Embark on a love affair with the Italian city known as the home of Shakespeare’s star-cross’d lovers for a taste of gelato, drama and romance, says James Williams
Why go? ‘In fair Verona, where we lay our scene…’ Shakespeare couldn’t have been more accurate. Summers involve eating gelato on cobbled streets, walks along the Adige riverbank and concerts in a Roman amphitheatre. The Unesco-listed old town is parts medieval, Renaissance and classical – not to mention romantic.
What to do Set on Piazza Bra, the geographical and cultural heart of the city is the Arena di Verona arena.it which was built in the 1st century AD and has been putting on operas for more than 100 years. It’s not all Aida and Turandot though – Adele has performed her hits to a sell-out crowd here too. It’s a short walk from here to Piazza delle Erbe, where you can take the stairs to the top of the 84m-high Torre dei Lamberti. Below is a grand view of Verona in all its terracotta-roofed grandeur. Not least, it will give you a sense of the dynastic families who built this tower and many others nearby. Further north is the Duomo chieseverona.it the city’s Romanesque cathedral littered with artwork commissioned by the ruling classes. Extensive city walls encircle the old town and are accompanied by numerous bastions and fortifications such as the Castelvecchio museodicastelvecchio.comune.verona.it with its terrifically turreted bridge. This thoroughfare links the castle with the opposite bank of the Adige, and was once guarded by the troops of Cangrande II. Some 600 years on, the damage wrought by both Napoleon and Second World War bombs was put right by star-chitect Carlo Scarpa, resulting in a museum housing elegant sculptures, masterful frescoes and medieval artefacts. Glass panels, elevated walkways and restored masonry provide a muted modern backdrop. Further proving Verona’s prowess as a centre of culture is the Galleria d’Arte Moderna Achille Forti palazzodellaragioneverona.it filled with arresting portraits, evocative landscapes and intangible sculptures that span modern art’s formative years from 1840 to 1940.
Where to stay When the stars of the Arena are in town, Palazzo Victoria 00 39 045 596 508, palazzovictoria.com just five minutes’ walk away, is top of their list. Its Zen lobby with orchids and white sofas is deceptive; beneath are Roman remains glimpsed through glass floors, and its medieval past is felt in the inner courtyard. De Luxe rooms are traditional yet stylish, while the suites all have an individual flair, from frescoed ceilings to marble bathrooms. Hotel Relais 900 00 39 045 205 5700, relais900.it is set in a villa just outside the city walls and has plenty of lovable quirks. Rooms here are great-value and decorated in Thirties style. Hotel Antica Porta Leona 00 39 045 595 499, en.anticaportaleona.com is just 100m from the Capulet palazzo and has a spa, pool and generous breakfast. It has a range of rooms to suit all pockets.
Where to eat and drink It’s best to arrive hungry in Verona – it’s in a region famous for risotto and polenta. At the city’s informal trattorias, look out for speciality risotto all’Amarone, made using local Monte Veronese cheese and Amarone della Valpolicella grape. Verona is a vinous city, and for a judicious selection of its best bins, head to Enoteca Segreta 00 39 045 801 5824, enotecasegreta.it which offers both a terrace and candlelit cellar for sipping in. Cold cuts, cheeses, pasta, and gnocchi – plus Verona’s favourite, horsemeat – are the perfect match for grape from the Veneto region. Osteria al Duca 00 39 045 594 474, osteriaalduca.it is housed in an ancient inn and stables that date back to the 13th century. A two-course set menu at $20 will bag you a rich pasta to start, plus a main of roasted veal or braised horse. For fine dining and renowned pasta dishes, try Borsari 36 00 39 045 800 0779, borsari36.it at Palazzo Victoria. Executive chef Carmine Calò reinterprets Italian classics with panache, from monkfish cannelloni to veal flat iron steak.
Time running out? The Giusti Gardens, just outside the city centre, are among the finest Renaissance gardens in Europe.
The maze-like hedgerows, statuary and views over Verona from the balustrades would inspire any wannabe lovers.
Trip tip Join in the passeggiata, an en-masse pre-dinner amble along ancient streets that converge outside the illuminated Arena.
Currency is the euro. Time is 1 hour ahead of GMT. Flight time from Dubai to Verona is 8.25 hours
Provincia di Verona The official website of the provincial tourist board has information and tips for seeing the city. tourism.verona.it
Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare (Penguin Classics, $11) may be fictional but the tragedy tells of life in 14th-century Verona and the powerful families who were vying for power.