Verona – city of love and opera
Verona is world famous as the setting for William Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet” tragedy. In addition to being a romantic and fascinating place, Verona has many historical and cultural attractions, such as the Arena, famous for its concerts and operas. Because of its enormous historical and cultural value, the city is a Unesco World Heritage Site.
Piazza Bra is the largest square in Verona, located in the historic centre and embellished with monuments and palaces such as that of the Gran Guardia which hosts conferences and exhibitions, Barbieri Palace, seat of the Town Hall and the Maffeiano Lapidary Museum. All city tours start from here. In the centre of the square there is the Arena and all around cafes and restaurants that make it alive at any time of the day or night.
Symbol of Verona, the Arena is an ancient Roman amphitheater with an elliptical shape built in the 1st century BC with the Valpolicella stone with its typical pink and red shades. It is one of the largest surviving Roman amphitheaters and can accommodate up to 20,000 spectators. While the fights among gladiators and ferocious animals once took place, today it is used for events and concerts.
There is no world without Verona walls,
But purgatory, torture, hell itself.
Hence banishèd is banished from the world,
And world’s exile is death. Then “banishèd”
Is death mistermed. Calling death “banishèd”,
Thou cuttest my head off with a golden axe
And smilest upon the stroke that murders me.
William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet
Considered the shopping street par excellence, Via Mazzini is an important pedestrian path that connects the two most important squares: Piazza Bra and Piazza Erbe. Built in the 14th century, the first part of the street has several points of interest from the Roman era, while the second part was opened after having demolished some buildings from the Middle Ages.
The oldest square in Verona, which rises above the Roman Forum area, is Piazza Erbe, also considered one of the most popular square in the world. In Roman times it was the center of the political and economic life of the city; gradually the Roman buildings were replaced by medieval ones.
On the north side are the Town Hall, the Torre dei Lamberti, the Casa dei Giudici and those of the Mazzanti; on the west side there is Palazzo Maffei adorned with various statues; the north-west side is based on the Campidoglio while on the south side there is the Casa dei Mercanti. In Piazza delle Erbe you will also find the largest open market in the city.
Piazza delle Erbe is located in the historic centre of Verona and today is the hub of the nightlife due to the presence of bars and restaurants.
Very close to Piazza Erbe stands the Torre dei Lamberti which from its 84 meters high dominates the historic centre of Verona offering a magnificent panoramic view. It is possible to reach the panoramic terrace from an entrance located in a corner of the courtyard that gives access to the comfortable and transparent lift or to the 368 steps that run along the internal perimeter.
Also in the historic centre of Verona, a few meters from Piazza Erbe, inside a medieval palace, is the birthplace of Juliet Capulet, one of the most visited places in the city.
On the external walls you can see hundreds of cards and love letters left by lovers from all over the world and inside the courtyard you can admire the balcony where, as legend has it, the lover looked out. Inside the house there is a collection of ceramic household objects from the Middle Ages and the early Veronese Renaissance, and the famous Juliet’s bed created for Franco Zeffirelli’s film (1968) and two stage costumes. Here there is also a bronze statue that portrays Juliet: before leaving, remember to touch her left breast, they say it brings good luck especially in love.
Piazza dei Signori, with the presence of a statue of Dante Alighieri, is another beautiful square located in the historic centre of Verona, near Piazza Erbe. On the sides there are several buildings of considerable importance such as Palazzo della Regione, Palazzo di Cansignorio, Palazzo Podestà, the Loggia del Consiglio and the Church of Santa Maria Antica. During the Christmas period in this square a large illuminated tree and the typical Christmas market are set up.
Deserve a stop also the Arche Scaligere, a Gothic-style funerary complex dedicated to the Scaligeri family who reigned in Verona for a long time. Along the via delle Arche Scaligere you will also find the Romeo’s House, a medieval building that belonged to the Montague family, the building is privately owned and the visit to the internal courtyard is not allowed.
You can then cross the bridges of Verona, which unite the city cut in two by the Adige river. The oldest and perfectly preserved one is the Ponte di Pietra, the only remaining bridge from the Roman era. Near the bridge, stop and visit the Cathedral of Verona. In a small square, in the medieval area of the city, there is in fact this beautiful church that was built on the remains of a previous early Christian basilica. The Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta is part of an architectural complex that also includes the Palazzo del Vescovado, the cloister of the Canons, the baptistery of San Giovanni in Fonte, the Capitular Library and the Church of St. Helen.
The cathedral, built in the 12th century and subsequently restored, has a facade that blends the Romanesque and Gothic styles. Once inside the cathedral you can admire the famous altarpiece with the Assumption by Titian which is located on the altar.
Also worth seeing is Porta Corsari, one of the gates of the Roman walls, which is located at the main entrance of the city, along the road that once connected Aquileia with Genoa. What remains today of the Roman gate is only the facade decorated in white stone, dating back to the 1st century AD. It was near this imposing gate that one of the acts of the tragedy of Romeo and Juliet took place, the famous lovers who belonged to two noble families at war with each other, the Montague and the Capulet. During the Easter festivities, near the Borsari gate, servants of the Capulet family start a fight with Montague family servants. Romeo also arrived on the spot with the intention of putting an end to the fights. Unfortunately the battle ended with the killing of Tybalt, Juliet’s cousin, by Romeo, who was forced to flee from Verona and leave his beloved forever.
The Castelvecchio complex, built in the thirteenth century to be a military fortress and then used, in the fourteenth century, as the residence of the Scaligeri family, is divided into two parts. One houses the main courtyard and the parade ground, while the other houses the palace where the lords lived. Today Castelvecchio is the seat of the Civic Museum which exhibits permanent collections of medieval, Renaissance and modern art. Castelvecchio is one of the most beautiful medieval castles in Italy, thanks also to the panorama that can be enjoyed from its external walkways.
Do not miss the bridge that crosses the Adige river, rebuilt after the Second World War with the original stones and bricks taken from the bottom of the river.
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