Highlights of Verona
When we told people that we were going to Verona we had a few ask us if we were going to visit Juliet’s House. For those who don’t know (as we didn’t) “Juliet’s house” relates to Romeo and Juliet, the fictional tragedy written by Shakespeare using Verona as a setting. As we were to find out, Verona – and Juliet’s House specifically – has become a place of pilgrimage for the Romeo and Juliet obsessed.
I’ll have more on Juliet’s House further below.
But honestly, there are about a million better reasons to visit Verona. I’ll cover Verona’s top sites, the majority of which can easily be visited on a day trip (as we did on a cloudy day in mid-April).
It is about a 15 minute walk from the train station to the center of the old town. As you near the old town, you will pass through the gates below (Portini della Bra).
1. Arena di Verona (Verona Arena)
One of the largest Roman amphitheaters, Verona’s arena was built in the reign of Diocletian, about AD 290. It can seat 22,000 spectators and is home to the Verona Opera Festival in July and August – but in the past they had gladiators and wild animals fighting to the death here. Walk through the tunnels under the arena and you can imagine the hands that touched these walls almost 2000 years ago. The Arena is Verona’s best preserved Roman monument.
2. Piazza della Erbe & Torre dei Lamberti
The Piazza della Erbe is known as one of the most picturesque squares in Italy and is the center of old Verona. It has several columns and statues, a palace, and many houses previously owned by Verona’s rich. It also has two towers including the Torre dei Lamberti which has one of the best views in the city (there’s an elevator that will take you up).
Related: The highlights of Incredible Bologna
3. Piazza dei Signori & Loggia del Consiglio
Right next to Piazza della Erbe, The Piazza dei Signori is surrounded by palaces, and in the middle stands a monument to Dante erected in 1865. The Palazzo della Ragione (Town Hall) is on the south side of the piazza while on the north side stands the Loggia del Consiglio, one of the finest Early Renaissance buildings in Italy.
4. Arche Scaligere (Scaligeri Tombs)
The Scaliger Tombs is a group of five Gothic tombs containing the bodies of members of the Scaliger family, who ruled Verona from the 13th to late 14th century. They’re located in the courtyard of the small church of Santa Maria Antica, separated from the street by iron grills. They are considered one of the most outstanding examples of gothic art in Europe.
Just a 5 minute walk from the sites above, Sant’Anastasia is a beautiful Gothic church built in the 13th century, famous for it’s frescoes painted by Veronese artists.
6. Duomo di Santa Maria Matricolare (Cathedral)
Verona’s Duomo stands where previous basilicas were built: The first church built here was in 380 AD. Its was replaced by a 2nd in the 5th century which was destroyed by an earthquake. Another church was built in the 8th century which was again destroyed by an earthquake. The present cathedral was built in the 12th century and is famous for it’s beautiful frescoes and marble pillars.
7. Ponte Pierna, Castel San Pietro, and Palazzo Giusti
As we walked from the Duomo to the Ponte Pierna it started to rain and we decided not to cross to the other side of the bridge and instead stay in the old town. But there are a few places of interest here. The Castel San Pietro was an old Roman theatre built on a hillside overlooking town and is the place to go for those photos of Verona you see in postcards. A little further, the Palazzo Giusti is a large Renaissance style garden.
8. Arco dei Gavi, Castelvecchio, and Ponte Scaligero
This area, located on the river close to the arena (and just out of the historic center), has a few great sites of interest. The Arco dei Gavi was an arch built in the 1st century over the road into the city. In medieval times it became a city gate. If you walk under it today you see the grooves in the road worn by chariot wheels.
Next to the arch is the Castelvecchio, a fortress with ramparts and towers built in the 14th century (it today houses an art museum featuring famous Veronese artists). Part of the Castelvecchio is the Ponte Scaligero, a pedestrian-only bridge that brings you to a small park on the other side of the Adige River.
Walking from the above to the next site (San Zeno Maggiore) takes you along the river where you have views over the Lessinia Mountains (part of the foothills of the Alps).
9. Basilica of San Zeno Maggiore
We arrived at San Zeno just as it was closing and didn’t get a good photo of the interior. It is one of Verona’s most beautiful churches and considered the finest Romanesque building in northern Italy. Built in the 11th century, it has a beautiful facade with stone lions as guardians and engraved scenes depicting life at the time.
10. And finally…Casa di Giulietta (Juliet’s House)
Really, I shake my head at the popularity of it. Here we were, in incredible Verona with all these historic monuments and the most popular tourist site is something totally fictional.
As mentioned at the top, Verona was the setting for Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. This building has no historical significance. But the city has played the Romeo and Juliet facade to the max, building that famous balcony (in the 1930’s) and later adding a bronze statue of Juliet (recently replaced because of too much wear and tear caused by people rubbing her breasts for good luck).
You can visit the museum for 6 Euros, see some old furniture and step on that balcony. I refused to do that. But multitudes of tourists did and we were amazed by the circus going on in that courtyard, mostly young people coming in, rubbing Juliet’s breasts and leaving messages on the tunnel wall leading to the courtyard. I wondered if any of them actually read Shakespeare or even know who he is? Me thinks not.
Anyway, our friend Heather at Conversant Traveller wrote in more detail about Juliet’s House and actually went and paid for the museum. Have a look at her post of you’re interested in knowing more about Juliet’s House.
Want to join the ‘Juliet Club’? Well, they even have a website.
Our Base in the Area. We visited Verona from our base in Padova, 40 minutes away by train. As previously mentioned, I had thought of using Verona as a base but had found accommodation here to be quite expensive. Read more on that here.
Organized Tour: This walking tour is recommended
Accommodation: want to stay a night or two in Verona? A couple of recommendations we were given: Hotel Milano & SPA***S (really nice place right in the center, as you can guess it has a spa. Excellent value). Hotel Europa (good value, great location, nice place).
Despite not-so-great weather and being a touristy city, we enjoyed Verona. Apart from Juliet’s House, we didn’t encounter much of the crowds when we walked around town. Logistically, you have to save yourself some time to visit Verona as some of the sites are a bit spread out, including the walk from the train station. Give yourself a full day to see all the sites.
Related: 3 Days in Florence
Related: How Pula’s Amphitheatre stacks up against other Roman arenas
Related: Why you should visit Siena, Italy
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Yay! Oodles of good information here Frank. I’m excited to be going there in a few days ?
Let me know what you think of it Paula!
Thanks so much for your really interesting photos and points of view.
We are going to be visiting Italy in April this year, so really excited to be going at a good time of season. Coincidentally, we are visiting many of the towns that you’ve discussed (Rome, Cortona, Bologna, Verona) so I am studying intently all your info and photos. It’s really helpful. 😀
Thanks Laura. You’ll be visiting some stunning places and I hope you enjoy. Cortona was a few years back (all the others were in 2016) but I remember what a gorgeous town it was. And April should be a great time to go.
Ha ha, Thanks for not showing us the home of the fictional Romeo and Juliet. I love the view from above Verona, that pedestrian bridge and the cloisters – not because I am at all religious, but because I like the quiet contemplative nature of them. I really got to like churches in Rome the second time we visited when the weather was beginning to get hot. I liked to slip my sandals off and rest my feet on those deliciously old marble floors. There’s hope for my “soul” yet. Couldn’t avoid the pun lol.
Rome must get very hot – we were there in mid-April and had some warm days that felt very summer-ish. Actually had to pause a few times for beer and gelato stops. Can’t imagine what it must be like in August and yes, agree those churches good to cool down in 🙂
When we were in Rome a few years back, we thought about escaping to Verona for awhile. But we were really pushed for time so decided against it. Verona looks like a beautiful city. I was totally unaware that it has an amphitheater as well. And what a party pooper you are for not wanting to pose for a balcony photo or a photo of you groping Juliet’s breasts! 😉
It would have meant getting in line with a bunch of teenage girls. As much as I enjoy groping breasts I didn’t think it was worth that 😉
Totally agree on Juliets House! We spent a couple of days a few years ago and totally loved the churches. We stayed at the campsite, located on a hill opposite the city, that had beautiful night views over the town. And we also went to an open-air Aida opera in the arena – although we are not great opera fans it was a wonderful experience. People brought wine and food and it was quite lively. Good to hear that you enjoyed your time in Italy.
I have this thing about visiting Italy. Almost to the point where I’m not sure we should go because I have it on such a high playing field, the country may not live up to my expectations. But I also felt that way about the south of France and we fell in love with the region, so maybe it would work. 🙂 But if we go, I want to spend at least 3 months so we can slowly move about the country, explore the seaside, Tuscany, etc., I want to take cooking lessons and learn to make authentic pasta and pizza. I would probably gain 20 lbs., but I don’t think I’d even care. That’s not true, I’d care greatly, but I’d still eat my way through Italy. Ah, Italy. Keep posting the lovely photos so I can visit vicariously. One day we will put our feet in Italy, but I am content to wait until we can do it right.
Those sound like nice plans Patti and you can balance the eating with hiking and climbing towers 🙂
Suze - Luxury Columnist
I agree that the other sights seem more rewarding and I didn’t realize that the balcony had been added on after, but I love a bit of kitsch so I’d have to visit Juliet’s house anyway. My parents went to Verona years ago and really enjoyed an opera in the ampitheatre
Thanks Suze, I’d actually like to go back because the weather was bad and there were some things we missed. But I think I’d give Juliet’s House a skip the 2nd time 😉 Yeah, an Opera in the Arena something I would actually stay the night for, that must be an incredible experience!
That made me giggle! Juliet’s balcony is all I recall of Verona from a trip there over 20 years ago.Friends we were visiting when cycling around Europe took us there and the balcony was about all they showed us!Thanks for the pictures and history lesson, now I sort of feel like I have been there again!
Now you know for the next time 🙂 Hope you enjoyed it anyway? Ah memories, how we viewed things differently 20 years ago…
wow. i had no idea it was that imporessive! Thanks for sharing Frank Verona is going on the list!
Tanja (the Red phone box travels)
Oh you’ve gone inside the arena! cool! Verona’s nice, I’ve been once:))
LOL. I would definitely skip Juliet’s house too… for obvious reasons. It’s awesome business sense though – whoever decided that THAT was the location. I’m sure they’re making good $$ with all the souvenirs and what not.
Thanks for the map with the – super helpful as usual. Verona is an incredible city indeed – I’ll save it for later (much later). I just don’t feel like I’m refined enough to like Europe.
Ha! I’ve never heard that as an excuse not to visit Europe before 🙂 Thank you Hung.
Hahaha it’s true! I feel like I’ll just constantly be looking for waterfalls to jump into and crazy things to do. The beautiful architecture, art, history might get neglected. So better save that stuff for later after I’ve gotten the craziness out of my system.
I would love to see an Opera or a Shakespeare play at that amazing Amphitheatre. Like you I would probably skip Juliet’s house, it does sound a bit odd all that breast rubbing thing…..not my idea of “good luck” …..but each to their own. Verona is beautiful and so photogenic.
Agree, watching an opera in the arena must be super! Yes, I wonder where the breast rubbing thing started, I’m sure it’s got nothing to do with Shakespeare 🙂
Thanks for taking to comment Gilda!
Frank, as always, excellent pictures and comments, I think the Verona’s arena is in great shape, looks smaller than the one in Rome but very well preserved. Walking from there to the river (Adige) and by the river to Ponte Pietra (Stone bridge) is a very picturesque walk, you are right, you can see most of the important things in a one day visit, we spent a good amount of time in Castel Vecchio and walking around the city.
Actually you are very close to my friend’s winery, remember I mentioned it to you? she is in Gargagnago di Valpolicella 10 minutes from Verona and she converted her 17th century home in a B&B you can check the place in the internet at: the winery – Villa Monteleone this place is very close to Lake Garda I mentioned also our visit to Sirmione on the lake, don’t miss the lake and it’s beautiful medieval towns.
Continue enjoying your trip.
There’s so much to see in Italy I’m afraid we left many things out Carlos. We stuck mostly to the bigger cities because of public transport: Verona, Bologna, Venice and Rome. There were other places we wanted to see but just ran out of time.
Ideally the way to visit Italy is with a car, driving around and seeing all the little towns, hilltop villages and staying in little B&Bs along the way. I think we’ll need a base in Europe 🙂 Thanks for the comment and feedback Carlos.
Circus is the word, and it’s not one that came from Shakespeare! I think 400 years after his death he’d be rather amused by the ridiculous goings on at Juliet’s House! As you know, we did go inside, but more for the beautiful architecture (it would have been an amazing place to live) and to take photos of our guest house which was directly opposite! We certainly didn’t fondle breasts, stick chewing gum to the wall or graffiti all over the place. Like you, we just didn’t get it. But then perhaps that because we know it’s not real. I guess the tourist hordes are blissful in their ignorance. Glad you enjoyed the rest of your day despite the clouds.
Thanks for the comment Heather, I agree in every respect! 🙂
I bet those kids have only seen the Leo DiCaprio movie..haha! Nobody reads anymore, unless it’s Cliff notes. What an absolutely beautiful city. I am shocked at how well preserved their colosseum is, better than the one in Seville for sure 🙂 . I really hope we get to visit this summer, and l love the fact that you said it is not quite as busy away from the Romeo and Juliet house. You can’t blame them for playing it up though..brings in the tourist dollars. Love your images!
Jeez, I wonder where I was when that movie came out. I had to google it…you know what? You’re probably right. And the Titanic was a movie about a sinking ship…
I think Italy generally gets crazy in the summer but this time of year was fine. But we also went to Venice and Rome and crowds there (especially Rome) were CRAZY. I’ll have posts coming up on those.
Thanks for the comment Kemkem 🙂