An August 2001 trip
to Verona by gosusan
Quote: Verona is a small city that was once a major Roman and Medieval metropolis. I lived here for over a month while learning Italian and fell head over heels for this city of lovers.
If at all possible, see an a production in L'Arena, the nearly intact Roman Amphitheatre. Even if you don't normally like opera, the pagantry of productions like Aida will keep you entranced.
The banks of the Adige defines the contours of Verona. Try to follow one of the riverside streets and cross several of the bridges (including the Roman Ponte di Pietra and medieval Ponte Scaligero) to get marvelous views of the city and its river.
This journal primarily focuses on museums, monuments and walking tours. If you are hungry, look at Verona a Tavola for a culinary take on the city.
Visitors staying more than a day should buy the 4 day Carta Verona , which will pay for itself after 3-4 sites. They are on sale at most monuments and museums in the city. Unless you are going in for a mass, many of the churches (il Duomo, San Lorenzo, Sant'Anastasia) will charge entrance fees.
Italy is not a 24x7 culture. Museums, shops and restaurants often are closed during one or two days of the week. I have posted these days, when known. Be aware that many attractions are closed on Mondays, and plan your trip accordingly. At least the walks and views are available any time and for free!
Verona's old center is compact and can be traversed by foot. There are cheap and frequent buses. Transit maps are available, and every bus route has the major stops for that route posted. You can buy tickets at tabaccherie (tobacco shops, with a large T) and validate them onboard.
It is inexpensive and easy to rent a bicycle for the day and explore some of the surrounding areas- such as the Valpollicella wine growing region, or pedal to Sirmione on Lago di Garda. You can take the train back at the end.
Attraction | "Walking bridge to bridge on the Adige"
Start at the medieval Scaligeri fortress of Castelvecchio. The sphere of influence of this warring clan extended far into the Veneto and Lombardia, and one can still find fairy-tale perfect castles, with the classic fish-tail battlements in Malcesine, Sirmione and Soave. But this castle is unique for its beautiful bridge, which arcs over the Adige. Never mind that it was built by the Scaligeri warlords as a last-ditch retreat for them. Today the Veronese love it, and they dredged the river to rebuilt it after WWII, when the retreating Nazis blew it up.
After walking over the bridge, you go along Lungadige Campagola, admiring the views of the city across the river. You can walk either on the sidewalk by the street or, if the water level is low, go down along the path on the banks of the river. You will pass by Ponte Victoria and Ponte Garibaldi. After this, the walk becomes pedestrian-only, as we go by San Giorio in Braida, one of the few Renaissance Rotunda churches of Verona.
You end up at Ponte di Pietra, the white part of which remains from Roman times. From here we return to the Citta Antica to walk along Via Ponte di Pietra to Piazza Bra Molinari. This little piazzetta offers benches with marvelous views of the hill with the Teatro Romano, Museo Archeologico, and Castel S. Pietro. Relax and enjoy the views.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on April 3, 2002
Some of the frescos have been damaged by everything from fire to so-called "renovation." It is a miracle this gothic artwork survived the few hundred years when art from the middle ages was considered backwards and was removed. (Although a quick Renaissance plastering-over job usually helps preserve these pieces for those of us who now appreciate them.)
Even the floor is inlaid in ornate Escher-esque patterns of different marble. But what people most remember are the two gobbi- little hunchback figures that hold up the holy water fonts. Though perhaps not as appealing as Juliet's breast, a local superstition would have you to touch their backs for good luck.
A fee is charged for entrance unless you convince the staff that you are entering for religious purposes. No cheating, now! After all the inside is well worth the cost.
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on April 3, 2002
Vicolo Sotto Riva, 4
Verona, Italy 37121
Notice the frescos on the Loggia del Consiglio, somewhat restored from the Renaissance. Enjoy the signature fish-tail battlements of the Scaligeri palace. The facades of the Palazzo del Capitano and Palazzo della Ragione (palace of reason, or justice court) are also noteworthy. Also not to be missed is the archeological cutaway to the old Roman street that led to here. It would be easier to drive than some of the city's present day picoli vicoli.
Grand arched entrances lead in and out of this square, the most notable of which is Arco della Costa, so named for the whale rib that hangs high above. This arch connects Piazza dei Signori with Piazza dell'Erbe, and is mentioned as a meeting place in Romeo and Juiliet.
From here, one is within spitting distance of the Arche Scaligeri and Torre dei Lamberti. There are a couple caffes that line the square, such as Caffe Dante Ristoratore. Grab a table outside for a wonderful al fresco lunch.
Piazza dei Signori
Piazza dei Signori
Verona, Italy 37121
Attraction | "Santa Maria in Organo"
Trust me, this one will have even the most over-churched tourist agape with amazement. For the panelling on the walls of the choir and sacristy are some of the finest examples of intarsio (wood marquetry) in the world. Different types of wood were set in by Fra Giovanni da Verona. He took over a quarter of a century to complete these excruiciatingly detailed masterpieces. At first glace you will think they are paintings, but everything is inlay.
Other rooms of intarsio were made for the Dukes of Urbino and Gubbio (the latter now on display at the MMA in New York.) But these were the original pieces that served as inspiration for the later works.
Also of note in the church are the high water marks from past floods of the Adige. To think that these works of art were nearly submerged under water!
S. Maria in Organo
Piazzetta S. Maria in Organo
Verona, Italy 37129
Attraction | "Giardino Giusti"
The collection of Roman antiquities at the front is laid out haphazardly, with little fanfare, as if it were just a pile of junk waiting to be carted out. The labyrinth of box hedges is cut to Renaissance perfection. Ascend up to the grotto and then go above to what was once the grounds of a temple folly for a panorama of the city and its towers.
If you bring a little food with you, you can find a nice bench to enjoy a picnic. However don't try to spread out a blanket by the box hedge.
There is a nominal entrance fee, and the gardens are closed on Mondays.
Il Giardino Giusti
Via Giardino Giusti, 2
Verona, Italy 37129
The Museo archeologico is above the Teatro Romano. For those wanting to save some stair climbing, take the elevator form the top of Teatro Romano. Built in 1400, it was once a convent of San Girolamo. Some details remain from monastic life, like a delicately fresco'ed chapel.
There are delicate mosaics, bits and pieces of tombstones and other markers. Display cases hold a mish-mash of greek vases, delicate glass vials (for cosmetics or medicines) and a few amusing Etruscan votive statuary pieces. Several mosaics are exceptionally fine.
For those who can't take one more Roman inscription or statue, just look out the window. The museum provides a wonderful view of the Ponte della Pietra, Adige and città antica. On the way back down, ramble through the piles of broken columns, pedements and other Roman materials, haphazardly piled together like a giant Home Depot display. Alas, this material is not for sale.
There is a nominal entrance fee. Closed Mondays.
Via Regaste Redentore, 2
Verona, Italy 37121
Attraction | "Cycling Excursions from Verona"
This entry describes my first (and easiest) cycling excursion from Verona. Directions are simple and as follows:
1. Leave the Veronese walls by cycling out of Porta Vescovo on the East (Veronetta).
2. Take the softer left onto Via Col. Giovanni Fincato.
3. This road follows straight out along a valley for several miles. You'll see some vineyards, a lovely palazzo, and you will cycle through some small towns. If you want to take a diversion up into one of the hill towns, just follow your route back.
Be sure to enjoy a caffe along the way, and you might take a mid-day lunch break at one of the trattorie or pizzerie that exist even in small towns. Tourists rarely venture out here, so now's your chance to experience the friendliness and curiousity of the locals.
There are a range of other two-wheeled excursions possible. The easiest is to take advantage of on Sundays, when the street running along the river west out from Ponte Scaligero is closed to car traffic. You can zip along with the local populace in a fast-moving scene rivalling the passagiata.
If you are up for further adventure, take your bike into the Vallpolicella hills. I made it all the way to Lazise on a Chesini city bicycle (i.e. not the lightest or fanciest of cycles).
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on April 10, 2002
Attraction | "La Rocca Scaligeri in Soave"
But the main attraction here is La Rocca Scaligeri a huge sprawl of a fortress that dominates the hill above walled town. There's a parking lot near the top for motorists, but those who arrived without wheels have a bit of a hike up the hill.
This is yet another example of a 14th century fortress built by the Scaligeri family in their attempt to consolidate power in the Veneto. Although the Scaligeri did not make the best military decisions, noone can fault their taste in architecture, as all their castles are postcard perfect.
A small entrance fee lets you tour the furnishings (moderately restored, with some period pieces, including arms and armor). Kids will enjoy climbing the multitude of staircases and running along the ramparts and up the towers. From your crenellated perch you will have a sweeping view over the town below and the vineyards and fields beyond.
Although the occasional tourbus stops here, most tourists bypass Soave, so you may have the castle to yourself. Take a picnic lunch(and a bottle of the local product) along for an al fresco meal on the grounds.
The castle is closed on Mondays, and more detailed information can be found out by phone: 045-786-00-36.
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on May 7, 2002
Rocca Scaligeri in Soave
Via Castello Scaligero
Attraction | "Arche Scaligeri at Santa Maria Antica"
There is a small fee to enter the courtyard. If possible, take one of the tours that periodically passes by the tombs. There are lots of interesting historical and decorative details that you will likely otherwise miss. However, you can't fail to notice all of the depictions of ladders. This was the heraldric symbol of the Scaligeri, since their name derives from Della Scala, or "of the ladder." And what social climbers they were!
Ironically the more ornate the tomb, the less effective the person being honored. The relatively simple tomb over the entrance of the church is to Cangrande I, the founder of the "Big Dog" dynasty and the leader who helped expand Verona's power. The two wedding-cake fantasy creations honor Mastiff II, who died in 1351, and Cansignorio, who died in 1375. But by the mid 14th century, Verona was a shell of its former power, thanks to some bad tactical decisions by these gentlemen.
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on April 2, 2002
S. Maria Antica
Via Arche Scaligere, 3
Verona, Italy 37121
At one point it arched over the Corso Cavour, but it was blown up by Napoleon's forces at the storming of Castelvecchio in 1805. The outline of the original placement is marked in white paving stones, but I don't recommend venturing out into this busy street for a closer look.
The arch was rebuilt nearby in a small, shaded riverside park. Several benches provide seating for you, should you bring some pizza or gelato from the nearby shops on Via Roma.
Arco dei Gavi
Piazzetta di Castelvecchio
Verona, Italy 37121
Attraction | "Gateway to Shopping Paradise: Corso Porta Borsari"
There are plenty of pricy boutiques for clothing and shoe/leather goods. As Via Mazzini is where to find the brands like Versace, Gucci and Benetton, Borsari has shops that aren't household names, at least outside of the Veneto region.
Many gourmet shops sell wine, pastas and canned goods from the Valpollicella wine region and other local food producers. These shops are a delight to browse through and are great places to pick up edible gifts and souvenirs. Also be sure to stop in either of the two pasticceria along the right side of the street as you meander towards Piazza dell'Erbe. There you can buy Panatone, the golden Christmas cake of Verona and other tempting baked goods. You should pick up a variety of the mouthwatering cookies available for purchase by the etto (100 grams), including the famous baci di Romeo and baci di Guilietta (Romeo’s and Juiliet’s kisses.)
Corso Porta Borsari becomes Corso Sant'Anastasia after Piazza dell'Erbe. It continues to provide great shopping options, such as a quirky cooking/tableware store, and a shop that sells high-end cutlery and pocketknifes. There are also some expensive antique and art shops that merit window shopping.
All along the street, keep your eye out for interesting architectural details, like recycled Roman monuments built into the walls.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on April 2, 2002
Attraction | "Casa di Giulietta"
Follow the signs (or the masses of Let's Go backpacking teenyboopers) to the small courtyard at 27 Via Capello. There you will see a bronze statue of Juilet and the balcony supposedly immortalized by Shakespeare. On the rare times when it is empty, the courtyard has a romantic air, with leafy vines overgrowing the attractive graffiti-bedecked walls.
Visiting the courtyard is free, but there is an entrance fee to the building, which has a mediocre museum. (Fret not, you will be able to buy cheaper Romeo-and-Juliet kitsch in other souvenir shops around town.)
La Casa di Giulietta was an inn owned by the Capuletti family. It has been given its official title because Verona began to take advantage of tourism in the 19th century. Just like many places now offer "movie-set tours" for the masses, the city further capitalized on the story by arbitrarily placing Juliet's tomb (Tomba di Giulietta) in the crypt of San Francesco al Corso. Romeo's house is supposedly on the Via della Arche Scaligeri. I wouldn't be surprised if some unscrupulous hotel has a "Shakespeare slept here" plaque, though The Bard had never visited Italy and relied on the play by Luigi da Porto di Vincenza for details.
But Verona, like most Italian cities, was home to feuding merchant families and romantic youngsters, so who's to say that no tragic meeting of star-crossed lovers occurred here?
Member Rating 2 out of 5 on April 2, 2002
La Casa di Giulietta
Via Cappello, 23
Verona, Italy 37121
+39 045 8035645
Attraction | "Climbing the Torre dei Lamberti"
Pretty as it is, the main reason to visit is to ascend the 368 steps (or take the elevator) to get a bird's eye view of the city. On clear days, you can see into the foothills and perhaps a couple stone and snow peaks of the Dolomites. Don't forget your camera!
There is a nominal entry fee, which is well worth the price. The tower is open during standard museum hours and closed on Mondays.
La torre dei Lamberti
Piazza dei Signori, 2
Verona, Italy 37121
We had a pre-performance dinner about 50 meters away at "Le Catine de L'Arena" so we could see the people milling about, ranging in attire from American Casual to elegant formalwear. Performances at L'Arena draw regularly draw people from all around the region, and even futher. This harkens back to the days of the Roman empire, when the seating at L'Arena was larger than the population of the city. Rome used free admission to the games as a way to keep their citizens unified and content.
Once we entered we ascended to our seats, high in the wings, which cost 56 Euro, about $50 apiece. Although seats had been temporarily fitted over the hard Roman stone, we were glad to have brought cushions with us. For the less prepared, cushion rentals are available. About 1/6th of the interior was blocked off to serve as an extended stage, but the rest was filled with people. While we waited for everyone to take their seats I watched bats flit around the floodlights.
We did not have the best seats to view the stage, but the view of the rest of the Arena, the illuminated wing, and the many campanile of Verona peaking above the top of the walls along with a rising full moon- bellisimo. The picture below captures only a fraction of the panorama and none of the magic.
When we entered, the attendants handed us each a program and a small birthday candle with instructions when to light it. At the start of the opera, everyone lit their candles. Imagine being in a packed Roman ampitheatre that holds 25,000 people, alight with tens of thousands of candles.
The opera itself was amazing. We had doubted at first that we would be able to hear anything, so far away, but Roman builders were apparently accoustical engineers. Some of the singers were better than others, but the sheer size of the cast and extravagance of the sets put Broadway productions to shame. At one point there was a cast of 300 on the huge stage, and there were navel scenes with singers on boats.
Opera at L'Arena is a spectacle not to be missed, especially if you can get tickets to Aida. If opera really isn't your scene, you can leave during the intermission, but to experience a performance at L'Arena is to live like a Veronese of the present and the past.
For a performance schedule and ticketing information go to L'Arena's website.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on April 4, 2002
Opera at L'Arena
Attraction | "il Duomo"
While the interior is plain compared with San Zeno or Sant'Anastasia, it has a certain austere charm. Many just come to see Titian's Assumption (not as famous as the one in Venice, but still lovely) and leave. They miss the entrance at the far left to the cloister.
Here one can find the excavations of earlier religious buildings on this site. There was an 8th century church, S. Giovanni in Fonte, which in turn was built with recycled Roman masonry. As one might expect from a church dedicated to St. John the Baptist, there's an impressive early christian baptismal font.
The Duomo does not get many visitors, and you are likely to have the excavations completely to yourself. There is a nominal entrance fee for tourists who are not attending mass.
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on April 4, 2002
Duomo S. Maria Matricolare
Piazza Duomo, 13
Verona, Italy 37121
Two different palazzi- Palazzo della Gran Guardia in Piazza Bra and Palazzo Forti near the Duomo often host travelling exhibits of 20th and 21st century art. In order to see the event schedule and daily hours (which are somewhat erratic, so check ahead.) go to their website. Unlike the traditional museums, these are often open in the evenings, when they draw the greatest crowds.
Even if you don't like paintings and sculpture made after the 1800's, you may enjoy touring the galleries. The Renaissance/Baroque period edifices are monumental, and they've been lovingly restored with contemporary Italian design sense- i.e. minimalism of extraneous details and use of fine materials. Sometimes one may find an original baroque bas-relief juxtaposed with a modern exhibit, but that's all part of the fun.
Most tourists, or at least American ones, skip these museums. So this is your chance to experience culture with the Veronese. Wear black, look serious, and blurt out words like existential post-modern realism every now and then.
Modern Art in Ancient Palaces
In city center
San Francisco, California