Adige river Verona
Verona in Northern Italy
Verona is a provincial capital in the north of Italy, west of Padua and Venice. The city is located on the banks of the Adige river, half an hour’s drive from Lake Garda.
In the city, you will find pleasant terraces, heavenly ‘gelato’, good restaurants, the Arena and many other historical sights. All interesting of course, but for me, the city is primarily the location of the Shakespearean drama ‘Romeo and Juliet’.
In the footsteps of Romeo & Juliet
For those who do not know the story of Romeo and Juliet, I will briefly summarize their love story below.
Shakespeare in Verona
The setting is 14th century Verona. Boy meets girl. They fall in love. The respective families dislike each other. Followed by drama in four acts (because Italy). Juliet fakes her death, Romeo dies, Juliet dies. Families make peace. End of story.
While it is doubtful that the two lovers actually lived, the families probably did exist as the aristocratic Montagues and Capulets, feature in the city’s 14th-century annals. Also, the Florentine poet Dante Alighieri mentions them in ‘The Divine Comedy‘ (Purgatorio, Canto VI, v. 106).
Verona things to do in 48 hours
Fortunately, the untimely death of these fictional lovers was not in vain as their love story is used by many as an inspiration to explore the city. By following in the footsteps of Romeo and Juliet, you will discover medieval Verona in 48 hours.
You will, of course, start at Julia’s birthplace.
Julia’s ‘birth house’ dates back to the 13th century. It is recognizable by the crowds of tourists waiting in line at the gate for their turn to enter.
The emblem of the Capulets is on the outer facade of the house. In the centre of the courtyard stands a bronze statue of Julia. This is also the place to see Julia’s balcony, which is, in fact, a piece of harmless deception. The balcony was added during a restoration project around the 1930s to give the building a more medieval look.
The house now serves as a museum with frescoes and works of art. Julia’s bedroom is furnished with a bed used in Franco Zeffirelli’s 1968 film ‘Romeo e Giulietta’.
Address 23 Via Cappello, Verona
From Juliet’s house, it is a short walk to the next point on the route.
For what Shakespeare would no doubt have referred to as an underwhelming experience, watch out for Romeo’s house. It is not open to the public, so you will have to make do with the unimpressive facade.
Romeo’s house belonged to the Montecchi family. This surname bears a ‘striking’ resemblance to the name of Romeo’s family, the Montagues, evident for those who are ready to listen. Hence, this thirteenth-century house is attributed to our hero. The place is recognizable by the nameplate ‘Casa di Romeo’ in front of the building.
Address Via Arche Scaligere, 2.
Via Romeo’s house, walk to the Piazza delle Erbe to get a sense of what Verona looked like six centuries ago.
Piazza delle Erbe
Piazza delle Erbe is the heart of the city. Market stalls obscure the view a bit, but can easily be ignored as the structures around the square are impressive:
- On the north side of the square are the Mazzanti houses and the Lamberti tower. The tower was built in the year 1172 and is 84 meters high. The Mazzanti houses with extraordinary facade frescoes are among the oldest places in the city.
- On the west side is the baroque Palazzo Maffei. The top of the facade is designed as a fence with six marble deities of Hercules, Jupiter, Venus, Mercury, Apollo and Minerva. The palace dates back to the 15th century, i.e. after the Romeo & Juliet era.
- To the south is the Casa dei Mercanti (House of the Merchants, also known as the Domus Mercatorum), built in the year 1210 to house merchants. Now the building functions as a bank’s headquarters.
- The oldest monument on the square is a fountain from the year 1368. On top of the fountain is a statue called Madonna de Verona. The name is misleading because it is a Roman sculpture from 380 AD.
- At the exit to Via Cappello stands a 14th-century column.
After the Piazza delle Erbe, it’s time for cultural entertainment at the Verona Arena. This is where the drama of Romeo and Juliet comes to life during the performance ‘Opera in Love’.
Piazza delle Erbe
The Arena is a Roman amphitheatre built in the first century AD. This is one of the best-preserved structures of its kind, and it is still in use.
Originally it was meant to entertain the masses whereby gladiators fought each other, wild animals and convicted criminals. Two thousand years later the battles continue, albeit these days mainly in the form of play fighting. The stage is for large-scale opera performances, which take place during balmy summer evenings.
Address Piazza Bra
An evening at the opera should satisfy your bloodlust as well as any cultural cravings. End day one with a nightcap at the Piazza delle Erbe before bedtime.
Start the next day with a cappuccino on one of the many terrraces. Continue your tour by walking towards the Adige. Whilst approaching the river, admire the view of the Santa Anastasia church, which can be seen from afar. Given the importance of religion in the late Middle Ages, this church was undoubtedly also visited by Romeo and Juliet.
Santa Anastasia church
St. Anastasia is the largest church in Verona. Originally the building consisted of two churches, those of Anastasius and Remigio.
In the year 1261, both churches were taken over by the Dominicans. Between the 13th and 15th centuries, these were merged into one powerful church. Although the impressive façade was never completed, the new Chiesa Santa Anastasia was consecrated in 1481. The church is similar in structure to the Basilica of San Zanipolo in Venice.
Address Piazza San Anastasia.
That is culture, history and religion all done. Now it is time for ice cream. Which keeps us in the 14th-century ambience, because even then Italy had delicious gelati. Look out for the stone benches across the Ponte Pietra to the side of the Sante Anastasia to enjoy your ice cream with a view.
Santa Anastasia Church
The Ponte Pietra is a Roman arch bridge over the River Adige, the oldest bridge in Verona. The bridge was built one hundred years before Christ. In the Second World War, four arches of the bridge were blown up by retreating German troops. In 1957 the bridge was restored with the original materials.
Ponte Pietra is Italian for ‘Stone Bridge’.
After your ice cream, it is time to conclude the tour. You do that, of course, by saying goodbye to Julia.
Juliet’s tomb in Verona
Juliet’s tomb consists of a red marble tomb in a small room, in what used to be the church of San Francesco al Corso and since 1973 functions as the Cavalcaselle Museum of Frescos.
Address Via Shakespeare, Verona
Fresco Museum of GB Cavalcaselle
The entrance ticket to the tomb also gives access to the GB Cavalcaselle Fresco Museum. Do make use of the ticket, because here remarkable frescoes and sculptures are exhibited.
Address Via Shakespeare, Verona
Practical tips Verona
Combine a city trip to Verona with a visit to Lake Garda, the Madonna della Corona, Bergamo, Padua or Venice.
Verona has a wide choice of hotels and apartments for every budget and taste. The city centre is easily walkable. The best thing is, of course, to spend the night in the historic heart of Verona, so that you can combine it with a nighttime visit to the Verona Opera.
The Verona Card
With the Verona 24-hour card, you have free access to most of the attractions and museums mentioned in this blog and many others. For children under 8, entry to most attractions is free.
When you buy the Verona Card, you do not have to use it immediately. Validity begins the first time the card is stamped. The card is then valid for 24 or 48 hours, depending on which pass you buy. The 48-hour version costs just five euros more than the 24-hour version, so it’s a good choice even if you plan on using it only once or twice the next day.
Flights to Verona
Fly to the airports of Verona, Bergamo or Venice.