The City of Love: Verona, Italy, 2016
Welcome to the city of love!! One of the most romantic and beautiful cities I have ever visited is Verona. As they say, love is in the air, the city is a perfect illustration of that.
📍 Porta Nuova Verona
I got here by train and the name of the train station in Verona is, Verona Porta Nuova. You get off over here and after doing a little bit of walking you'll come across Porta Nuova, a stone defence gate built in the early 16th century and was the southern entrance of the city. The city is known for its amazing military architecture and you'll be able to see many sights as you walk along.
📍 Castelvecchio (old castle) and Castelvecchio bridge
Castelvecchio or Old Castle is an example of gothic architecture which was built by Canagrande II. The castle was built to basically to be as a symbol of power in order to discourage any thoughts of battle in the minds of their strong Venetian counterparts. As you walk around the castle, you'll notice the M shaped merlons (the elevated sections on the main parapet wall of a castle) and seven towers. While you are entering the castle, you'll find a ditch that surrounds the castle. Although the ditch is dry now, it contained water from the nearby river Adige. There is a bridge attached to the castle called the Castelvecchio bridge and you can notice the M-shaped merlons on this as well. The bridge is built on the river Adige and the reason behind it was to give an escape route to people living in the castle so that they escape to what is now known as Innsbruck in case of a revolt. Have a walk on this bridge and do observe the distance between the supports of the bridge, the longest one is almost 49 meters and during its time, this was the largest arch a bridge was having.
📍 Basilica di San Zeno Maggiore
Located outside the city centre is the Basilica of San Zeno, which is famous for two reasons. One is its Roman architecture and for the fiction lovers amongst you, the crypt of this church was the place where the marriage of Romeo and Juliet took place. Another reason why the Basilica is famous is its Rose Window which is called the Wheel of Fortune because if you observe closely you can see the king on top and a man in despair at the bottom.
Advice: Ok, guys, I have to tell you another scam story here before I take you back to the city centre. You will find people dressed as 'volunteers' from a drug rehab centre and would ask you to sign against drugs. You might think its a noble cause and sign too but as soon as you sign, they ask you for a donation. Now that's the scam! Do not give them money. Just walk away if someone asks you to do things like these!!
📍 Piazza Delle Erbe
So now I came back to the city centre, I was a bit hungry and wanted to grab a quick bite. I sat down at a restaurant at Piazza Delle Erbe and enjoyed the view of the bustling crowd and street sellers. This square dates back to Roman times when it was used as a forum. All the settlements during the medieval period revolved around this square as this was the centre. There is a statue here of the holy virgin or Madonna of Verona in the form of a fountain which goes back to the Roman times, so do not miss out on that.
📍 Piazza dei Signori (Piazza Dante)
Another piazza which is very famous is the Piazza Dante. There is a statue of Dante Alighieri who is considered to be the father of the Italian language. He came to Verona in 1304 after being exiled from Florence and was happily welcomed by the then lord of Verona, Bartolomeo I Della Scala. He came in the spring and stayed there till the winter. Veronese people take pride in this because Verona was his first choice (so proud that they built a statue and named a piazza in his honour). There is a statue of Girolamo Fracastoro on a beautiful arch close to that of Dante. Girolamo was a doctor, poet and an astronomer and in his statue, he can be seen holding a sphere which represents the world. Legend has it that when a true gentleman passes underneath him, the sphere will drop on his head. It has been so long since the statue was erected and the sphere still hasn't fallen off (where are all the gentlemen? 😁).
📍 Scaliger tombs
Verona was ruled by the Scaligieri family from the late 13th century to 1387 and therefore a visit to the Scaliger tombs is a must. The tombs are funerary monuments with gothic architecture and are built on pillars. The building of these tombs on pillars was to signify respect to the Scaligieri family and that people raised their heads to look at them even after their death (what an iconic way to command respect!!)
📍 Basilica di Sant'Anastasia
Basilica di Sant'Anastasia is the biggest church in Verona and its ceilings have beautiful frescoes over them, that showcase the work Veronese artists. In the church, there are two stoups of water supported by hunchbacks and legend has it that rubbing the back of these hunchbacks brings you luck. I'd also suggest you notice the flooring of the church which are red, black and white. Black and white to symbolize the Dominican influence and red colour is for the passion of Christ.
📍 I portoni della Brà
Portoni Della Brà is the gateway to one of the biggest squares in Italy, Piazza Brà. You can see the M-shaped merlons on this as well and the arches built in Veronese marble. This gateway greets its travellers as they enter the historic centre of Verona and do not ignore the clock in between the arches, that works well even today.
📍 Piazza Brà
As you pass through the gate, you will enter Piazza Brà which gives you a feeling of a giant arrival hall of the city because you see so many tourists flocked over here with plans on how to explore the city. The word 'Brà' comes from 'Breit' which translates to broad in German. The broad square right in front of the city gates has many historic buildings from ancient times. One amongst those is the world-famous Arena Di Verona.
📍 Verona Arena
I'd suggest you come early and see the Arena of Verona so that you get good pictures of it from the outside. The Arena of Verona is a Roman amphitheatre built in the first half of the first century. I entered the arena and noticed that its shape was elliptical and that meant better acoustics (the civil engineer in me admired it even more!!). Therefore you will always find an opera or a concert being performed in this amphitheatre. Let me tell you one more fascinating thing about this amphitheatre which I learnt from a local. Modern opera theatres use a lot of equipment like microphones and loudspeakers to enhance the sound but the Arena of Verona hadn't used any types of equipment till 2011 (talk about civil engineering and the Romans leave nothing to chance!!).
📍 Palazzo Barbieri
On the east side of the piazza is another important building of Verona, Palazzo Barbieri which is the civic centre now. You look at it for the first time and notice a contrasting style of architecture, that's because its architecture has a western influence to it. Take a walk around it and look at the circular modern expansion that has taken place, it looks like an improvisation of the modern times while keeping in mind the Roman roots of the city.
📍 Via Quattro Spade
As you stroll in the city you will come across Via Quattro Spade which is a well-known street in Verona. When you are here you will see the famous Capitoline Statue of the she-wolf who is suckling the two twins, a symbol of Rome from the ancient times.
📍 Casa di Giulietta or Juliet's house
Casa di Giulietta or Juliet's house is one of the most famous locations in Verona and attracts a lot of tourists from all over the world. Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare made Verona very popular. To clear the air, Juliet never lived in this house and neither does the balcony have anything to do with the eternal love story of Romeo and Juliet. In a fictional way, it was under this balcony where Romeo proposed Juliet and this was the house where Romeo and Juliet consummate their marriage.
You will notice a bronze statue of Juliet and a lot of tourists wait to rub her breast, an interesting tradition that is said to give you better love life.
You might be wondering how can someone put so much of reality into something this fictional, right? Well, the answer is simple, this was started by a tourist guide in the '70s to attract more number of tourists to Verona (clever guide 😉). Apart from this, another tradition is about the wall of padlocks beside the statue of Juliet, where lovers write their names and lock the padlocks to the wall symbolizing their love has been locked forever. Another thing not to forget is to take the house tour!
📍 Ponte Pietra
Ponte Pietra is the only bridge in Verona that dates back to the Roman times. A walk on the bridge would give you some of the most picturesque views with buildings and beautiful balconies on either side of the Adige river.
📍 Punto panoramico Castel S. Pietro
Although the Castel S. Pietro is not open to the public, tourists go up this hill to enjoy the panoramic view. There are two ways you could reach the top, one is by taking the funicular and the other is a hike. I'd suggest you take the hike as there are multiple points on the way up to take beautiful photos. Once you are at the top of the hill, make sure you soak yourself in the beauty of this amazing city of love. It's often said that, if you love someone, bring them to Verona and the breathtaking view from the top of this hill is a testament to that saying. This was the last part of my trip because I saved the best for the last.