Few things make me feel more legit as a world wanderer than showing up in a new city and taking public transit. Buses or metros or ferries or what the shit else, when I travel to new cities or countries, I want in on the public modes of transportation.
And that’s kind of how it started in Verona. We took the train in from Milan, stowed our luggage at the train station, bought some bus tickets and then scampered around in some circles trying to find the right bus, or rather, one of the right buses, got on the bus, validated our tickets and 10 or so minutes later we were standing in front of the Verona Arena.
Built in 30 A.D., the Arena di Verona is still used today for opera performances and concerts, and has played host to some notable acts including Pink Floyd, Adele, One Direction, Radiohead, Mumford & Sons and Kiss. Back when it was new, the arena could hold something like 30,000 people, and still manages to hold crowds of 15,000 today. It’s one of the best preserved buildings of its kind and to me, it’s just as magnificent as the Coliseum in Rome.
Verona is, of course, the setting of Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet. Shakespeare himself apparently never visited Verona, and both Romeo and Juliet are fictional characters, but in 1905 the city of Verona bought a house belonging to the Cappello family and, given the similarity to Juliet’s surname, Capulet, the house was declared hers. The house was built in the 13th century and while there is a balcony overlooking the courtyard, it’s not an original feature of the house.
Typically, this sort of mobbed tourist destination is the exact sort of thing I try to avoid, but I just couldn’t. It’s silly, sure, but it’s sweet. It’s romantic. Plus, I’m pretty sure the first time I ever heard about Verona was while reading Romeo & Juliet in 9th grade, so a nod to one of the Bard’s most famous works seemed reasonable.
It was, of course, absolutely fucking mobbed. The courtyard is covered in declarations of love, mostly held to the wall with chewing gum and band-aids. It was sort of gross, but also sort of sweet. Declaring your love on the walls of Juliet’s House is, according to legend, supposed to be tops in luck for lovers.
And then there’s the statue of Juliet. Put your hand on her right boob and it’ll bring you luck in finding your true love. While we were there, it was mostly men and boys who grabbed her boob, and you can see how worn her poor right tit is after countless public boob grabs. There was a line to grab her boob while we were there, with all manner of snickering teenage boys posing for a picture with her boob in their sweaty palm.
Verona is pretty compact, which means it’s super easy to explore on foot. It’s not too terribly hard to navigate either and there’s an adequate number of signs directing visitors to the top spots.
- Terrazza Bar Al Ponte (Via Ponte Pietra, 26): Located right on the water, this place was a perfect spot for lunch. From the balcony, you get an absolute perfect view of the Ponte Pietra over the Adige River. They’ve got a solid wine list too and lunch was easy, affordable and delicious.
- Basilica di Santa Anastasia (Via Don Bassi, 2): Started in 1280 and finished in 1400, it’s an excellent example of the Gothic style and a beautiful church. The black, white and pink marble on the floor is original, too, and beautiful.
- the Verona Cathedral (Piazza Duomo, 21): Erected after two Palaeo-Christian churches on the same site were destroyed in the 1117 earthquake. Especially interesting to see here is the Baptismal Font, located in the center of church and carved out of one marble block with eight panels, each depicting different parts of Jesus’ life. There’s also a pretty neat walkway that lets you look down on some of the mosaics from the original structures.
- PRO TIP: If you’re super into visiting old churches, you can get a pass in from the Associazione Chiese Vive for €6 that gives you entry to four Verona churches, with an audio guide. Each church is €2,50, so if you’re visiting more than two it makes sense to get the pass. They’re available at each of the four included churches: Basilica di San Zeno, the Verona Cathedreal (Complesso della Cattedrale), Basilica di Santa Anastasia and Chiesa di San Fermo.
- Ponte Pietra: Built in 100 B.C., this is the oldest bridge in Verona. In WWII, retreating Germans blew up four of the bridge’s arches, but original materials were used to rebuild it in 1957. The views of the city from here are absolutely lovely.