“In fair Verona, where we lay our scene…”, writes William Shakespeare in the opening lines of Romeo & Juliet.
These few words and the city’s connection to the timeless tragic love story of Romeo and Juliet have made Verona one of the most visited cities in Italy. But is Verona worth visiting or is it all just a gimmick? Let me tell you, even if you skip over Juliet’s balcony entirely, Verona is 100 percent worth visiting. In fact, so far it is one of my favorite cities in Italy (and that is saying a lot).
I recently watched the Netflix movie Love in the Villa and while I had to roll my eyes at the all-too-obvious rom-com storyline and the obsessive focus of the main character, aptly named Julie, with Romeo and Juliet, I still enjoyed revisiting the streets and scenes of fair Verona. It was very easy to fall for the City of Love and I’m happy to tell you why.
Long before it was known as the City of Love and established as a UNESCO World Heritage Centre, Verona has played an important role in trade, government, and culture. Founded by the Ancient Romans in the 1st century B.C., many Roman structures still remain including the city gate, the Arco dei Gavi, the Ponte Pietra bridge, the Roman theatre, and the Arena.
Walking through the city, you will notice a mix of architectural styles, reflecting the city’s long and rich history, with Roman, Gothic, and Renaissance influences showing in the city’s buildings.
The powerful Scaliger family ruled Verona from the 13th to the 14th centuries and left a lasting impact on the city’s architecture and culture. Today, visitors still visit the family tombs. The city has also been home to a number of famous writers, musicians, and artists over the centuries. The Italian composer Giuseppe Verdi was born in a nearby village and spent much of his career in Verona and the city still holds a reputation as an opera destination.
When it comes to writers, it is likely that William Shakespeare never set foot in Verona, yet his famous romantic tragedy Romeo and Juliet (based on a common local legend) was set in Verona, along with Two Gentlemen of Verona. It can be argued that in modern times, this English writer has made the most impact on the city’s current travel and tourism.
Yet locals hold deep bonds with Dante Alighieri, the poet, and writer of The Divine Comedy. Dante spent seven years in Verona during his exile from Florence as a guest of the powerful Dell Scala family. Dante wrote the De Monarchia and a good chunk of Paradiso while in Verona.
Today, Verona is known as the City of Love, thanks to the legacy of Romeo and Juliet, the city’s ancient Arena, its opera festival, and the great food and wine produced in the region. Read on to see what you should see and do while in Verona.
Getting to Verona
Verona is the in the Veneto region of Northeastern Italy, approximately 1.25 hours west of Venice and 1.75 hours east of Milan. The city is located on the Adige River, which curves around the historic city center with bridges crossing the river to the newer parts of town.
You can easily get to Verona via plane, train, or automobile. While there are no direct flights from the United States to Verona, you can connect through Europe to flights on a variety of carriers including Ryan Air, Easy Jet, British Airways, Aer Lingus, and Lufthansa.
The closest airport is Valerio Catullo (VRN), located less than 7 km from the city. However, you can also fly into Milan, Venice, or even Bologna and easily get to Verona via train. Verona’s Porta Nuova train station is at the crossroads of the Rome to Brenner and Milan to Venice train lines, providing countless options for traveling around Italy. The train station is easy to navigate and not nearly as big as those in Bologna or Milan. Just remember that if you are purchasing a ticket at the train station, you need to validate it before boarding. If you pre-book a specific train with an assigned seat, this isn’t necessary.
Driving in Verona isn’t as challenging as in heavily populated or visited cities like Florence. However, once you arrive at your hotel, you will want to spend your time in town walking from place to place. There are some streets in the historic city center that are pedestrian-only so be sure to check with your hotel if they offer parking and the best way to reach the property.
When I visited, I hired a driver to take me from Milan to Verona, with stops in Bergamo, Brescia, Sirmione, and Borgo sun Mincio before arriving in Verona. You can easily drive yourself, I just preferred the convenience of hiring a driver that could make stops in different places along the way without me needing to find my way to the city center or the best places to park near town. After leaving Verona, I took the train to Bologna, which took about one hour.
Where to Stay in Verona
Verona is a very walkable city and I would recommend staying within a 10-minute walk to Piazza Bra. During my two-night stay in Verona, I stayed at the Hotel Indigo Verona – Grand Hotel des Arts. While not in the heart of the historic center, it was within an easy to both the train station and Piazza Bra, making getting into/out of and around the city very easy. It was also very affordable and offers an optional breakfast and has a hotel lobby bar. While the rooms were cozy, I found it quite pleasant.
Things to do in Verona
While many people visit Verona on a day trip from Venice, I encourage you to stop and stay a while. The city center is compact and charming with clean streets that are easy to navigate. It can get crowded but nothing like Venice or Florence, except perhaps in the courtyard of Juliet’s house at midday. I visited on my own and felt totally safe as a solo female traveler, even at night.
Follow these things to do in Verona and I’m sure you will soon agree that Verona is worth visiting. One of the best ways to see many of these sights and get a feel for the city so that you can explore on your own is through a city highlights walking tour. I had a lovely tour with Silvia from LivTours, who customized a private tour to meet my interests (semi-private, small-group tours are also available).
Tip: if you are going to visit many of Verona’s top attractions, you may want to purchase a Verona Card. This is a combined ticket that gives you access to the main sights of the city including the Arena, Juliet’s House, Castelvecchio, Museo Archeologico, and the Teatro Romano. You can either purchase the 24-hour card or the 48-hour card for just a bit more. It also provides travel on city buses for free.
Check entrance fees for the sights you want to visit to determine your potential savings. Also, if you mainly want to visit churches, there is also a multi-church pass that you can purchase for overall savings on entrance fees.
Also, keep in mind that on the first Sunday of every month many attractions are only 1 euro to enter, so you can expect larger crowds on those days. The other thing to consider is that many monuments and attractions are closed on Mondays, especially from October through May. This is something I wish I knew before visiting on a Monday in October! Luckily there was still plenty to see and do that was open.
Start off exploring the Centro Storico (historic center) of Verona in Piazza Bra. This picturesque square is the hub of the city. In the center of the square, you will find the Brà Fountain and a monument to Vittoria Emanuele II, the first king of Italy.
Surrounding the piazza you will find the city gate, the Arena di Verona Roman amphitheater, the Verona Philharmonic Theatre (home to the Verona Opera Festival), and the City Hall. This is a fun spot to people-watch and soak up the atmosphere.
Arena di Verona
The Arena di Verona is a Roman Amphitheater built in the first half of the 1st century B.C., making it older (although smaller) than the famous Roman Colosseum. The Arena was built between the end of the empire of Augustus and the empire of Claudius to host gladiator shows, struggles with wild animals, and other events that were popular at the time.
Today, musical concerts and opera performances take place in the Arena, with its oval shape providing perfect acoustics. Visitors can also tour the Arena, just keep in mind that from October through May, the Arena is closed on Mondays. It is recommended that you pre-book your entrance ticket to the Arena or sign up for a skip-the-line tour. Sadly, when I visited in October it was on a Monday and the Arena was closed so I could only see it from the outside.
Via Giuseppe Mazzini / Centro Storico
The Piazza Bra and the Arena, I would recommend walking up the pedestrian street of Via Giuseppe Mazzini toward Piazza delle Erbe. This tiled street is lined with designer boutiques and is a main shopping area in Verona. You will also find yummy stops for gelato, like at Grom or Venchi. There is a mix of Italian designers and international brands.
Once you wander off the main route, you will find charming side streets, authentic local restaurants, and beautiful architecture.
Casa di Giulietta
Juliet’s House is one of the most famous and visited attractions in Verona. Casa di Giulietta is located in a medieval palace in Verona off Via Cappello, where the Dal Cappello family probably lived since the 13th century. Legend has identified it as the birthplace of Giulietta Capuleti, protagonist, along with the beloved Romeo Montecchi, of the famous Shakespearean tragedy, Romeo and Juliet.
The balcony where we can imagine Juliet pining over Romeo is actually a reconstruction using marble remains from the fourteenth century. In the courtyard, there is a bronze statue of Juliet, made by Nereo Costantini. You will notice that her right breast has been rubbed to a sheen by visitors wishing for good luck in love.
If you want to visit Juliet’s courtyard and see her balcony, I would suggest getting there early to avoid the crowds. In the tunnel into the courtyard, you will see love notes left on the walls to replace the graffiti visitors used to leave on the walls. There is also a fence with love locks left by visitors and the red mailbox featured in Letters to Juliet, where people from around the world leave letters to “Juliet.” These letters are thoughtfully answered by a group of volunteer women called the “Secretaries of Juliet.”
The Casa di Giulietta Museum is open to visitors that have pre-purchased a ticket online. The Museum is open from 9 am to 7 pm. From October through May, the museum is closed on Mondays. Inside the house, you can see Veronese frescoes and paintings of the nineteenth century depicting some moments of the legend of the two lovers, a desk, from which you can write messages of love for Juliet, furnishings from the time period, and some costumes used in the famous film by Franco Zeffirelli.
Piazza Delle Erbe
Piazza Delle Erbe (Herbs Square) is the oldest piazza in Verona and was the center of commerce, social, and economic life for centuries. Today, there is a market every Monday consisting mainly of souvenirs so the market itself isn’t the attraction, but the buildings around the square are.
In Piazza Delle Erbe you will find the Madonna Verona Fountain. There is also a row of small, narrow but tall buildings on one end that were previously part of the Jewish Ghetto, which was disbanded by Napoleon. At the other end are a series of columns with lions at the top that resemble those in St. Mark’s Square in Venice.
Many of the buildings around the square are still decorated with beautiful frescoes that date back centuries. Looming over the square is the Torre del Lamberti.
Torre dei Lamberti
Standing tall at 84 meters above Piazza Delle Erbe, the Torre dei Lamberti offers 306-degree views of Verona for those that venture to the top. Built in 1172 at the behest of the Lamberti family, the bell tower was added in 1295 with two Rengo bells. It later collapsed after a lightning strike and was rebuilt and completed in 1463, with the clock added in 1798.
You can climb this Veronese landmark, or purchase a ticket to ride the elevator for just a little bit more. It is recommended that you pre-book your tickets, yet visiting in October I had no problem walking in, purchasing a ticket, and waiting less than five minutes for an elevator to the top. You may want to time your visit to the top of the hour in hopes of being at the top when the bells are rung.
Piazza dei Signori
If you follow an archway through the Piazza Delle Erbe, past the Torre dei Lamberti, you will reach another beautiful, and quieter square, Piazza dei Signori. Surrounded by beautiful buildings and cafes, the highlight of this square is the central statue of writer and hometown favorite Dante Alighieri.
If you look closely around this area, you may also find some small carved faces or medallions with open slots. These were actually once mail slots that were used for townspeople to anonymously tattle on those that were committing crimes. Each was set up for a different type of infraction. Kind of fascinating!
Palazzo Della Ragione
Just off the Piazza dei Signore, you will find another courtyard in front of the Palazzo Della Ragione, now home to a modern art gallery. The Mercato Vecchio courtyard is surrounded by a portico with arches supported by rustic ashlar pillars, with stripes of alternating colors of brick and tuff stone.
The main attraction is the Scala Della Ragione, which is a beautiful staircase built from red Veronese marble that makes a beautiful photo backdrop.
Scaliger Family Tombs
Nearby you will also find the Scaliger family tombs. While that may seem a bit dark, it is another example of Verona’s elaborate architecture and the power and wealth of the city’s ruling families.
Chiesa di Santa Anastasia
Located just a short walk from Piazza Delle Erbe and steps from the Adige River near the Ponte Piedra, the Chiesa di Santa Anastasia (Church of Anastasia) is a Dominican church with Gothic architecture that was built in the late 13th century on an older church. The largest religious building in Verona, this church has a majestic apse and a high bell tower all made from red brick.
The facade was never completed, but inside there are many beautiful chapels with a large collection of paintings by famous painters from Verona such as Girolamo dai Libri and Altichiero. St Anastasia’s most famous work of art is the fresco by Pisanello representing St George freeing the Princess, considered a masterpiece of gothic painting. It decorates the arch of the Pellegrini Chapel.
Outside, there is a beautiful little square in front of St. Anastasia, and to the left is the suspended tomb of Guglielmo da Castelbarco, the forerunner of the famous Scala family tombs.
Duomo (Verona Cathedral)
The Verona Cathedral is located near Anastasia and it is easy to visit both within a short time, especially if you get the pass for all of Verona’s churches. If you are limited in time, you can skip this one as it isn’t as impressive as the other two churches that I recommend. The Cathedral of Verona consists of a group of buildings including the Duomo, St. Giovanni in Fonte baptistery of Verona, St. Elena, the Canonical museum, its cloister, the library, the bishop’s residence, and the bell tower.
It was built in the Romanesque style in 1187 but it was restored and enlarged in the gothic style in 1440. Its highlights are the Fresco decorations on the walls are by Falconetto, painted in the sixteenth century, the apse basin decorated with a fresco by Francesco Torbido, and the Our Lady of Assumption painting by Titian.
Chiesa di San Fermo
Of all the churches in Verona, my favorite was Chiesa di San Fermo (although I didn’t get to the Basilica di San Zeno.) While it is a bit more off-the-beaten-path on the banks of the river Adige, near the Porta dei Leoni, the church was built in the 5th century. It is dedicated to the Saints and martyrs, Fermo and Rustico. There is a lower church, but the draw is the upper church, which was completed in 1261.
There are many beautiful frescoes in Chiesa di San Fermo, but what I really loved was the carved wooden ceiling. It is painted with the busts of 416 saints in the arches with vibes of a Nordic grand hall and is an architectural masterpiece.
The Ponte Piedra is a stone arch bridge built by the Romans in 100 B.C. across the Adige River and it is the oldest bridge in Verona. This camel-hump-shaped bridge was nearly destroyed by the Germans in World War II but it was restored in the 1950s. Today, you can walk across this pedestrian bridge to reach the Roman Teatro. From the bridge, you have beautiful views up and down the river of the hills north of the city, and the entire area of Castel San Pietro and the Roman Theater.
The Roman Theatre of Verona (Teatro Romano di Verona) was built towards the end of the 1st century B.C., at the foot of the Hill of St. Peter and overlooking the Adige River. These ancient ruins have been excavated and today you can see the remains of the stage, orchestra, open-air auditorium, and parts of two levels of seating. If you climb up to the overlook at Castel San Pietro, you can see the Teatro from above. When you are visiting Verona, check to see if there are any special events taking place at the Teatro in the summer, such as Shakespeare plays, concerts, or music or dance performances.
Piazzale Castel San Pietro
While you can’t visit the interior of Castel San Pietro, you can see it from the outside and there is also a little cafe on site that makes a nice spot for a coffee or snack. You can view Castel San Pietro from the outside, but the better view is that of the city from the panoramic viewpoint at Piazzale Castel San Pietro.
There are two ways to get there, you can take the Funicular. To reach the funicular station, go to the left after crossing the Ponte Pietra towards via Santo Stefano and the departure station is on the right. A rountrip ticket is 3 euro and a one-way ticket is 2 euro. Alternatively, if you have the energy, it isn’t a bad climb up the stairs to the viewpoint.
Castelvecchio, which means old castle, is a medieval fortress and the most important museum in Verona. Built in the 1300s by the Scaliger family that ruled the city in the Middle Ages, the Castelvecchio Museum houses important mediaeval, renaissance, and modern art collections (up to the 18th century) throughout 29 exhibition halls. A ticket to the museum includes access to the open rooms and the wall walkway.
In addition to the museum, you can walk across the Ponte Scaligero, a reconstructed arched bridge from the 1350s. Next to the museum, you can see the Arco dei Gavi, which is an ancient white-marble arch which was dismantled by the French and later reassembled in 1932.
If the architecture and history doesn’t make you fall in love with Verona, than the food and wine certainly will. The region around Verona produces 15 DOC and 5 DOCG wines. Among the most famous are the Amarone della Valpolicella, Soave, Valdadige, Valpolicella, and Ripasso.
If you have extra time in Verona, you can take a wine tour of the region. However, if you time is limited, you can also arrange a wine tasting at a wine shop in town. I booked a wine tasting through Airbnb Experiences with Bruno of the Baraldi Winery at Via Roma 10, just a few minutes off Piazza Bra. Bruno was so friendly and knowledgeable, spoke excellent English and wasn’t at all pretentious. It was a very relaxed setting in his wine shop and I tried four wines, paired with a selection of meats and cheese over a one-hour period. If you are interested, I’d recommend reaching out to Bruno at Bacco Verona.
If you saw the movie Love in the Villa, you may recall the scene when Charlie fooled Julie into thinking she just ate horse? Well, that isn’t too far off the mark. Many menus in Verona will feature proteins such as horse, donkey, tripe, or a boiled meat feast made up of all sorts of parts I don’t want named. While that is not my cup of tea (I’m a foodie but still a fairly limited palate), I also had some of the best meals of my life in Verona.
Two restaurants that I would highly recommend are:
- Taverna di Via Stella at Via Stella, 5c, 37121 Verona: this small taverna has a wide selection of the meats mentioned above, but they also make an amazing Risotto Amarone, a Veronese specialty. This rich dish is made with at least half a bottle of pricey Amarone wine, so a minimum order of two people is required. That put me in a bit of a pickle as a solo traveler that really wanted to try this dish so I did what any foodie would do and ordered for two — one to eat and one to go and heat up in my hotel room the next day. I’ve since tried to recreate this dish at home but didn’t quite hit the mark so a return trip to Verona is needed just to eat this succulent risotto.
- Osteria da Ugo at Lungadige Cangrande 8, 37126, Verona: this osteria is a bit more upscale but still quite friendly and welcoming, especially when I went for lunch. I stuffed myself with a starter and a primi dish and wish I had a second stomach to fit even more because the food was outstanding. I started with the Piatto Lessino, which consisted of polenta with grilled mushrooms topped with asiago cheese wrapped in crispy broiled speck ham. I could have gone home right there but I had already ordered a second course of gnocchi made from polenta with a gorgonzola sauce. I’m not even typically a gorgonzola fan but it was just the right balance for the gnocchi.
Day Trips from Verona
If you would like to spend a few days in Verona, there are many places that you can do as a day trip nearby. In addition to Venice or the wine tour mentioned above, you can go to:
Sirmione is located at the southern tip of Lake Garda, less than one hour from Verona. There are many options for small group tours to Lake Garda if you don’t have a car. Sirmione is a charming medieval village located on Lake Garda, which is popular with British, German, Italian, and American tourists. I visited Lake Garda after spending a few days on Lake Como and I have to say, I actually prefer Lake Garda. The aqua blue water is just stunning and the town’s cobblestone streets and shops draped in bouganvilla offer instant charm. In addition to taking a boat cruise and exploring town, you can also tour the lakeside Scaligero Castle.
Borgo sul Mincio
Borgo sul Mincio is a teeny, tiny town that is popular with Italians but relatively undiscovered by American tourists. Located less than 40 minutes from Verona, it is easy to visit on a half-day trip. This fairytale-like town is situated on the Mincio River, with a small borgo on one side and a slightly larger town on the other, connected by a pedestrian bridge. In addition to enjoying the atmosphere of the town, you can walk across the Visconti Bridge, watch the swans swimming in the river below Cafe San Marco, toss a coin in a waterwheel that used to power the mills, have lunch at one of the outdoor cafes along the river, walk across the Ponte di Legno Bridge, and walk up to Castello Scaligero, which dates back to the 1300s.
I would recommend spending at least two days in Verona to see all the major attractions. If you stay longer, you will have time for day trips to wineries, Lake Garda, Sirmione, and Borgo sul Mincio. Plus you will have more time to enjoy local food and wine.
Yes, two days in Verona is the perfect amount of time to see all the highlights. Just try to plan your trip so that you aren’t in Verona on a Monday, as many attractions will be closed, at least from October to May.
Yes, Verona is absolutely worth visiting! The city offers so much history, beautiful architecture, great food, and culture. There are special festivals and events held throughout the year, including the Verona Opera Festival, Art Verona, and Christmas Markets around the holidays.
Verona is a very popular tourist destination in Italy, so if you can visit during the shoulder seasons from April-May or September-November, you will still have pleasant weather but fewer crowds. Verona hosts many events and festivals throughout the year that you may want to make note of including:
1. Verona Carnival is one of the oldest carnivals in Europe, known as Bacanal del Gnoco. Taking place in the lead up to Lent, it is still traditional in Verona to eat gnocchi on the last Friday before Lent. If you are in town, in addition to gnocchi you can enjoy the pastries baked for the festival including fritters and galena (thin pieces of fried batter.)
2. February is the most romantic time of the year in Verona with Verona in Love, the event dedicated to lovers from all over the world which is held to mark Valentine’s Day. Businesses across Verona put on special events or offerings like romantic dinners, movies, markets, and musical performances.
3. If you visit Verona for the holidays, Piazza dei Signori (also known as Piazza Dante) and the Courtyard of the Mercato Vecchio, the old market host a Christmas Market from mid-November until 26 December. Also don’t miss the Feast of Saint Lucy, celebrated on 13 December in Piazza Bra.
4. The world-renowned Verona Opera Festival runs from mid-June to early September in the Arena di Verona, which is a stunning setting to see the opera.
5. During the summer, Verona’s Teatro Romano (different than the arena), is also host to many performances including Shakespeare plays, jazz, and dance performances.
6. In September, Verona hosts Tocati, a festival that combines games, watching folk music performances from far-off countries, sampling their food and rediscovering old traditional games.
7. In October, the city hosts ArtVerona, a fair for modern and contemporary art.
It is thought that Romeo and Juliet was based on a local legend, which was written about by many authors before Shakespeare made it famous. It is thought that Shakespeare heard about these star-crossed lovers in Arthur Brooke’s 1562 poem entitled “The Tragical History of Romeo and Juliet”. Prior to Brooke, this story was written about by Italian writers, including Luigi de Porto and Matteo Bandello, who told the story of Romeo and Giuletta and the deadly feud between the families Montecchi and Capelletti. These names are also mentioned in a verse of Dante’s Purgatory. There is also a theory that Shakespeare may have gotten inspiration from a book by Christopher Marlowe.
What we do know is that while Juliet Capulet is a fictional character, “Juliet’s House” in Verona was once inhabited by the Cappello family and dates back to the 13th century.
There is no place quite like Venice so while it is hard to compare Verona and Venice, there are many reasons why I liked Verona better. First, it is not nearly as crowded as Venice, making visiting a much more pleasant experience. Second, while Venice feels so overrun with tourists and souvenir shops, Verona has a more authentic feel and it is easier to get to see the “real” Verona.
While many people come to Verona because of a love for Romeo and Juliet, what makes this fair city special is the long and interesting history, the beautiful architecture, the food, the wine, and the charming and easy to explore streets. You can also find an Ancient Roman Arena (older even than the Colosseum), where you can attend opera performances and other concerts.
Bologna and Verona are only an hour apart by train and it is easy to do both on a trip to Italy. If you have to choose between the two, it would depend on what you are looking for. Bologna is a larger, university city that is bustling and at times, a bit chaotic. But it is known as a food city and attracts foodies from around the world to sample the goods of the Food Valley. Verona is quieter, more charming, and more focused on historical attractions.
Absolutely! I was able to stay in a nice room with a balcony, just a 10 minute walk to Piazza Bra for only $150 per night. This would be much harder to do in Rome. Overall, I found Verona very affordable.
Visiting Italy? Read more:
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- Get itineraries for Rome, Florence, Venice, Bologna, and Milan
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