Fair Verona – made famous by Shakespeare’s tale of Romeo and Juliet – is a beautifully compact city that’s perfect for a weekend break. Easy to navigate by foot, plenty of shady squares to rest your feet and ancient Roman sights galore, Verona is an ideal city break. Below is our weekend guide to the city.
Getting there and transport
Dinky Verona airport is a 20 minute taxi ride from the city centre. You can also fly into neighbouring Venice and hop on the train (an hour) to Verona. Once in Verona, there’s very little need for public transport as the city is small and easy to cover by foot. If you do fancy a rest, there is a sweet little train that takes you past most of the city’s main sights.
Verona’s Opera Festival at Arena di Verona
The main reason for our return to Verona, having visited a few years prior, was to enjoy the city’s famous opera festival, for the last night of our honeymoon: we had tickets to see Carmen. Having seen signs for the opera festival when we last visited, I had been desperate to see a show for myself and ending our three weeks in Italy inside a Roman Ampitheatre, under the stars, seemed the perfect choice. We had seats in the middle of the arena, which were costly but you can also purchase cheap tickets on the night to sit along the stone rows. If you’re planning on doing this make sure you purchase a few cushions beforehand as sitting on a stone wall for 4 hours is only going to be a pain in the backside; quite literally. You will also need to start queuing early to ensure you bag a ticket. Dress code along the stone stalls is relaxed, becoming more and more formal the closer you get to the stage in the middle of the arena.
The show started at 9pm and continued on until 1:30am, including three intervals that allowed you to stretch your legs and enjoy a drink outside on the neighbouring piazza. Despite the length, the four hours flew by and listening to the song’s of Carmen vibrating around the arena was magical. My only word of advice is that you must prepare for the heat. If you know that sitting for four hours in 28 degree + temperatures is too much for you, you might want to steer clear. The constant movement of people in fluorescent orange jackets, collecting people who had fallen ill from the heat was slightly irritating!
Romeo and Juliet’s Balcony
A visit to Verona would not be the same without a trip to the famed (if not fictional) Juliet’s balcony. Tourist mecca it might be, but this doesn’t take away from the cheesy fun of visiting here and leaving a padlock for you and your loved one next to Juliet’s statue. They say rubbing Juliet’s left breast – I didn’t make this up – brings good luck, so dutifully join the queue to have your photo taken of this ‘hilarious’ action.
We were really excited to return here to – and rather naively now in retrospect – find the padlock we had left there two years prior. Much to my disappointment, the railing where we had left our lock had been removed, although I believe the railings taken away are being turned into an art sculpture of some kind, so it’s nice to know that the symbol of our love hasn’t been crushed somewhere in a rubbish heap.
Top tip: the inside of Juliet’s house is actually rather underwhelming and so save some time and just enjoy the view of the balcony from the outside. You’re not missing much.
If you’re a regular to our blog posts, you’ll know that we have one golden rule when visiting a European city: always climb the tower. In Verona this is no different. The 84m tower offers panoramic views out over Verona and beyond and is well worth the climb up. Even in blistering heat, I could appreciate the view.
Piazza delle Erbe
Once a Roman Forum, this is my favourite Piazza in Verona. Housing some of the city’s most important buildings, a beautiful fountain in the centre and restaurants lining the sides, it’s a lovely spot in the city: perfect for lunch or dinner. The other highlight of the square is the impressive Arco della Costa (big arch!), which features a large whale rib hanging between it. Story has it that the bone will fall on the first ‘just’ person to walk under it. Ironically, despite Kings and Popes passing under it, it’s yet to fall.
Top tip: climb the Lamberti Tower for a bird’s eye view of the square.
This is the largest piazza in Verona and home to the Verona Arena (ampitheatre). Lined by cafes, restaurants and important looking buildings, this is the perfect spot to sit back, enjoy a coffee and watch the people pass you by. In the evenings, the square truly comes alive. Top tip: if you haven’t managed to get tickets to the opera during the summer, kick back at a restaurant in the piazza and enjoy the music echoing across the square.
Shopping: Via Mazzini
Verona may be an old city but it’s shopping is far from outdated. Via Mazzini, a long cobbled pedestrian-only street, is the busiest of the city. Packed full of designer shops, this is the place to come if you’re looking for a new wardrobe, or in my case, plenty of opportunities to find air-conditioning and shelter from the afternoon sun.
A small but perfectly formed attraction is the Ponte Pietra bridge. Located in the northern part of the city, the bridge was actually destroyed by the bombings in 1945. It was, however, lovingly restored by fisherman who scooped the bricks out of the river and carefully rebuilt it during the 1950s. A true act of love in Romeo and Juliet’s city.
Not to be confused with the Roman Amphitheatre mentioned above, the Roman theatre is impressively preserved and, at the top, offers lovely views out over the river and across the city. When we visited, the site was being used for a production and it was nice to see that even today the venue is still used for what it was originally built for. The adjacent museum houses some beautiful original mosaic flooring too – worth a visit.
Castelvecchio (Old castle)
This sturdy, squat castle is a tourist draw in the city – although I actually preferred spending time on the impressive bridge that leads to it! In terms of aesthetics, it’s not the most beautiful castle but there is a very interesting museum on the site and the bridge offers wonderful views over the river.
Lake Garda is a hop, skip and jump away on a 20-minute train journey. This provides the perfect opportunity, if you’re looking to stay longer in Italy, to combine a city break with the more relaxed surroundings of the beautiful lakes.
Venice is an hour’s train journey from Verona. Having travelled to Verona before by train from Venice, it’s most definitely worth combining visiting both cities if you can. The train was quick, clean and runs from incredibly early in the morning to late at night.
The thought of a weekend break to a European city can often leave you feeling a little overwhelmed. A trip to little Verona, however, is the ideal way to spend 48 hours. It’s compact, pretty as a picture and contains just enough treasures to guide you through a weekend. Offering romance, culture (don’t miss the opera), history and delicious food – what’s not to love?
Have you visited Verona before? What did you think? Let us know below!