“For never was a story of more woe
Than this of Juliet and her Romeo.”
There are a number of theories on why Shakespeare did choose Verona in Italy as the set of the star-crossed lovers story but, it cannot be argued, that the city has a very romantic aura all year long, on a bright summer day as much as on a foggy November evening. There are places waiting to be discovered at every corner, from family run trattorias to piazzas with cafes with tables outside and alleys off the beaten track with colorful houses.
Well served by an International airport and on the main railway line connecting Milan to Venice, the city is best explored on foot; it is a short walk from Porta Nuova railway station to Piazza Bra’. Accessed through a double gate known as Portoni della Bra’ one of the historic gates of the city, Piazza Bra’ is considered the heart of Verona.
Cafes and restaurants line one side of this vast square along the wide sidewalk known locally as “liston” opposite the Arena. One of the best preserved Roman amphitheaters in the world built in the 1st century AD, it is still in use today. In Summer, operas are staged there and international and Italian singers play concerts there too in an atmospheric setting under the stars.
Other famous buildings on the square are Palazzo Barbieri (Verona’s Town Hall) and the Gran Guardia Palace, now a museum.
Piazza Bra’is also the site of the main Christmas celebrations in Verona with a giant star installed in the square and the International Exhibition of Nativity Sets inside the Arena.
It is at this time of year when bakeries and patisseries in the city sell the famous Pandoro, the traditional Christmas cake of Verona. Leading away from Piazza Bra is Via Mazzini the main shopping thoroughfare in the city where all the major Italian designers stores can be found.
At the end of it is Piazza Erbe, a very busy square site of a permanent market selling everything from fruit and vegetables to souvenir snow globes.
On one side of Piazza Erbe is Arco della Costa, an arch with a curious bone-shaped object hanging in the middle of it (a whale or a dragon bone depending which story you believe!). It’s a short walk from there to Piazza dei Signori, also known as Piazza Dante. A statue of the famous Italian poet can be seen on the square together with the statues of other illustrious gentlemen (Signori in Italian).
Palazzo della Ragione facing the square can be accessed through a courtyard where the beautiful Scala della Ragione staircase can be seen. Next to it is the Torre dei Lamberti (Lamberti Tower), the tallest tower in Verona; a lift goes to the top from where views of Verona many monuments and piazzas can be enjoyed.
Back in Piazza Erbe there are two options: walk to Porta Borsari another gate of the city or, follow the hordes of tourists down Via Cappello to the most famous address in town: Juliet’s House.
The walls leading to the small courtyard are covered in graffiti from lovers coming from all over the world declaring their undying love to one another; it is very common to see people proposing to their partners here and newly-weds having their pictures taken.
The main attraction here is the balcony from where allegedly Juliet was calling out to Romeo; to get lucky in love it is customary for visitors to rub the right breast of a bronze statue of Juliet found in a corner of the courtyard.
Fictional or not the star-crossed lovers story lives on and over the years it has been the subject of a number of movies and theater productions.
Verona is also famous for its churches: the Cathedral (Duomo), San Zeno, Santa Anastasia and San Giorgio in Braida to name but a few.
Two castles can also be found in the city: Castelvecchio, now a museum, it is in the city center next to the Ponte Scaligero.
Castel San Pietro is situated on the top of a hill reached by crossing Ponte Pietra, a bridge over the river Adige, and walking up stone steps passing the Roman Theater en route.
It is from this spot that photographers hope to snap a picture perfect view of Verona to take home as a memento of their visit to the city. Although Verona makes a perfect city break destination, a longer stay will give the opportunity to visit a number of locations not too far away like Lake Garda, Venice and Milan.