Verona is perhaps best known as the setting as of Shakespeare’s romantic/tragic play, Romeo and Juliet. Shakespeare was so moved by the beauty of Verona that it was the setting for two additional plays, The Two Gentlemen of Verona and The Taming of the Shrew. It is not hard to imagine that much of the historical city center remains the same as it was when Shakespeare visited.
The City of Verona is recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage site. According to UNESCO, “Verona has preserved a remarkable number of monuments from antiquity, the medieval and Renaissance periods, and represents an outstanding example of a military stronghold.” Several of the buildings and large monuments date from the Roman Empire, including the Roman theatre and the Arena Amphitheatre. Full disclaimer, since there was a long line and I was short on time, I did not visit the inside of the Arena, but it looked very impressive and well-preserved from the outside (and seemed to be very popular).
I got in from Hamburg and took the train from Bergamo to Verona and got there in the late afternoon. I check into my AirBnB, dropped my things, started a load of laundry and decided I was too hungry to wait until a more Italy-appropriate time for dinner. Near my apartment, in the shadow of the Teatro Filarmonica, I had a delicious supper of fish soup at a restaurant on the Piazza Bra. I was tempted to try the horsemeat (apparently a Veronese specialty) but I just couldn’t bring myself to do it…maybe next time.
The next day I set out to speed-tour the city. I started with one of the historical bridges, the Ponte Castelvecchio over the Adige River. This bridge was first built in the mid-14th century and at one time was the longest bridge of its kind in the world. This bridge, like the Ponte Pietra and the Teatro Filarmonica, was destroyed by the retreating German troops but all have been rebuilt. I also visited the Ponte Pietra, for some great views of the city of Verona and the river. Several of the ancient gates to the city can be seen, which are always interesting to me. The Borsa Gate and the Arco dei Gavi are both nearly 2000 years old and have been welcoming people to Verona since the Roman Empire (although the Arco dei Gavi is a rebuild done in the 1930s).
I set out to find the trail of Verona’s most famous residents, Romeo and Juliet. Romeo and Juliet was based on Italian tales about the star-crossed lovers from the Montecchi and Capuleti families that were already popular in the 1500s. The families were real, but it unknown exactly how much is historical fact, and how much is dramatized and romanticized. Since the families existed, it is possible to visit both the homes. Of course, Juliet’s home, and especially the balcony is fair more popular. It was a busy place, filled with graffiti and love notes (though they have cracked down on people leaving notes for Juliet). In a fitting twist, I could not find Romeo’s house. While I was tempted to yell out, “wherefore art thou, Romeo” I did not.
I decided that it was time to leave this beautiful city and head to my next stop, Bologna. In all, I wish I had more time to appreciate the beauty and history of Verona.