What does Verona stand for?
Ask most people what Verona is famous for, and they’ll tell you it’s the “Romeo and Juliet town”. As a music lover, they’ll tell you it’s famous for the Roman Arena, the home of opera performed every year.
To a teacher of English literature, on the other hand, this is the town where Shakespeare’s The Two Gentlemen of Verona is set, as well as his play of star-crossed lovers. To an Italian historian, it’s the birthplace of Isotta Nogarola, one of the great thinkers of the Renaissance, and one of the Western world’s most important female humanists.
For the wine lovers and gourmets, Verona is the birthplace of the renowned Amarone della Valpolicella and of the very first Pandoro – the renowned Christmas cake. For art lovers, Verona is the birthplace of Italian Renaissance artist Paolo Caliari (called “the Veronese” for that reason). He is renowned for his supersized paintings, such as the famous Wedding of Cana.
Verona is such a casket of treasure, that it became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2000.
While it offers glorious art, architecture and historical associations, Verona is also a place to soak up a friendly atmosphere.
A walking city
One of the things that makes Verona so beautiful is that it’s a city that exists on a human scale. That means you can walk it. You don’t even need to be heading anywhere in particular. Just wander along and there is plenty to see.
The distance from the Arena to the beautiful Piazza Erbe, for example, is a walk of just 20 minutes, or maybe a bit more if you want to stop and look at the windows of the many fashion, jewelry, and cosmetic stores and perfumeries that crowd via Mazzini, the shopping street.
To relax, take a seat in piazza dei Signori, the so-called ‘Verona lounge’, also known as piazza Dante. Would you prefer an overview of the city? Then climb the Lamberti Tower in piazza Erbe, or reach Castel San Pietro, on the hill next to Adige river. From there you’ll have Verona at your feet. You’ll quickly figure out why the very first inhabitants of the Neolithic age found refuge in that place. It was easily defensible from outside attacks. The Roman theatre is below, along with many other classic tourist attractions.
Or just go where your feet take you, and you’ll see the many different ages that Verona has lived through. You’ll find Roman architecture alongside relics from the Middle Ages, to vibrant Renaissance palaces to Venetian monuments sitting near to Austrian ones.
All the different influences visible in the city speak to the strategic location of it as the city guarding access to the Po Valley that runs along the north of Italy. It’s also the city located on the great trans-alpine route that connects the Mediterranean with northern Europe, marked by the Adige river that runs through Verona.
City of romance
There is also plenty for the romantic to admire. The famous Juliet’s Balcony is a few steps from Piazza Erbe, which itself is not far from the so-called “Romeo house”.
Verona is the city of love. Even though not everything is what it seems. For example, the Juliet balcony… is a fake. While the palace itself dates back to the Middle Ages, it was remodeled several times. At the end of the 19th century, there was an ugly railing where the balcony is now. The balcony, constructed in the 20th century, is of marble from the 14th century. Why? It’s all in the name.
The house belonged to the Del Capello family, commonly known as Cappelletti, a name that is similar to Capulet, the name of Juliet’s family. Not surprisingly, over time the two became linked and that’s why, nowadays, it’s one of Europe’s most romantic destinations.
Romeo and Juliet aren’t the only unhappy lovers of legend. Another tale tells of Corrado the soldier, in love with the noble girl Isabella, who spurned him. One day, they met near a courtyard located next to the small Church of San Marco, not far from Piazza Erbe. In the courtyard, there was (and still there is) a well, and when Corrado said that Isabella was “cooler than the water in the well”, Isabella suggested he throw himself into it. Corrado immediately obeyed and jumped in, but it was winter, unfortunately, and he died in the icy water. Isabella immediately regretted her stupid request and also jumped in and died.
Exactly why young lovers in Verona keep dying under stupid circumstances is a mystery, but it definitely makes for good stories. We suggest you limit yourself to throwing in money, which will be welcome.
And then go and have a coffee or an aperitivo, because taking time to enjoy life is also an important part of Verona.