If you’ve booked a Mediterranean cruise which calls at the port of Venice, the City on the Water does of course hold so much of its own romantic charm and more than enough cultural historic attractions to keep you occupied. If however, you’ve visited Venice before and are in search of a cruise excursion which offers a tantalising taste of Northern Italy and more than a little of its own culture and romance, Verona offers the perfect day out.
The early origins of Verona remain a mystery, but the city became a Roman colony in 89BC, strategic because it was located at the point where a number of roads met. Since then, it’s been in the hands of the Goths, the Lombards, Napoleon, Austria and a host of successive kings and emperors. Verona has been the sight of much conflict and intrigue throughout its long history and it wasn’t until 1866 after the Six Weeks War that it became part of Italy. The city’s long and turbulent history means there’s plenty of contrasting cultural attractions to enjoy but its romantic credentials are firmly in check too, thanks to it being the setting for William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet.
You’ll not have time to explore everything Verona has to offer during your stay, but fortunately, you can get a taste for the city and take in many of its attractions on a stroll through some of its most popular streets and squares.
Verona’s history is in evidence as soon as you arrive and a walk along with the city’s ancient walls on your left will soon bring you to the expansive Bra Square, home to the city’s impressive town hall and also most famous attraction, the spectacular arena. A Roman amphitheatre older than Rome’s famous Colosseum, this awesome arena is still in remarkably good condition and even though only a small portion of its outer wall remains, the fully intact inner wall still presents an impressive frontage. The place seats 20,000 people and is still in use today, staging elaborate operas as well as contemporary music performances. An evening visit to the opera is possibly the most memorable way to take in the atmosphere, but for six euros, you can visit during the day and explore this massive stone complex for yourself. Needless to say, the views from the nosebleed seats of the city below are more than impressive.
Leave Bra Square by Via Mazzini and you’ll be experiencing another of the city’s key attractions and one of its most famous streets. Though it’s narrow you can’t miss it, as it’s completely paved in pink marble and is always bustling – just follow the crowds. It’s a great place to soak up the atmosphere and take in a colourful street performance and indeed, you’re sure to spot some of Northern Italy’s most stylish denizens perusing the many high-class boutiques along its length.
Before you get to the end of the street, keep a look out for the signs on the wall directing you to Casa di Guilietta, or Juliet’s House. Certainly Verona’s most ‘touristy’ attraction, the house and the square which leads to it have become a sort of shrine to Shakespeare’s famous character. Sections of the tunnel wall leading to the square have been dedicated as spaces for couples to leave graffiti love messages and square itself is always teeming with people eager to purchase a love souvenir or have their photo taken with the statue of the lady herself. For a fee, you can enter the house, furnished by items which featured in the 1968 film adaption of the story and of course, step on the balcony to re-enact the famous scene for yourself.
After you’ve fought your way out of the square, continue your journey up Via Mazzini and you’ll soon arrive at Piazza delle Erbe, where a number of Verona’s most celebrated architectural attractions can be found. The square itself was once a Roman forum and is today the site of Verona’s popular market. It’s the perfect place to pick up a souvenir if you visit on a Friday when the market’s on but also a great spot to enjoy a drink and a spot of people-watching. You’ll be spoiled for choice when it comes to architecture but you’ll find it hard to miss Torre dei Lamberti, a 84-metre tower built between the 12th and 15th centuries, which offers the ultimate panoramic view of the city. Depending on how energetic you feel, you can take the 368 steps or opt for the lift.
By Simon Brotherton