Feb 19, 2019
Our weekend visit to Verona was amazing to say the least. We got to explore a new part of Italy together and we also got to spend some quality time with old friends who were visiting from Houston. Verona had not been our choice. We actually suggested elsewhere (Perugia), but in the end, their choice of cities was perfect. Here is how to spend a weekend in Verona and our highlights of the best things to do in the pretty and romantic city.
Weekend Guide To Verona Italy:
Getting to Verona from Rome (where we had been visiting Federico’s family and touring) was a breeze for us, You have to love train travel in Europe. There are numerous trains day from the humongous Rome Termini station that connects to other parts of Italy and beyond. We took the Italo high speed train and our journey was just over three hours and cost €24 per person one way. I do believe you get a small discount if it’s a round trip journey but we were continuing on to Milan from Verona.
First impressions of Verona:
Verona is located in the Northeast of Italy and over a quarter million people call it home. The city of Verona is on the Adige river in Veneto and the metropolitan area of Verona has almost a million residents. Way bigger than l thought for sure. The city is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, thanks to the architecture and it is a popular destination, thanks to the romance connection.
Expecting it to be cold and grey, we were pleasantly surprised. Just like in Rome, the skies were blue albeit very cold, but we welcomed it. It gave us a chance to bundle up and experience true winter. It’s hard to convey my feelings about Verona, but one word l would use to describe the city is sophisticated or perhaps classy. I think part of it is that l am used to the Roman accent which is crude compared to the Northern accent in Verona. It’s cleaner and sounds a bit more uppity which translates into your mind elevating it somewhat, unconsciously of course. What is Verona famous for you ask?. The Gentlemen of Verona of course! :-) :-). Oh yeah..and the other one also by Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet. Perhaps you’ve heard of it?
Where to stay in Verona:
True to our budget luxury travel ways, this time we chose to stay at a Verona hotel instead of private accommodation. My reason behind this was that since we were traveling outside of tourist season, the hotel prices would be competitive. After some research, I chose the appropriately named boutique Hotel Verona. A very good choice indeed. The room was big, the bathroom luxurious and it had a big terrace from which to enjoy the views over the city. It was also just a stone’s throw away from the Verona train station. Had we not been saddled with a big checked-in luggage in addition to our carry-on, we would have walked or taken the bus (€1.50) instead of the taxi that cost €12 for a 2 minute ride! We can definitely recommend this hotel. Location was great (Corso Porta Nueva just outside of the old center) as was the free buffet breakfast. We walked everywhere from there. If you prefer a luxury hotel in Verona, we can also recommend the Due Torri Hotel where our friends stayed. A former palace, you can just imagine how elegant and luxurious this five star hotel was. A bit out of our price range though.
Best things to see in Verona:
Top highlights of Verona include:
- Arena di Verona
- Piazza Bra
- Piazza de Signori
- Santa Maria Parish and Cemetery
- Casa dei Giuletta (Juliet’s Balcony)
- Piazza Erbe
- Shopping in the old center
The arena di Verona is one of the best known icons of Verona. Located in Piazza Bra (a 5 minute walk from our hotel), this ancient Roman Ruin was built in 30 AD and could accommodate over 30,000 spectators. Nowadays, the summer of opera occurs there, with at least 4 opera productions taking place, not to mention the famous names that have performed at this Roman Amphitheater. Think Duran Duran, Pink Floyd, KISS and Leonard Cohen. The night view of the Verona arena is pretty cool too. We didn’t tour it since we had just done the Colosseum tour in Rome. Over half a million people per year get to enjoy the arena’s productions.
Piazza Bra or just Bra as the locals call it, is the largest plaza in Verona. Aside from the arena, there are tons of restaurants and cafes. It reminds me being in Bruges as the architecture and looks are quite similar. The Bra garden sits between the arena and the cafes and features a grand fountain (Fountain of the Alps) and a magnificent statue of Victor Emanuel II, the first king of Italy which Federico must have spent at least thirty minutes photographing and wishing he had a different lens :-).
Piazza dei Signori:
This was one of my favorite spots in Verona. A huge statue of Dante the poet, sits right in the center of the square that houses a few palaces (Palazzo Domus Nova and Palazzo della Rangione and other important buildings. Perfect for hanging out, people watching and patronizing some of the outdoor cafes.
Santa Maria Cemetery:
We did skip checking out the interior of this very small church as l have mostly had my fill of them. The cemetery at the back however should not be missed. Just a stone’s throw from the piazza dei Signori, it has the most intricate and beautiful Gothic architecture that is just mind boggling. The church was a private church for the ruling Scaligeri family and the cemetery holds their tombs. There was a private tour being conducted close to me and l was straining to hear :-). Apparently Mastino II poisoned his uncle Mastino I to become the true lord of Verona and made sure the body was not examined. The guide noticed me listening and ushered them away. I was intrigued. Another reason to do a tour if you can :-).
Juliet’s House: (Casa de Julieta)
The most famous house in all of Verona. Palatial and historical beginnings, but now a museum. Your guess is as good as mine as to whether Shakespeare was actually inspired by this kind of cool Gothic style building. Actually, it has never been proven that he actually visited Verona. Nonetheless, the city has embraced this ageless love story of the teenagers and their forbidden love. The balcony was built after the novel and is quite small. We were lucky because the lack of tourists made it possible to get up close without the long waits associated with this iconic place. One is supposed to rub Juliet’s right breast for good luck so you can imagine how much shinier it is. The immediate area is surrounded by little shops selling associated knickknacks, from t-shirts to aprons, candy and even pasta. Hey, I don’t blame them for capitalizing on this. For a romantic comedy, check out “Letters to Juliet” movie. It was actually cute, and that’s coming from me :-).
Constructed during the Scalier dynasty in the middle ages, it is now home to the Castelvecchio Museum with fine art that spans several centuries. Make sure to climb up for stunning views of the city and the Adige river. Had we had more time, I wouldn’t have minded exploring the museum.
The front side of the piazza dei Signori, with the town and judges halls. Numerous Greek gods also make an appearance, as does the St. mark’s Lion which is the symbol of the Republic of Venice. The Madonna Verona statue in the middle of the square dates back to 380 AD. The fountain itself was built in 1368 by Cansignorio della Scala. An open air market filled with stalls selling everything from fresh fruit to pasta to jewelry and handbags. A great place to bargain for your souvenirs of Verona. There are cafes along the side to take it all in.
Shopping in Verona:
The old center is chock full of both high end stores and more reasonably priced ones. Louis Vuitton? check! Cartier, Armani, and the other usual suspects are represented. I added two bags to my collection :-). Meandering around, you’ll even find some old Roman Ruins.
These are just what l consider the most awesome things to see in Verona. There are of course other lovely places including the Romanesque style church at the end of Ponte Navi called the San Fermo Maggiore Complex which holds the relics of two saints, namely Fermo and Rustico (they refused to sacrifice to pagan idols and were martyred. There is also the famous church San Tomaso Becket where a young Mozart, aged 13, performed. The organ that he played on is on display there.
Food in Verona:
Apart from an underwhelming lunch of burger and hot dog in the very touristy section of Verona which ended in one of our classic arguments… :-). I had a raging headache all morning and thought some caffeine would help along with some food, so we kept looking for a place that had Diet Coke and not that awful cough syrup like concoction called Coke Zero ( may God punish whoever invented that crap! :-) ). Finally found one, sat down and he hated the look, the food, everything and l felt it would be awful to get up and leave, so we ordered..and wouldn’t you know it, the menu was old and they only had Zero!!!! After lunch, he gallantly went about the city in search of Diet Coke while l had a lie-down. Other than that, we had amazing food befitting one of the most wonderful cities in Italy. Here are two local places recommended to us by staffers at the hotel which were amazing and we definitely loved. Our last night, we had pizza at this joint that was definitely locals only. The pizza was so good, as was the lasagna but l can’t for the life of me remember the name. If it comes to me, I will update. Federico’s pizza with lard was the bomb!
Ostregheteria Sottoriva 23:
Homey food galore. make sure you have the focacchia and the cold cuts meat were so, so good. Having lived in Spain for a while now, I have had it up to here with ham products but l couldn’t help gorging on this. Every dish we had was fantastic, including the horse meat that is typical of the region (according to our friend Sam, we didn’t try it). Definitely mostly locals and we loved it.
Butcher, Verona Restaurant:
Every single dish was a winner! This place was filled with mostly locals and a handful of tourists. From the name, Lisa had expected sort of like Texas style steak and had initially been disappointed but ended up loving her steak. We were giving complimentary soup appetizers, the most mind boggling, insanely delicious whipped hummus soup! Whipped hummus! who would have thunk it??? We practically licked our bowls.
Should you visit Verona?
My answer would be a definite yes. It’s a lovely city, and yes..romantic. I think the image of the view of the Adige river and castle at night is forever entrenched in my memory. There is so much history and beauty. It lacks the hustle and bustle of bigger cities like Rome and not quite as intense as Venice but that’s a good thing in my opinion. We all very much enjoyed our visit and l would definitely visit again. How long to spend in Verona the city itself? I think 72 hours in Verona would be the perfect amount of time to see and do and of course eat. Verona is also a perfect base. Day trips from Verona to Milan (which our friends did before our arrival) and a day trip from Verona to Lake Garda (which we did and will write about separately) are among other adventures to consider and perhaps make you add an extra day to your Verona travel.
Have you been to Verona or any other cities in Italy? What was your impression and would you recommend visiting Verona to others?