Wherever you may roam on the road to Rome
Intersection of several roads, destination for travelers since the ancient times, key location for those travelling the road „Via Claudia Augusta” towards Rome. This is where the name of the city Verona originates from: the Latin „Versus Romae” which means „in the direction of Rome”. In the Roman era visitors came oftentimes from far away places most of them heading towards Rome, halting for some time in Verona to rest, trade and enjoy themselves. The gladiator games and the theater shows held in the amphitheater were highly valued pleasures. Soon Verona became more than a transit towards Rome, it became a destination itself. No wonder that some artists were inspired by the place. First Dante, then Shakespeare, by the 20th century the city became so popular that thousands of tourists visit it every year.
Whether you want to visit Verona for its historic sites and many museums, or come for the annual opera festival or you are a hopeless romantic wanting to stand on Juliet’s famous balcony in the hopes of finding eternal love, Verona has it all.
The Basilica of San Zeno Maggiore
The Basilica of San Zeno is a Romanesque style church remarkable for its rose window and Gothic style apse. Named after the Bishop of Verona, the basilica was built in 967 and restored in the 12th century after a massive earthquake caused serious damage in 1117.
The front bronze door is decorated with 48 religious and historical figures and the interior with frescoes from the 13th and 14th century. In the apse stands the unusual red marble statue of San Zeno representing the saint in a smiling posture, quite unexpected if we consider that in most cases the saints are depicted as serious figures.
Whether this is due the saint´s origin and character or the imagination of the unknown artist from the 13th century who sculpted the statue remains a mystery. Nonetheless the statue is an iconic element of the basilica and the entire city of Verona. The abbey belonging to the basilica is worth a visit too, its courtyard is beautifully looked after and is indeed a place where you can have a moment of peace and solitude.
The Roman Theater of Verona
Located along the river Adige between the Ponte di Pietra and the Ponte Postumio, the Roman theatre is a more than 2000-year-old amphitheater. The construction was forgotten for centuries until the first part of the 20th century when it was rediscovered, and the restorations started.
Today it still has a retro style allure: the auditorium is built of old massive heavy rocks, the upper terrace made of eroded dingy walls, and old brick buildings edging it on both sides. Raising to a height of 58 meters, the view over the city is impressive: this is a good place to shoot a panorama of Verona.
The Verona Arena is a two thousand years old Roman Amphitheater. Built in the first century AD, its capacity was originally 30 000 people and it hosted gladiator games until the 5th century when the Western Roman Emperor Honorius prohibited them.
The arena was then abandoned for centuries and until the 20th century occasionally it was home for bullfights, concerts or theatrical performances. On the occasion of the celebration of Giuseppe Verdi´s 100 birthday the arena was reopened and ever since it hosts concerts and operas.
However, the years left their mark on the arena. An earthquake in 1117 destroyed the outer ring and together with it the façade of the amphitheater made of pink limestone from Valpolicella.
What was left is a massive 4 floors construction, 152 m long and 113 m wide with a capacity of 15 000 people, with a perfect acoustics for performances.
Piazza delle Erbe
Piazza delle Erbe is the main square of Verona and it´s surrounded by some old famous buildings. The square was always a center point of the city´s social life: once it served as a forum (marketplace), today the area is populated with cafés, restaurants and shops. The place is popular among tourists not only for the cafés, but also for the surrounding outstanding architecture. Domus Nova on the northern side was once the office of high officials (Podesta) of Verona. It served also as accommodation for the judges, hence the name of Palazzo dei Giudici (Palace of Judges). Today it functions as a hotel and is rated exceptional.
The Mazzanti Houses, one of the 300 houses painted around 1500 in Verona, making thus the city ˝Urbus picta˝ (the painted city) flanks the square on the northern part.
The house once owned by Alberto I della Scala has a beautiful façade painted by Alberto Cavalli. The frescoes represent the concepts of Envy, Ignorance and Good Governance.
The Torre dei Lamberti is an 84 m tall tower built in 1172 by the Lamberti family. It is one of the many towers built at that time and was meant to symbolize the wealth of the family. It is among the few towers that endured the centuries.
The tower has two bells: Rengo used in times of war and Marangona signaling the end of working days for artisans (marangon) and was also rang in case of a fire. The tower can be climbed by stairs or by elevator.
Palazzo Mafei is a baroque palace located on the western side of the square, unique for the six statues of Hercules, Jupiter, Venus, Mercury, Apollo and Minerva decorating the balustrade of the top façade and the House of the Merchants. In front of the palace on a pedestal is St. Mark´s Lion, the symbol of the city of Verona. It has later become the symbol of the Verona Film Festival and the assurance company Generali.
One of the most important fortresses of Verona is Castelvecchio. It was built by Cangrande II della Scala in 1354 for defensive purposes along the river Adige. The Ponte Scaligero linking the fortress with the northern side of the city is a beautiful asymmetrical bridge made of brick. The fortress functions today as a museum exhibiting weapons, paintings and sculptures from 1300 to 1700.
Casa di Giulietta
The house belonged to the Italian noble family Dal Cappello since the 12th century, but there are no records about who they were and what they did. The house gained fame after Shakespeare wrote the drama Romeo and Juliet.
Juliet´s family is the Capulet and the belief that the Dal Cappello house was the place where Juliet lived and where the two teenagers declared their love for each other spread like wildfire. The truth is that when speaking about the family names, Shakespeare was most probably inspired by Dante´s Purgatorio in which the conflicting families are the Montecchi and the Cappelletti. Disregarding the real facts, the imagination of people went wild to such an extent, that in 1905 the city bought the house the Dal Cappello family, built the famous balcony and opened a museum exhibiting costumes and designs meant to reconstruct the life of Juliette. There is even a statue of Juliet in the courtyard and the superstition says that if you touch its right breast it will bring you happiness, fertility and eternal love. That´s the reason why entering the courtyard you might find people waiting in line and taking pictures while groping the statue.
The Verona Cathedral was finished in 1187 and renovations were carried on until the 15th century.
It was erected after the earthquake from 1117 destroyed the 2 Paleo-Christian churches built on this site earlier. The interior is similar to the Basilica San Petronio in Bologna: Gothic arcades, decorated column capitals, and a clear ceiling.
The main chapel and the bell tower are creations of Sanmicheli and the interior is decorated with Renaissance artworks by Veronese artists.
Basilica of Sant'Anastasia
The Gothic church was built by the Dominican Friars between 1280 and 1400 on the site where previously a church was built by King Theodoric the Great. At the entrance visitors are welcomed by two hunchbacks holding the stoups. The interior is decorated with several frescoes by famous artists: St George and The Princess by Pisanello, Madonna of the Rosary by Lorenzo Veneziano, Deposition by Liverale da Verona. The windows illuminate the ceiling and the arcades richly decorated with floral motives well.
San Fermo Maggiore
The Gothic style San Fermo Maggiore church is built on another Christian church from the 5th century AD. The first church was dedicated to the martyrs Firmus and Rusticus who were canonized for refusing to idolize the pagan gods.
The two kinsmen were eventually tortured and then beheaded, their bodies were buried in a sarcophagus and deposited in the first church.
In 1065 the Benedictines overtook the administration of the church and decided to build a second church right upon the first one because they wanted to leave the relics of the saints untouched.
The upper church has an interesting wooden ceiling decorated with the images of 416 saints painted in tempera aligned in 4 rows. The mausoleum of the Brenzoni family created by Pizanello and the Crucifixions painted by Turone da Maxio are also attractions of the place. The lower church is connected to the upper church through an internal staircase. The lower church is more simplistic in design, but not less imposing. The walls are decorated with more than 70 frescoes dating from the 12th century.