Featured Destination: Verona
I first heard of Verona at school whilst studying Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, but the great playwright never actually visited the city. As I walked into the historic part of Verona I reflected on what Shakespeare had missed by not even coming here. His legacy lives on however, as coachloads of visitors head for Juliet’s balcony to catch a selfie.
But there’s more to see in Verona than a balcony and one of the best ways of making the most of your time is to buy a Verona Card from the local tourist office which saves on admission to many of the city’s attractions. It is easy to get around on foot too and I found myself wandering the small backstreets of the old town where I came across delightful family owned delis and beautiful piazzas hidden from general view. In Verona the piazzas are a feature of the old city and the best way to see them is by walking. The Piazza Erbe is right in the heart of the city and very medieval. I preferred the beautiful Piazza Della Signorini with its elegant buildings. In the centre a statue of Dante stood with a thoughtful look. He lived in Verona after his exile from Florence. The view from the Lamberti Tower was definitely worth the climb and looked out across the Adige River to the city and hills beyond.
Verona is renowned for opera and the annual open air festival is held in the Roman Arena during the summer months. I booked online in advance and sat out under the stars listening to Placido Domingo singing in Nabucco. The acoustics were fabulous and the atmosphere inside the arena was magical with lots of opera loving locals. Verona is full during opera season so reserving ahead is essential. One of the biggest surprises was the AMO or Arena Museo Opera which told the history of Italian opera and was fascinating with displays about the costumes, the librettists and more. I spent a long time there, completely absorbed in the exhibits.
The art museums in Verona were another big highlight for me. Located on the Adige River, the Castelvecchio with its medieval and renaissance art was amazing. I also found impromptu exhibitions in the churches and some beautiful architecture. In Verona I found that just by walking around I’d find some real gems like the sweet shop man who used to serve Maria Callas or the family down a back street that had made salami for generations. Verona is full of culture, history and fun and I wandered those narrow streets and piazzas just packing in the sights and the museums. But to escape the crowds I grabbed a picnic lunch from the deli and headed to the tranquillity of the Giardini Giusti. These magnificent gardens were shelter from the summer heat, and a peaceful retreat to read or relax over lunch.
Verona is an incredibly beautiful city to visit but do go beyond Juliet’s Balcony to see the city at its very best.