Fall in love with the romantic sights and relaxed Italian atmosphere, and even squeeze in a night at the opera, all in a day in Verona. It’s easy to reach by bus or guided excursion from Lake Garda.
Paris and Venice may be considered the world’s most romantic cities, but Shakespeare found his setting of true love to be Verona. Even from a bird’s-eye view, the river and city walls form an almost perfect heart shape.
Piazzale Castel San Pietro
Begin with a trip up to the impressive viewpoint at Piazzale Castel San Pietro (pictured above). You can choose the 7-minute walk up the steep steps, or jump on the handy funicular for more time at the top. Take in the remarkable views across the city, dotted with bell towers, and spot four of the bridges that cross the Adige River into the city. The Roman Ponte Pietra is the oldest bridge in Verona. Completed in 100 BC, it gave access to the Roman theatre, which you’ll spot on the hillside just below the Piazzale Castel San Pietro. Heading up earlier in the day will not only give you a clearer view over the city, the walk will be cooler too.
After crossing the Ponte Pietra, you’re in the world of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. This is never truer than when in Juliet’s courtyard, looking up at the 14th-century stone balcony. You can stand in the footsteps of the young Capulet daughter herself, and imagine her looking down on her Romeo. The bronze statue standing in the courtyard is something of a good luck charm. It’s said that by touching its shiny arm and chest, you’ll be brought eternal fortune, luck and love. And if you attach a love lock onto the ornamental gates, you’ll find everlasting love.
Piazza delle Erbe
Spend an hour or two exploring the collection of pretty courtyards and delightful piazzas of the area. Piazza dei Signori, the courtyard of Torre dei Lamberti, and the Roman forum of Piazza delle Erbe are each surrounded by ornately decorated buildings, balconies and monuments. Originally a bustling Roman marketplace, Piazza delle Erbe was surrounded by official buildings, many with original fresco decorations, including the original town hall. It’s still a marketplace today, and is where many locals and visitors gather in the restaurants, bars and coffee shops that line the square.
For a view of the piazza from above, head up the Torre dei Lamberti. At 84m high, it’s the tallest building in Verona and rises high above Piazza delle Erbe. Get to the top via the 368 steps, or there’s a lift to take you most of the way up.
Via Giuseppe Mazzini
From the history of Piazza delle Erbe to the glitz and glam of Via Giuseppe Mazzini. Named in 1907 after the 19th century activist responsible for the unification of Italy, Via Mazzini is now the most popular shopping street of Verona. Shiny marbled walkways and sparkling shop windows line the way between Piazza delle Erbe and Piazza Bra. On this busy, pedestrianised street, you’ll find all major Italian designers. From the high-end Versace, Dolce & Gabbana and Louis Vuitton to the more affordable Sisley and United Colors of Benetton. Splash the cash and treat yourself in true Italian style.
Piazza Bra and the Verona Arena
As the largest piazza in the city, Piazza Bra is bordered by bars, cafés, restaurants and grand buildings and is the hub of the city’s energetic atmosphere. Central gardens with fountains and monuments are surrounded by Verona’s town hall, Palazzo Barbieri, the Palazzo della Gran Guardia – built over nearly 200 years as a shelter for troops, and of course, the Verona Arena – one of the best preserved amphitheatres in the world. Built in the first century, the Arena could take 30,000 spectators of Roman celebrations and public games known as Ludi.
Experience the Opera
Now the Arena is more commonly used for concerts, festivals and its world-renowned opera. Famous performances of Carmen, Aida, Turandot and Nabucco take place throughout the summer months, and it’s best to book tickets in advance. Seating can be on the arena floor or up the ancient stone steps. These unnumbered step seats, while sometimes further from the stage, create an incredible atmosphere during every performance. Picnics and drinks are permitted to really complete the evening. At the beginning of performances everyone is invited to light a candle, and the view across the Arena at this moment makes a beautiful end to your day in this romantic city.