Here is a short list of what I knew about the city of Verona before arriving:
- It’s near Venice.
- It’s home to lots of Roman ruins.
- It contains the tourist trap balcony purporting to be Juliet’s.
- It was the setting for one of my favorite cheesy rom-coms, Letters to Juliet.
If I’m being honest here, #4 was the reason that got me most excited to visit, and that’s probably a thin reason for planning to stay a few days in a place.
Almost as soon as I arrived, however, I realized one important truth: I loved Verona, actually. And it had nothing to do with any of the aforementioned things. Nope, it was something even simpler than that: Verona is beautiful. Like, really, really stunning. Like, pinch-me-I’m-in-Italy-is-this-a-fairytale levels of gorgeousness.
One of the reasons Verona is so damn lovely is that it happens to be an eminently walkable collection of piazzas, each one home to colorful buildings and a flurry of activity. And so, in Verona, “piazza hopping” – wandering from one piazza to another – became a simple pleasure of mine, an activity to savor.
My hotel was near Piazza Bra, and so that was the piazza I happened upon first. Piazza Bra lies in the shadow of the Verona Arena – more on that later – and is lined with brightly-hued buildings and cafés with outdoor seating. The piazza is also home to a small park, the perfect spot for a mid-afternoon (or mid-morning; let’s be real) gelato break.
Of all Verona’s piazzas, my favorite had to be Piazza delle Erbe. Its buildings have a shabby, well-worn quality that reminded me of Rome – they’re not sleek and shiny facades, but that’s exactly why I loved them. Piazza delle Erbe also hosts a market whose stalls are lined with an eclectic mix of foods, drinks, and knick knacks. Need a miniature bust of Pope Francis? I know where you can find one…
And finally, tucked away just off Piazza delle Erbe, I found Piazza dei Signori: quiet, unassuming, and lovely. In the shadow of Torre dei Lamberti and with a statue of Dante in the middle of the square, this peaceful spot was great for people watching. It seemed that every time I stopped by, the square was dominated by soccer players: groups of small children, with the occasional parent or grandparent joining in.
Of all the new-to-me spots I visited in Italy this time around, Verona holds a special place in my heart, and just may be my new favorite Italian discovery. Verona is not particularly flashy, but it was just right for what I most wanted to do: stroll around and soak up that fact that I was in bella Italia.