Verona is one of the most perfect towns in Italy. With its 2,000 year history, attractive architecture and walkable centre, it has something for everyone. But why should you visit, and what are the best things to do in Verona?
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Why Visit Verona?
Verona has been a popular tourist destination for centuries, with visitors attracted by its Roman history as well as its art and architecture. So fabled was the city that Shakespeare’s Romeo exclaimed “there’s no world without Verona walls”. Notable visitors included Mozart and Goethe.
Verona is one of 8 UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Veneto. This is because it incorporates artistic elements from each period of its history: Roman, Romanesque, medieval and Renaissance. If all of that history is not enough, Verona also has a world famous opera festival and numerous cafés and restaurants. And it is ideally located for a variety of day trips.
1. Explore The Centro Storico
Start your exploration with the Centro Storico. This is the medieval centre of Verona, enclosed within a bend of the River Adige. Here you will find narrow streets, piazze and archaeological sites.
Enter into the old town through the Portoni della Brà, a 14th century gateway. This takes you to the Piazza Brà and the Roman Arena. From here walk along the Via Mazzini, a smart shopping street, towards the Piazza delle Erbe. On the site of the Roman forum, this is the heart of the city, surrounded by palazzi and restaurants.
Between the Piazza delle Erbe and the Piazza dei Signori is the Torre dei Lamberti. This is an 11th century bell tower (completed in the 15th century). Climb to the top for views across the city.
2. Marvel At The Roman Remains
There has been a settlement in Verona since the Bronze Age, but it only became an important town when the Romans arrived in the 2nd century BCE. Its position on three major Roman roads made Verona an important commercial centre.
Today Verona is sometimes known as “Little Rome” because of the quality of its Roman remains. Two of the original gates into the city can still be seen, and there are well-preserved villas close to the city. But the most important sites are the Arena and the Roman Theatre.
Arena Di Verona
Built in the 1st century CE, the Arena di Verona was one of the largest amphitheatres in the Roman world. Despite being partially destroyed by an earthquake in 1117, and plundered for building material, the arena remains remarkably intact.
Take a tour of the arena to discover its ancient corridors and rows of stone seating (skip the line tours are available). Better still, attend a live performance at the annual opera festival – read more about The Verona Opera Festival, Following In the Roman Tradition.
Teatro Romano Di Verona
The smaller Teatro Romano was built on the banks of the River Adige during the 1st century BCE. It has a similar style to the Arena, with banks of stone seats circling around a central stage. However, it is less complete, and was left as a ruin for many centuries.
The Teatro Romano was rediscovered around 1830 and has been renovated on several occasions. Today you can explore the ruins, and visit the Museo Archaeologico, with its collections of Greek and Roman artefacts. The theatre is still occasionally used for live performances.
3. Discover The Walls And Fortifications
Part of the UNESCO World Heritage inscription refers to Verona’s historic defences. These were built at different periods, from Roman times to the Napoleonic era.
The Castelvecchio and the Ponte Scaligero are probably the most visited parts of the old fortifications, but you will find other forts, bastions, sections of wall and moat. However, tracing the line of the defences is not always straightforward, as I discovered when trying to Make Sense of Verona’s Walls and Fortifications.
4. Follow In The Footsteps Of Romeo And Juliet
Several sites in Verona are associated with Romeo and Juliet, William Shakespeare’s famous lovers. Although they were fictional characters, you can visit Juliet’s House, Juliet’s Tomb and more. Read more about Searching for Romeo and Juliet in Verona.
Shakespeare also set another play – The Two Gentlemen of Verona – here. However, I’ve never spotted any reference to this work while I’ve been in Verona!
LivItaly have a whole range of small group tours throughout Italy. Readers of this site can get a 5% discount on all of their tours by using discount code BEWITCHEDBYITALY
5. Admire The Churches And Their Architecture
There are several magnificent churches in Verona. These include the 14th century Gothic Basilica of Sant’Anastasia, and the Chiesa di Santa Maria in Organo, formerly a Benedictine monastery. And the Basilica of San Zeno, full of frescoes and artworks, is considered one of the finest Romanesque churches in the north of Italy.
Verona Cathedral Complex
Built in the 12th century on the site of a number of Roman houses and temples, the Cathedral (“Duomo”) is a magnificent space with frescoes and artworks. The Cathedral complex also includes the Church of St Helen, where you can see archaeological remains including mosaic flooring, a Baptistery, and the Canons’ Cloister.
You can see the inside of the cathedral for yourself with this virtual tour.
6. Relax In The Giardino Giusti
When you’re ready for a moment’s respite from the city, walk up to the Giardino Giusti. This is a historic garden, with a maze, statues and fountains, and views across the town. Read more about the Giardino Giusti, A Classic Renaissance Garden.
7. Take A Day Trip
Verona is just as well connected today as it was in Roman times, and there are numerous opportunities for day trips. Fast trains will take you to cities like Milan, Venice or Bologna. Shorter trips include Vicenza and Mantua or the towns of Lake Garda.
Read more about The Best Day Trips From Verona.
Some Practicalities For Your Visit To Verona
There are several hotels in Verona but I have always stayed in the Grand Hotel des Arts. This is an excellent hotel and has the advantage of being halfway between the historic centre and the railway station.
The historic centre is very walkable. However the Hop-On-Hop-Off Bus connects all of the major sites, including some that are a little further afield. If you are planning to visit a few sites with entrance fees you may benefit from buying a Verona Card. This gives free or discounted admission to many locations as well as use of the city’s buses.
Although it is easy to explore Verona on your own, there are lots of opportunities for guided tours. These include a City Highlights Tour from LivItaly (remember to use booking code BEWITCHEDBYITALY for a 5% discount). Or try a customised walk with a local from WithLocals. Options include Off the Beaten Track in Verona and The 10 Tastings of Verona.
This article is now available as a mobile app. Go to GPSmyCity to download the app for GPS-assisted travel directions to the attractions featured in this article.