.
- If shopping is your thing, head to Via Mazzini. It’s the main, pedestrianised street that connects Piazza delle Erbe with Piazza Bra. Here you’ll find your high street stores like Zara and Bershka and towards the Piazza Bra end your designer brands.
TIP: If you’re really into shopping and have some time to kill, you could also check out Adigeo shopping mall. I may or may not have spent a solid 6 hours there last Thursday and may or may not have spent a lot more than I was expecting. Oops!
- Palazzo Giusti and its gardens is the place to go if you’re in need of a break from all the shopping and city streets. Nestled away just across the river at the foot of the hills, here you’ll find beautifully manicured gardens of what once was the Giusti family home.
TIP: Although, it’s a nice treat all year round, my favourite time to visit the gardens in is Autumn. There’s just something magical about the place when the leaves are changing colours.
- Hire a bike and feel like a local exploring the cobbled streets and alleyways. We did this one afternoon when we had family visiting from Australia and it turned out to the best idea ever. We rode all over the city, starting at the train station, continuing on to Castel San Pietro and finally back in Piazza Bra.
TIP: Verona have a great bike sharing initiative called Verona Bike, where by you can hire bikes for as little as 50 cents. They have stations all over the city for you to return them once you’re done. As I mentioned, we picked ours up at the station and returned them in Piazza Bra.
- Climb Torre dei Lamberti, one of the only remaining towers left from the middle ages for some of the best views of Verona. It’s the large tower you can see from Piazza delle Erbe and Piazza dei Signori.