A insider’s guide to Verona: The best hotels, restaurants & places to visit
Best known for its Shakespeare associations, Verona is a city built on love. With its pretty piazzas, idyllic restaurants, knotted lanes, and central Amphitheatre dating back to the 1st century, you’d be forgiven for falling head over heels in love with the city of Verona.
The city is steeped in history and is only 45 minutes from the shores of stunning Lake Garda if you wish to make a road-trip of your time in Italy. Verona may not have been your first choice when it comes to Italian destinations, but I’m about to convince you why it should be.
Verona brings out the adventurer and the romantic in you. Many travel to Fair Verona in search of Romeo and Juliet…. this is the place that inspired Shakespeare’s greatest love story after all! It’s not difficult to see why this beautiful city motivated one of the greatest writers of all time. Every cobbled street, twist and turn tells a story of its own and when you walk through these destined streets be sure to look up at the stunning architecture Verona has to offer.
During your trip you must pay a visit to Juliet’s Balcony. Hundreds of people gather in the famous courtyard to look at the house of Capulet and the fortuned balcony which Juliet is fabled to have frequently met Romeo at. The courtyard has become a destination point of Verona with tourists standing by the golden statue of Juliet for good luck, especially those wanting to get married.
The courtyard has taken a modern turn too. Tourists have signed locks and attached them to a metal gate that resides in this space. Thousands of locks stand together with messages of love, names and dates. As you close your lock and keep your key you feel you are adding to a layer of history.
Beyond the Renaissance romance, Verona is a bustling hub with locals and tourists entwined; enjoying all that the city has to offer. The central piazza is dominated by a remarkably well-preserved 1st-century Amphitheatre, which set the precedent for the iconic Amphitheatre in Rome. In fact the one in Verona is the fourth largest Amphitheatre in the world. This is the first place to visit, as ticking it off the bucket list is a true must. Our tip? Walk a full lap around the Amphitheatre at the very top so you can enjoy far-reaching views, then back on the ground stand in the middle to understand what it must have felt like to take part in the Gladiator games with thousands of people watching.
The Amphitheatre is the focal point of the city so if you haven’t been to Verona try to stay as close to this point as possible. It will make getting around so much easier! After your Amphitheatre tour enjoy a glass of Chianti in one of the nearby restaurants; a true delight and a rarity if it’s a weekday and you are normally working. Even if it’s not the height of summer there is something extremely magical about sitting in an open square looking out onto the Amphitheatre and gardens, letting time float by.
If you can’t decide which hotel to opt for we highly recommend the Palazzo Victoria. It’s a boutique, luxury hotel situated close to the renowned Roman Gate making it the perfect location. Not only this, it cleverly blends old and new with some of the original foundations left in place as a nod to Verona’s heritage.
Next stop is a wander through the shops out towards the river Adige. Verona is built on both sides of the river so follow the water and see where it takes you. Not always knowing your end destination is a great feeling, especially in a place like Verona. Here we dropped the key from our lock into the river; it was amazing to watch it fall into the running water. A moment in time I shall never forget.
Hiking across the bridge we passed the famous ruins of another Amphitheatre and followed the path up the hill towards the renowned Piazzale Castel San Pietro. This is the finest viewpoint of all Verona. Breath-taking and beautiful, this is the money-shot – an iconic look-out with the entire city as your backdrop. There is no better place to take in the city landscape. High-up on this cliff-top you do reflect on all that’s important to you. Moments like this are the moments that last a life time.
From here you can meander down the steps at your own pace and head towards the Castelvecchio Bridge, which will cross you back over the Adige into the main city. With seven towers, a castle keep, and four separate buildings, Verona’s 14th-century fortress, Castelvecchio, is one of the city’s most imposing buildings. Today, it is home to a museum of art with a collection of paintings that includes pieces by northern Italian masters Mantegna, Bellini and Pisanello.
After all the walking it’s time to do what the Italians do best; wine, pizza and pasta of course! It would be rude not to, right? We find a modern but authentic restaurant in Piazza delle Erbe. With its elegant central fountain and outdoor cafes with locals sipping Aperol Spritz we feel in the heart of it all. We’re spoilt for choice with the menu (knowing whatever we order is going to be great) so we take our time and watch the world go by.
Verona is a city rich in culture and history, so much so, that is has landed a place on the World Heritage list. Add this to the countless churches, architecturally fascinating bridges, towers, fountains, wooden shutters and ancient inscriptions, not to mention the regional wine and food, Verona shapes up as one of northern Italy’s most attractive cities.
It’s fair to say, Verona is magnificent. She’s humble in places, with certain buildings left to ruin and disrepair, with graffiti in random places as tourists continue the theme from Juliet’s balcony, but this is all juxtaposed by the greatness of the colossal Amphitheatre, art galleries and many beautiful piazzas that capture your imagination.
If you’re looking for a short break with a loved one, Verona won’t let you down. We will be back in the summer as we’ve heard the open-air Opera in the Amphitheatre is the ultimate Verona experience – see you there? I thought so!