It’s “in fair Verona, where we lay our scene.” So starts William Shakespeare’s “Romeo & Juliet,” undoubtedly The Bard’s most famous play. Thanks to good old Wills, Verona has become one of the best city breaks in all of Italy. While fans of “Romeo & Juliet” head here in droves every summer to see the play performed in its literary home, Verona is so much more than the place where the teen duo reportedly lived and died. Fair Verona inspires and delights with its architectural wonders, ancient ruins and mouthwatering Lesso e pearà.
A Roman stronghold, the fortified northern Italian city in the storied Veneto region is a UNESCO World Heritage Site thanks to its well-preserved medieval and Renaissance edifices. Long a strategic military and trading port, it flourished under both Emperor Charlemagne and the Scaliger family, who ruled the city 700 years apart. Both ruling clans improved its defenses and infrastructure. While much of the fortifications and ancient buildings were destroyed during the Second World War, careful Post-War reconstruction efforts restored the remaining archaeological treasures to their original splendor. Today you can see the remains of the city gate, the Ponte Pietra, Roman theater and the Arco dei Gavi, all sights worthy of a visit when one wants to go beyond the Shakespearean tours that dominate the city from spring to fall.
Verona’s strategic position at the steps of the Dolomites and near Lake Garda and Venice means it’s the perfect place for a city break if you’re already in the Veneto region. So here’s our guide for things to do in Verona.
Italian dishes vary by region but food is always the central focus in Italian culture. Verona is no different, with signature dishes that typify the region. Since the Lombardi dynasty—we’re talking Middle Ages here—every nonna in Verona makes Lesso e pearà for celebrations and holidays. Slow-cooked beef is paired with a bready bone marrow broth seasoned with salt and pepper. Add some boiled meat on the side and you’re good to go. The dish is so symbolic of the region that you won’t find it anywhere else in Italy. Variations of Bigoli in salsa exist on nearly every Italian menu in town. While also a typical Venetian dish, Verona’s version eschews the anchovies for sardines. Both varieties feature thick, spaghetti-like pasta and onions.
Vialone nano, the region’s native rice, is used in its traditional Risotto all’Amarone, which is delicately flavored with the celebrated local red wine as well as the requisite onions, broth, olive oil, salt and pepper. Wash it down with some Amarone and you’re already living like a local.
Traditional Veronese restaurants dot the entire city, with the aforementioned specialities often on their menus. For a spectacular view of the Lessini Mountains and the city below, head to Ristorante Piper. The interior can seem a bit over the top with its large gold frame and red wheat stalks dominating the main dining room, but the food makes up for any reservations you might have. The menu is large and varied, with meat and fish getting equal play with pasta and vegan options. Carnivores will delight in the moist and tender grilled beefsteak; vegans will rejoice in the seitan-centric main courses on offer. Choose a seat outside, under the canopies, for a delightful summer repast with spectacular vistas.
Terraza Bar Al Ponte takes Veronese cuisine to a new level, with a river view to match. Gaze in wonder at the Ponte Pietra as you dine on locally sourced seasonal dishes such as smoked mountain trout with Cervia salt. Enjoy an after-dinner Spritz on the terrace as you mingle with well-heeled locals.
Verona is compact so touring the city is easy peasy, with many of the most visited or historic sites clustered together in the center of town. The three main Piazzas are the perfect starting point to any trip to Verona. The largest of the squares, Piazza Bra, boasts many a historical site including the colossal Arena di Verona—where operatic summer productions of Romeo & Juliet are always on the schedule—and the lavish Palazzo della Gran Guardia, which took 200 years to build, and now hosts concerts and exhibitions.
Piazza delle Erbe and Piazza dei Signori both pay homage to Verona’s past with majestic buildings such as the Palazzo Maffei and the Loggia del Consiglio on display. Pro tip: Head to the Erbe’s fruit and vegetable market to pick up some fresh produce for dinner.
Your trip to Verona wouldn’t be complete without a tour of the sites made famous in Shakespeare’s most renowned tragedy. The unearthly Juliet’s Tomb is housed in San Francesco al Corso, a Franciscan monastery, and is worth a bus ride outside the city—even if Juliet never actually existed.
The heroine’s balcony is the most visited site in Verona and with good reason: forlorn lovers head here to ask the doomed Juliet for guidance in their own troubled romantic lives. Graffiti covers the walls below the medieval structure but that doesn’t stop the throngs of tourists hoping for a selfie or an IG-worthy snap.
Situated between the train station and the Palazzo Bra, the Hotel Firenze, Sure Hotel Collection by Best Western is a cozy boutique hotel with 49 modern rooms. The hotel can accommodate single travelers in basic twin rooms but as the rooms increase in size, so do the amenities. Expect hardwood floors, neutral tones, a few pops of color and jacuzzi or Turkish baths in every guest room. Bikes are available for rent and the hotel even caters to severe allergy sufferers who can choose a hypoallergenic room.
Just steps away from the Arena, the fourth-generation, family-run Hotel Colomba D’Oro affords guests stately accommodations and personalized service. All rooms come equipped with custom-designed furniture, flatscreen TVs and striped Italian brocade coverlets that evoke images of the Renaissance. The ornate gilded lobby beckons visitors and the intimate bar is the place to be for a nightcap on your last day in Verona.