As I mentioned in my last post, I adored Verona. For a relatively small town, it’s packed with so much to do, to see, and to eat. Here’s how I spent my two days in the city.
Wandering the Charming Streets
The thing that is guaranteed to be among my favorite pastimes in pretty much any city – walking the streets and admiring colorful buildings – was even better in Verona. It’s hard to explain how much I loved the city without returning, again and again, to adjectives that already get heavy play around these parts: charming, colorful, lovely, and so forth. And yet, that’s exactly what Verona was. I could have very happily wandered around town for quite some time.
Battling the Tourists at Juliet’s Balcony
The site known as Casa di Giulietta, or Juliet’s House, draws considerable crowds to Verona – despite the small fact that Juliet’s purported balcony was only constructed in the 20th century. Yep, this place is decidedly a tourist trap, with crowds to match. Still, I felt I had to pay it a visit.
A few things about this place stick out. First, the tunnel to the courtyard and the walls of the courtyard are filled with love messages – there is literally no space left empty. What exactly are the love messages on? Locks, scraps of paper, gum (!), and band-aids (!!). It’s kitschy and, quite frankly, a bit gross.
Second, the courtyard is a zoo. Tourists crowd around the statue of Juliet, queuing for the chance to rub her right breast for luck. And getting a picture of the famed balcony without a tourist standing on it, waving to their loved ones below holding cameras? It requires more than a little patience.
Climbing to the Top of the Roman Arena
The Arena di Verona, a Roman amphitheater dating back to the 1st century, is nothing short of spectacular. However, I visited right after opera season ended, an unfortunate occurrence for two reasons: 1) I narrowly missed out on seeing an opera there (add one to the bucket list for the future) and 2) It appeared that they were deconstructing the opera setup, meaning that scaffolding and cranes were everywhere. Even somewhat under construction, though, the arena was an impressive sight.
I visited first thing in the morning, dodging school groups as I made my way to the top of the arena. From up there, I was able to take in stunning views – of the arena itself, and of the surrounding Piazza Bra.
One thing I’ve often said before is that sometimes I just get “churched out” in Europe – even when I know that a church is historical and important, there comes a certain point where all churches start to blend together and become unremarkable. Of course, there are exceptions to this, and Sant’Anastasia felt like one of them. I loved the columns with frescoes on them, the cream, amber, and grey tiles on the floor, and the murals adorning the church’s high ceiling. It was a beautiful space, and it felt like it had that extra something that many churches are missing.
Taking in the Views from Atop Torre dei Lamberti
“Che bella Verona!” the little girl screamed as she ran up the final steps to the very top of Torre dei Lamberti. “Che bella Verona!”
I had to agree. Verona is a beautiful city, and while the street-level views were impressive, it was just as breathtaking from above. Making my way to the top of Torre dei Lamberti was totally worth it; the 6 euro elevator ride to the top felt like a steal.
Eating Well at Verona’s Restaurants
I always expect to eat well most anywhere in Italy, just as a general proposition. Yet, I didn’t think of Verona as a particularly foodie-oriented destination, in the same class as culinary giants like Bologna.
However, I was pleasantly surprised to find that I loved most every meal I had while in town – Verona does food quite well, it turns out. My favorites included pumpkin ravioli at Cangrande for lunch, pasta rolls with scampi and prawns at Cangrande for dinner (yes, I loved the restaurant so much I returned for a second meal), pizza (and a post-meal espresso) at Osteria Sottoriva, a gigantic plate of prosciutto and melon at Torcolo (yes, I swear there’s melon hiding under there), and my breakfast each morning at Hotel Torcolo (amazing grapefruit juice, cappuccino, and a croissant with liberal helpings of Nutella).
Poking Around Il Duomo
Unlike the Duomo in Florence, Verona’s own Duomo was – to me, at least – not that impressive; I far preferred Sant’Anastasia when it came to Veronese churches. One cool thing the Duomo had going for it, however, was that the ruins of the old church were contained in a side building. It was interesting to take a peek at those, and to walk around the corner and see the cloisters. If there’s anything that I’ve learned over the years, it’s that I’m a sucker for a good cloisters.
Surviving a Rainstorm with Gourmet Gelato
Let’s be honest: I would have stopped into Pretto for gourmet, artisanal gelato regardless, but the fact that it coincided with a pretty epic rainstorm sealed the deal. As I enjoyed my gelato (a combination of lemon with licorice and vanilla, hazelnut, and caramel with saffron), I looked out onto Piazza delle Erbe and watched as the rain pummeled unfortunate pedestrians and the gusts of wind toppled tables and umbrellas. A perfectly timed snack, if I do say so myself.
Strolling Along the Adige River
Another lovely area of Verona: the spot where the Ponte Pietra spans the Adige River. I loved the blocks around this spot – archways, flowers, and cute little restaurants. A walk along the river was the perfect way to work off some post-lunch calories.
While Verona may not be up there on everyone’s must-see list along with Venice, Rome, and Florence, I found myself taken aback by how impeccable damn near everything about the city was: the streets were gorgeous (freaking gorgeous!!), the food excellent across the board, and the people friendly. Verona was a joy, plain and simple.