Whether’s the food, culture, people, architecture or each other Italy, more importantly Verona is in need the place for love.
At Blue Lizard Adventures we not only offer adventures, safaris and volunteer projects, but we also love to travel as much as the next person, therefore we will also be bringing you stories and previews of the places we visit.
This time we visit Verona, a busy Roman city in Northern Italy. Verona is famous for its stunning piazzas, artistic heritage, numerous tourist attractions and of course the love story of Romeo and Juliet. If I am honest it was this story, my love for Valpolacella wine, pasta and the film “Letters to Juliet” that actually made me want to visit. I would love to say it was something more cultural and historical but in essence it was the draw of the romantic Italian lifestyle.
I dreamt of close cobbled streets, lined with small cafes and restaurants with people sipping espresso, eating spaghetti and chatting enthusiastically in a language I struggled to understand. I was expecting beautiful ladies, charming men and a passion for life. This is exactly what I got and so much more.
Arriving on a Sunday I expected the streets of Verona to be quiet, But I was wrong! Although the day was over cast and cool, there were a number of people walking the small streets, eating ice cream or sat in the piazza cafes drinking wine. This was our exploring half day, you know where you go get your bearings of the areas, get a feel for where the busiest bars are, where the supermarket, banks and toilets are and where you might like to visit on the next full day!!
I was starting to get the feeling life and visits here were very much centred food, wine, food and wine. This I was not going to be complaining about. The heavy rain then decided to bless us with its company, therefore, it was time for the first bottle of wine to be enjoyed.
Waking to yet more heavy rain, I cannot pretend I was not disappointed, but this is Verona and just oozes charm which we were desperate to explore and enjoy some more.
Mondays are in fact the day were most people seem to rest. Either that, or people really did not like the rain! But is was much quieter than the previous day. This was until we got to where we had been told to go and see the “important bits” of Verona. The two streets in question are Via Mazzini and Via Cappello. A number of the tourist attractions are centred around these two adjoining streets. This is also the busiest part of Verona were many like minded tourists try to a photo touching Juliet’s left breast or of the stunning buildings. We decided to start with the “free” stuff to do in Verona.
Juliet’s balcony was our first stop. Crazy busy, but between the hustle and bustle I couldn’t help but feel a strange pang of sadness as I recalled the tragic love story. Staring up from the floor to the balcony I couldn’t help myself but recite the words… “Romeo, Romeo wherefore art thou Romeo. Deny thy father and refuse thy name! Or, if thou wilt not be but sworn my love, and I’ll no longer be a Capulet”.
The rest I must confess escapes me!! Here you are able to stand in the court yard, see the balcony, touch Juliet’s left breast of her statue, post your own letter to Juliet and visit the shop, all for free. To go around the house is approximately 6Euros, but worth every penny (or euro!).
The courtyard was not what I was expecting. I had imagined a small sun kissed courtyard with one or two girls writing letters and crying up at the balcony. Maybe an image a little too reminiscent of the scene from the film Letters to Juliet. In fact, it was so packed full of people you could barely walk anywhere with out standing on someones toes and there was a very long que for people to have their photo taken. Hence why the photo here is of some lovely lady who has no affiliation with Blue Lizard Adventures, but who was at the front of the que when I arrived.
Another very curious thing we noticed, people had stuck chewing gum on all the walls and wrote there initials and love hearts in it. In addition, to confess your ever lasting love for someone you can buy a coloured padlock, write your name on and lock it to the vines which climbs the walls of Juliet’s house.
|Piazza delle Erbe fountain|
Piazza delle Erbe is a short walk up Via Capello from Juliet’s balcony. This piazza I would suggest, makes a fantastic starting point to your visit to Verona. It is in the heart of the historic centre and is surrounded by stunning medieval buildings and towers. The rectangular piazza is littered with gorgeous cafes and stalls selling an array of souvenirs, making it a great place to buy that all important fridge magnet or snow globe, and to have your morning coffee of glass of wine!!
|Winged lion atop of a pillar in the piazza|
This piazza, although it was the busiest, it captured the essence of the entire city.
Just through the Arco della Costa (arch with a whale) off the piazza you will find the Piazza dei Signori. This small square is surrounded by even more amazing buildings, but with only a small number of cafes. In the centre of the square stands the statue of Dante and atop of the buildings are statues of more famous signori. This is also home to the entrance of the Lamberti Tower or the Torre dei Lamberti. This medieval tower was started in the 12th century and was raised further, restored and the clock added, to reach its final height of 84 metres. At this height you can imagine it is a great place to get a birds eye view of Verona in it’s entirety.
|Birds eye view of the Piazza delle|
The tower has three sections of steps; the first is 243 steps, you can also pay a euro at the reception desk to get the lift up. We of course did this, as I had decided to wear my silly shoes which already hurt me! However, we payed a euro but there was none supervising who got on or off the lift! This is as far as the you get help though. No matter as the next section is only 46 steps and the third is 79!! I know this sounds rather a lot of steps and I guess it is, but it is very much worth it. Now a note, if you value your hearing and do not want a ringing in your ears for a good hour after, do not do what we did and go up the tower on the hour! Yes a huge great big bell just above your head will chime!!!
|View from Torre dei Lamberti|
|Our bar tender|
Today it had really struck me how this city is just bursting with passion. Everything just oozes passion and luxury. What some of us may take as a luxury the Italians of Verona take as every day life. Two hours off in the afternoon, wine at 11am, constant browsing on cheese, olives and bread. The whole lifestyle seems so lied back, they seem to love life and not let too many stresses and worries get the better of them. Its easy to love this way of life and I certainly embraced it as we sat for the remainder of the afternoon supping wine and presecco and grazing on strong cheese and tomato brushette watching the world go by planning the next day.
A number of the attractions in the city cost around 6/8euros. I therefore suggest buying a Verona card. You can purchase one of these from most major attractions but not at Lamberti Tower. In addition, some hotels and tobacconist shops also sell them. Ours cost 15euros and gets you entry to a number of the tourist attractions including:
- Roman Arena
- Lamberti Tower
- Juliet’s House
- Juliet’s Tomb and Fresco Museum
- Roman Theatre and Archaeology Museum
- Castelvecchio – Castle and Museum Complex
- Cathedral (Duomo) Complex
- Church of Santa Anastasia
- Church of San Fermo
- Church of San Zeno
- Radio Museum
- Natural History Museum
- Lapidary Museum
The card we bought was a two day card. Note that it goes in 24 hours not by calender day. This card was brilliant and saves so much money. In fact it properly made us visit some places we might not have gone to if it wasn’t for the Verona card. It almost became a challenge to get as many places ticked off as possible.
Today’s little moment came whilst staring at the buildings. They have created this outstanding balance between the old and the new. The medieval buildings so full of character are fitted with new electric gates or sometimes new windows. But yet this just does not seem out of place. It all mixes so well. maybe this is what creates the feeling of luxury and passion mixed with heritage and culture?!
First stop the Roman Arena. Built in the 1st century BC this huge arena is the third largest in Italy and can hold up to 25,000 spectators. Now a days it is the venue for the prestigious opera festival and for a number of theatrical performances. If you visit when one of these are on it would be a well worth a look. In the tunnels around the arena, if you close your eyes you can almost hear the gladiators and imagine what it must have been like, waiting to go out to fight.
Next we decided to visit Castelvecchio a 14th century medieval castle and museum complex. There are 16 rooms filled with sacred art, paintings, Renaissance bronze, coins, weapons and armour. The complex is a maze of towers, keeps and bridges. Really it is a maze and we ended up getting lost and stuck inside!Finding the exit was no easy task. However, to its positive it is a stunning piece of architecture.
|Part of the wall at Castelvecchio|
Walking along the river to the next port of call is a great little walk. The river is lined by old stone walls and perfectly aline trees. We were also treated to seeing red throated swallows catching a meal on the wing over the river. We then came to Ponte Pietra, one of the 8 bridges in Verona that crosses the river. All the bridges are very beautiful, some more than others. Ponte Pietra and Ponte di Castelvecchio were my favourites, very grand!
Across the river we found ourselves at the Roman Theatre and Archaeological museum. This 1st century theatre was gradually covered after the 10th century by houses and churches. Then a wealthy merchant “re-discovered the theatre and proceeded to buy the entire complex, demolishing and excavating to restore it to part of its forma glory. The theatre is on a hill side over looking the river and a walk to the top of the steps is very steep. At the top is the archaeological museum filled with Roman mosaics, bronzes, sculptures and inscriptions.
Admittedly my feet were starting to hurt terribly and my stomach was rumbling, therefore a much needed pit stop at a cafe by the river was just what I needed.
After wine, salad and more bread, we fit our last three stops, the Church of St. Anastasia, the Church of St. Fermo and the Natural History Museum.
The Church of St. Anastasia is an amazing example of Italian Gothic architecture. Work began on it in 1290 AD and continued through the 14th, 15th and 16th century. And it is no surprise it took so long! The interior is rather impressive, full again of the passion and luxury that is afforded to the entire city. It is also a place that even an nonreligious person can feel humbled and light a few candles for those loved and lost.
|Ouside Church of St. Anastasia|
|Amazing church ceiling|
Chuch of St. Fermo is on the banks of the river Adige. Not as impressive or as popular as Anastasia but still a stunning piece of Romanesque architecture. Again, the work continued over centuries and it shows in the interior and exterior.
|Church of St. Fermo|
|Inside the church|
Our final visit for our short trip to Verona was to the natural history museum on the other side of the river. We have been to a number of natural history museums and this was no expectation. It has a fantastic collection of artifacts and fossils and tells the story, albeit in Italian, about the stages of life and the planet. For me the most amazing exhibit was an art show at the front with pictures by a young artists who makes pictures from naked people. Take a look below…………..
There are of course many other places in Verona to visit and on our return we will visit all the places we missed. However, I would suggest checking the weather forecast and the packing shoes that are comfortable and ones without holes in the bottom so you can avoid having cold, wet, painful feet for the majority of your stay!!
Verona was indeed a place of culture, luxury, history, passion and love. Blue Lizard Adventures recommends Verona highly and hopefully one day will be able to offer a volunteer project in Italy or an Eco tour package.
Enjoy, Love, Teach, Learn, Conserve. This wonderful planet is worth exploring.