Welcome to Verona, an elegant city of Italian art and history in which it is near impossible to get bored. A visit to Verona is like taking a step back in time. If there is one thing you can say about this city, it’s that it is full of history. From the city centre to the hills and beyond the walls, you can find places and things of historical value. Always rich in cultural festivals and social events, the city offers innumerable activities to fill your free time. The Veronese love to get together in the piazzas, unwind in the cafés and walk through the streets of the city. The evenings are always lively and animated and you will find numerous discos, wine bars, cafés and pubs to explore. Also, there is an endless array of osterias, trattorias and pizzerias offering traditional local fare where visitors can listen to live music or simply spend a relaxing evening with friends. A melting pot of modern life and ancient culture, Verona is a tranquil city on a human scale, liveable in every season of the year. Year-round, the city offers its inhabitants infinite cultural delights to feast their senses, ranging from small film festivals to grand-scale operas. On summer nights, the stage of the Roman Arena comes alive with the annual open-air opera festival (Festival dell’Opera Lirica) while across the river, at the Roman Theatre, the Shakespeare and Verona Jazz Festivals fill the summer nights with poetic words and sounds. Recently awarded the status of a “World Heritage Site”, Verona has delighted painters, poets, travellers and celebrities for centuries. For shopping lovers, there are endless boutiques famed for their prestige and elegance (Gucci, Prada, Etro, Louis Vuitton, Versace) while for those with a discerning palette, there are myriad world-class restaurants in which to savour the specialities of the Italian cuisine. It has become a player on the international stage with its many trade fairs such as Vinitaly of Veronafiere (the most prestigious exhibition in the world for wine producers). The city is known throughout the world as the setting for the star-crossed love affair of Romeo and Juliet the characters in Shakespeare`s tragedy “Romeo and Juliet”. The memory and the image of the balcony onto which Juliet stepped out to talk to her beloved Romeo, the tomb on which their bittersweet affair was finally burnt out, the tormenting reminder of a beautiful yet tragic love story will linger on above all. A story and a tradition which have given Verona the name “city of love”. The story of their tragic love is set in two precise locations – Juliet’s house and the tomb. The Capulet House, best known as “Juliet’s House”, dates back to the thirteenth century and is just off the Piazza delle Erbe. Supposedly the location of the famous balcony love scene from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. The house is a major destination for tourist pilgrimage, as the tiny courtyard is normally packed with lovestruck teenagers photographing each other on the famous balcony. At the far end of the courtyard stands Nereo Costantini’s bronze statue of Juliet visited by thousands of tourists every year from all over the world. Romeo’s house is situated in “Via Arche Scaligere”. It is an authentic medieval house which belonged to the 13th century Counts of Cagnolo Nogarola.
The precise details of Verona’s early history remain a mystery. The origin of the name Verona is also unknown. One theory is it was a city of the Euganei, who were obliged to give it up to the Cenomani (550 BC). Verona’s first significant contact with ancient Rome was in 216 BC, when the city allied itself with the Romans at the Battle of Canne. However, it did not officially become a Roman city until 49 BC after which time, because of its political importance and magnificent monuments (second only to Rome), Verona became known as Piccola Roma (Little Rome). As far as the quality and the preservation of its Roman antiquities are concerned, Verona is second only to Rome. Its luminous marble monuments will take you two thousand years back in time: its famous Amphitheatre, the Roman Theatre (older than the Arena), Ponte Pietra( the “pons lapideus”, the Roman Bridge built over a natural ford used by people for centuries), the Arco dei Gavi (Gavi Triumphal Arch) erected to celebrate one of the most influential families of the city. You will be able to see the monumental gateways which greet the visitor – Porta Borsari and Porta Leoni and which testify to the grandeur of the Roman Empire. A simple walk along Corso Cavour, Corso Portoni Borsari and Corso Santa Anastasia practically leads you along the ancient Roman Via Postumia which ended up in the Roman Forum, now Piazza Erbe. Beneath the level of the street, the fascinating remains of Roman villas and mosaics have come to light, giving a glimpse of the magnificence of Verona’s Roman past. After the fall of the Roman Empire, Verona’s history is confused with legend. What is known is that the Ostrogothian King Teodorico brought his people to the region, choosing Verona to house his court where he ruled from a regal palace he built in the hills. His successor, King Alboino, ruled Verona during the period that the city was the capital of the Longobards of Italy. When Desiderio (the last of the Longobards) was defeated by the powerful Carlo Magno, Magno’s son Pipino elected the beautiful Verona as his place of residence. During Medieval times, the bitter fight for dominance of Verona between the leading families of the area, ended with the Scaligeri family taking control in 1277 and maintaining rule for the next 110 years. The Scaligeri transformed the city both physically, with the erection of countless magnificent buildings, and culturally, through a strong patronage of the arts. They supported painters and poets such as Giotto, Altichiero, Dante Alighieri (who dedicated the final part of his Divine Comedy to his benefactor) and Petrarch. It was in this period, according to legend, that the tragic lovers Romeo and Juliet were said to have lived, immortalised in the work of William Shakespeare. For a journey back in time a visit to the Scavi Scaligeri or the Villa at Valdonega is an absolute must. The rule of the Scaligeri transformed Verona’s appearance, with its fortifications, the beautiful Castelvecchio and its nearby Ponte Scaligero, Cangrande’s palace and other palaces of the Della Scala Family (Lords of Verona), the Domus Mercatorum and Piazza Erbe and last but not least, their splendid intricate funerary monuments, the “Arche Scaligere”. Throughout the Renaissance, Verona was a part of the Republic of Venice and it zealously soaked up the splendour of the period’s art, culture and society. The nobility and new middle class of wealthy merchants enriched the city and its populace, constructing sumptuous gardens, ornate palaces, grand houses and magnificent churches that transformed the city into the romantic utopia it still is today. The Verona of this era was at once a social, cultural and economic fortress. Even the period of Venetian domination has left its mark on the city – the palaces of its nobles, the art-works of its great painters in the Castelvecchio Museum and the churches of the city. The Renaissance Palaces of noble families line the streets – Palazzo della Gran Guardia, Palazzo Pompei, Palazzo Maffei, the “Loggia del Consiglio” and the Domus Nova in Piazza dei Signori (“Lords’ Square”). The figure of a great architect dominates this particular period, that of Michele Sanmicheli who designed the gateways to the city – Porta Nuova, Porta Palio, Porta San Zeno and Porta Vescovo. Consequently, in the first half of the nineteenth century Verona was an important Austrian stronghold, until it was united with Italy in 1866. The many great powers that have ruled Verona during its long history have all left their mark on the city and today, evidence of their presence and influence can be seen in the architecture, art, cuisine and attitude of the community. During the period of Austrian dominationVerona becomes the lynch-pin of a perfect defensive system of fortresses and walls known as the “Quadrilatero”. Bastions and fortresses guard the city, and both civil and military architecture flourishes (Palazzo Barbieri and the Arsenal).
A favourable climate, fertile land, abundant natural resources and a centuries-old love for the land all combine to make the Province of Verona a “Garden of Eden”. Don’t miss the opportunity to taste the Vialone Nano variety of rice used to make delicious risotto along with the typical red radish (awarded D.O.P. status) of this region, the salamis (the typical Soppressa), the cheeses and dairy products of Lessinia, Lake Garda’s fish and that of the surroundings rivers, the extra-virgin olive-oil, and the vegetables (Rivoli asparagus and also that cultivated on the plain, potatoes for gnocchi, etc). Fruit is also abundant: cherries and peaches from flowering orchards which lend the landscape its magic quality, as well as chestnuts of all types on the hill-tops, apples, pears, melon and water-melons on the plains. And of course, last but not least the wine. Verona is top of the list of provinces which produce D.O.C. wines of the twenty-two D.O.C. wine produced in the Veneto, ten are produced on the hills of Verona and are inextricably linked to their place of origin: the wine-yards are situated along the range of hills starting from Lake Garda and stretching all the way to Val d’Alpone, near Vicenza. Included amongst the wines are the Valpolicella, the Recioto and Amarone, produced in the Valpolicella, the Soave, produced in Vicenza, the white wine of Custoza, the Lugana and Bardolino of the lake area, the Durello of Lessinia, the Arcole of the Southern Province (the “Bassa”) and finally, the Valdadige wine of the fort district. Then come the desserts: the famous “pandoro” cake and its ancestors, the star shape “nadalin”, the “offella” of Bovolone, all of which grace every Veronese table at Christmas along with the “mandorlato” from Cologna Veneta, Villafranca’s “sfogliatine”, the Bassa’s “rufioi” and finally the “san vigilini” distribuited at Garda on the 6th of Jannuary during the “rogo de la vecia” (witch’s bonfire). Not to mention the “fritole” at Carnival time, the “brassadele” (dough-nuts) and the “colomba” at Easter and Lessinia’s “tortafrolla”. To of it all, Lessinia’s honey (also from the nearby hills of Lake Garda) truffles, Valeggio “tortellini” (and the story of love-knot) and the famous lemon hot-house of Castello di Torri.