The home of Renaissance palaces, a Roman arena and Shakespeare’s star-crossed lovers, Verona is a compact jewel of Italian history, art and food.
Verona’s main cathedral, the stately red and white striped Duomo, is a must-visit.
Take a journey through time on ancient mosaic floors, beneath ornate frescoes and an octagonal marble baptismal font that help illustrate the many layers of religious structures that have occupied the space since 362 AD.
Basilica Sant’Anastasia, another stunning art-filled church, is a sublime example of Italian gothic architecture. The eye-catching decorated altars and chapels, including a famous Pisanello fresco, make it a must-see on your journey around Verona.
It is worth the hike to visit Basilica di San Zeno, a 4th century homage to Romanesque architecture. Don’t miss the rose window, known as the “Wheel of Fortune”, along with the stunning marble bas-relief doors and the Mantegna masterpiece triptych.
If you are in the market for formal, sophisticated digs, Hotel Due Torri should be on the top of your list. Basking in an atmospheric location in Piazza Sant’Anastasia, this palace-based hotel is one of Verona’s classiest options. The rooms are decorated in period furniture and tapestries and the hotel terrace provides a lofty outlook to soak in the city’s classical atmosphere, day or night.
A short stroll from the arena, the Grand Hotel des Arts ticks a lot of boxes – including offering a quiet respite from the crowds in Verona’s historic centre. Rooms in this Art Nouveau-styled hotel come decked out with Occitane products and a free minibar for those who book directly with the hotel.
Travellers looking for something more modern might want to check out the Escalus Luxury Suites, which is within shouting distance of the ancient arena. Step inside the 19th century building and you will be treated to light, contemporary rooms and designs. The generously-sized suites stand out in a city not known for an abundance of space.
The Arena di Verona dates from 1 AD and is the historic centrepiece of the city. It is still one of the largest amphitheatres in Italy and its famed elliptical shape provides perfect acoustics from any seat, while still accommodating large crowds. The iconic theatre still hosts entertainment on most nights, but world class opera has replaced the gladiator contests of yore. It is wise to book ahead for tickets. If you miss the evening shows, the arena also opens for daily tours between 8.30am and 7.30pm (these hours may change when shows are scheduled).
Get a taste of medieval life with a stroll around the city’s oldest gathering spots, Piazza delle Erbe and Piazza dei Signori. If you are feeling fit, scale the 84 metre, 12th-century Torre dei Lamberti for a 360-degree view over the city’s historic centre. Never fear if your legs aren’t up to the 368 steps: a glass elevator can whisk you to the top.
Punctuated by six towers and a moat, the ancient castle Castelvecchio was built to protect Verona during the Middle Ages. Today it serves as the city’s museum. The museum offers a masterclass in European art, filled with masterpieces of Romanesque and gothic sculptures, along with stunning medieval and Renaissance paintings and frescoes.
Osteria del Bugiardo on Corso Porta Borsari is a popular bar and café that offers refreshments throughout the day and evening. Sample some of the region’s wines, including those from the owner’s Valpolicella vineyard, along with other drinks and traditional local dishes.
For something a little lighter and more local, visit Scapin Caffe Cucina Bottega. This modern wine bar has a multi-page list of wines, bubbles and beers by the glass. A great place to try out an array of Italian tipples and yummy European snacks.
One of the city’s most romantic places to eat is the charming Ristorante Ponte Pietra. The regional Italian kitchenserves quintessential fare including gnocchi, ossobuco, linguine and Bistecca alla Fiorentina(mouth-watering T-bone steak, seared rare in Florentine style). The restaurant’s two leafy terraces, overlooking the Adige river and the historic Ponte Pietra, provide a perfect setting for a candlelight dinner.
The Michelin-starred 12 Apostoli is one of Verona’s oldest and most extraordinary places to dine. From the historic frescoes and excavated ruins that provide a unique aura to the personal greetings from the chef and gourmet offering, it lives up to its reputation as a temple for food.
De Rossi has been providing Verona aficionados with delicious breads, pastries and snacks since 1947. Don’t leave without a bag of the Baci di Romeo and Giulietta biscotti, also known as Romeo and Juliet kisses.
Verona’s two main shopping streets, Via Mazzini and Corso Porta Borsari, will fulfil the dreams of the most enthusiastic fashionistas. You’ll likely remember those dreams by the respectable dent in your pocketbook or wallet.
If wine is your thing, be sure to visit Winefriends. Don’t let the kitsch-sounding name put you off: inside the store you will find an amazing array of interesting wines from all over Italy, with many from smaller wineries. Store owners Lia and Marco are happy to lend their local expertise and sommelier suggestions about each of the wines.
Valpolicella, one of Italy’s most respected wine regions, is just a half-hour drive from Verona. Most of the wineries offer tours and tastings, which usually include a sampling of the area’s sumptuous red masterpiece – Amarone. The historic Masi winery and estate Serego Alighieri, which was the original home of 12-century author Dante’s son, has a suite of self-catering apartments tucked away in lovely villas. They make an excellent base for extended wine tasting or as an escape from the heat of the Italian sun.
A day or weekend getaway to Lake Garda is a favourite for Verona locals, especially during the summer months. As Italy’s largest lake, it is also a big draw for European vacationers.
The shores of the lake are dotted with more than 20 picturesque villages with pastel villas and rolling green hills as background decor. Boating, swimming, hiking or relaxing in waterside trattoria are all great ways to enjoy the lake, which is less than an hour by car from Verona.