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In an effort to stay relevant to the holidays celebrated each month (and not write about our Valentine’s Day in June), today I’m going to go ahead and write about our Valentine’s Day short weekend getaway to Verona. Verona, most famous nowadays as the setting for Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, is a city located in the Veneto region of Italy. Last year, we spend Valentine Day in Venice and immediately thought it would be a good idea to spend Valentine’s Day in Verona this year.
I’m honestly a little torn about what exactly to write about Verona. There are obvious positives, including the typical charm of Italian historical centers and obvious monuments like the Roman arena (third largest in Italy) and the Roman amphitheater. However, all that being said, I honestly did not fall in love with it like I did with Venice, or Alberobello, or Turin. I will say though that the weather was absolutely horrible and depressing, so maybe under different circumstances my final thoughts would have been different. All that being said, I’m not trying to bash Verona, so don’t get offended if you actually adored Verona or worse, if you’re Veronese.
Here are some of the sights we explored during our two days in Verona:
The Juliet House
Let’s get this one out of the way first. La Casa di Giuletta is, as far as I can tell, just a random little building that’s supposed to be Juliet’s house and the location of the infamous balcony scene of Shakespeare’s tragedy. Today it is one of the things tourists recognize the most about the city of Verona. The courtyard has a statue of Juliet, a quote from the play and it’s also known for the thousands of letters to Juliet written and left all along the walls of the courtyard. I’ve seen the rom-com, so I’m not going to lie and say I wasn’t excited about seeing Juliet’s house, but I was disappointed because really it is so completely touristy. Unlike the movie, where Amanda Seyfried wandered in and there was like two people in the entire courtyard, this place was so packed you could barely walk. It took us forever to be able to get a picture of Juliet’s statue without someone standing next to it grabbing her boob. My advice: go early, like 7 am early if you want a shot at some peace and quiet. We arrived at like 10ish and it was insane. Of course, it was also Valentine’s Day.
Castelvecchio is a medieval castle built by the most important dynastic rulers of Verona, the Scaligers (Scaligeri in Italian). Today, the castle contains a museum, but we just wandered around the outside and crossed the Ponte Scaligero, which has some cool views of the city.
This was, hands down, my favorite thing about Verona. I saw a picture of it in my guidebook and it looked beautiful so I knew we had to check it out, but I was worried that because it was the dead of winter there wouldn’t be anything to see in the garden. I was so wrong. Although there are, of course, no flowers, the hedges and the statues were truly spectacular. The admission fee is 7€, which I did think is a little steep, but it was worth it. I can only imagine how much more beautiful it is during the spring and summer.
Piazza delle Erbe & Piazza dei Signori
Two of Verona’s main piazze, both were very beautiful. Piazza delle Erbe was, in Roman times, the forum of the city. Today the square has on one side the town hall and on the other the Palazzo Maffei with a statue of St. Mark’s lion. In the center there is a capitello, a kind of marble gazebo-looking structure that would be used for official ceremonies and also to punish criminals (we can imagine the type of punishments that were used).
Piazza dei Signori, adjacent to Piazza delle Erbe, was used for administrative purposes since medieval times. In the center, there is a famous statue of Dante. During Valentine’s Day weekend, Piazza dei Signori becomes a little market in the shape of a heart. We don’t have any pictures because in order for you to really appreciate the heart shape the picture needs to be taken from above.
Arena di Verona
Finally, the famous Verona Roman Arena, the third largest in Italy (Colosseum in Rome is the first), is located in Piazza Bra. It was built in the 1st century and is still in use today for opera performances, unlike the Colosseum. Actually, it must be absolutely amazing to see a performance inside!
I will say one more thing about Verona, we had two amazing meals there. The first night we ate at a restaurant called 12 Apostoli, which was out of this world amazing. Apart from the great food, the give you a little tour of their wine cellar, which contains Roman ruins accidentally discovered about 25 years ago when the restaurant tried expanding their cellar. It’s just one of those stories that can only happen in Italy. The second day we ate at Ristorante il Cenacolo, which was also delicious, with some really great Restoration Hardware-type decor and a Last Supper theme.