Heard of a play called “Romeo & Juliet”? The folks in Verona definitely have. This affluent city, with its gorgeous strawberry- and peach-colored medieval buildings, is one of Italy’s major tourist draws, thanks primarily to William Shakespeare. He immortalized the city in his (totally fictional) Romeo and Juliet, The Two Gentlemen of Verona, and The Taming of the Shrew.
But there’s a lot more to Verona. To begin with, it’s a major wine hub. Vinitaly, the largest wine exhibition in the world, is held here every April, and the Soave, Valpolicella, and Bardolino regions are all nearby. Find out more in this ultimate guide.
Planning Your Trip
It is possible to see the highlights in one day, but two or even three days of wandering will allow a greater appreciation of Verona’s romantic charms. If you only have one day in Verona, start at the Piazza Bra and the impressive Roman Arena, before wandering into the old center.
You’ll need to make the obligatory pilgrimage to Juliet's House, but make time for a couple of churches as well. San Fermo and Sant’Anastasia are the most beautiful. Linger in the main squares Piazza delle Erbe and Piazza dei Signori (grab a coffee at Caffè Filippini), and take in the view from the Torre dei Lamberti. In the afternoon, stroll over Ponte Pietra, then along the river, passing the cathedral and ending up at Castelvecchio, the grandest monument in the city. If there’s still time, continue on to San Zeno, a Romanesque masterpiece.
With a couple more days you could delve into Verona’s museums, take a trip into the nearby wine country and spend more time exploring its historic monuments. For more tips on visiting the country, check out How Many Days Should You Spend in Italy?
When to Go
Verona sees far fewer tourists than rival Venice, but it can still get very busy May through September. To get the best of the warm weather and avoid most of the crowds, visit May to June or in October. Unless you come for the opera, avoid July and August when hotel rates are highest (see below). Winters are cool and humid, though rates drop considerably. For more, see the Best Time of Year to Visit Italy.
Getting there and around
Verona Villafranca Airport has connections all over Europe (though most of these are summer only). There are no direct flights from North America; Alitalia operates regular shuttle flights to Rome and British Airways offers connections via London. Venice airport is a short train ride away.
Trains from Rome, Milan, Florence, and Venice arrive at Verona Porta Nuova station on Piazzale XXV Aprile, a 15-minute walk south of the center. Driving to Verona is straightforward, but as with all Italian cities, driving and parking in the center (which is a limited traffic zone or “ZTL”), can be a problem. Make for one of the major parking lots such as Parcheggio Cittadella and explore the city on foot.
If you are planning a busy schedule here, consider buying the VeronaCard. It provides free entry to 16 sights (including the Casa di Giulietta) and reduced entry to three more. It also gives free local bus travel and discounted rates in affiliated parking lots – a big bonus if you have a car. The card costs Euros 20 for 24 hours and Euros 25 for 48 hours. Buy it at the tourist office (Via Degli Alpini 9) or any participating museum.
Verona’s Top Sights
Most visitors enter the old town at the wide expanse of Piazza Bra, home to the 1st-century Arena di Verona. It’s the third largest Roman arena in Italy after the Colosseum and the arena at Capua. Today it’s the atmospheric venue for the Arena Opera Festival in the summer. Also on the piazza are Verona’s stately City Hall and the 17th-century Gran Guardia, a grand palace used for exhibitions and conferences. Nearby on Via Roma is the Museo Lapidario Maffeiano, a venerable museum of ancient Greek, Etruscan, and Roman stone carvings.
Casa di Giulietta
The most popular attraction in Verona is, unsurprisingly, the Casa di Giulietta at Via Cappello 23. This 14th-century mansion is said to be “Juliet’s House”, despite the story being completely made up by Shakespeare (the house may have been owned by the real-life Capuleti family, however). No matter: line up for a selfie on the balcony (added in the 20th century), rub the breast of a bronze Juliet for good luck and admire Juliet’s Wall, smothered with the notes of star-crossed lovers. Hardcore fans flock to Juliet’s tomb (“Tomba di Giulietta”), in the small church of San Francesco al Corso (at the junction of Lungoadige Capuleti and Via Shakespeare – seriously).
Piazza delle Erbe
Gorgeous Piazza delle Erbe has been the heart of Verona since Roman times. Here stands the medieval Domus Mercatorum (once home to the city's merchant guild), the Torre del Gardello, a 13th-century clock tower, the ornate, Baroque-style Palazzo Maffei and the frescoed Mazzanti Houses (Case dei Mazzanti). Don’t miss the famous medieval fountain in the center of the piazza, topped by the Madonna Verona, a Roman sculpture dating to 380 AD. Also here is the Torre dei Lamberti, a 275-foot tall medieval bell and clock tower that offers stellar views of the city.
Piazza dei Signori
Piazza dei Signori is also known as Piazza Dante (due to the statue dedicated to the poet in the center – Dante lived here during his exile from Florence). More architectural brilliance is on show here: the handsome Loggia del Consiglio (home of the provincial council), and the medieval Palazzo del Podestà, built by the ruling Della Scala family (aka Scaligeri). The Galleria d’Arte Moderna Achille Forti is a modern art gallery with work from the likes of Giorgio Morandi and Umberto Boccioni. Nearby are the Scaliger Tombs, outstanding examples of Gothic art – the Scaligeri ruled Verona from the 13th to the 14th century.
Along the River Adige
Some of Verona’s most enticing sights lie along the River Adige, which makes a huge loop around the historic city center. Gothic masterpiece Sant’Anastasia is the largest church in Verona, containing the celebrated fresco St. George & the Princess by Pisanello. Ponte Pietra, one of the city’s oldest bridges, is a great spot to take photos of the Verona skyline.
On the other side of the river lies the Roman Theatre and Archaeological Museum. Nearby, the Funicolare di Castel San Pietro tramway runs up to a viewpoint high above the spires and bell towers. Also on this side of the river, the domed church of San Giorgio in Braida, containing precious works by Tintoretto and Paolo Veronese. Opposite on the south bank stands Verona Cathedral, a stripy Romanesque edifice with artwork by Titian.
The crenelated Castelvecchio Bridge leads to the Castelvecchio Museum, a medieval Gothic castle built in the 14th-century by the Scaligeri dynasty and restored by famed architect Carlo Scarpa between 1959 and 1973. Today the museum contains a collection of Romanesque sculpture, statues, paintings, ceramics, bells, and ancient weapons.
The Basilica di San Zeno Maggiore was completed around 1135 – it's easily the greatest Romanesque church in northern Italy. Inside lies the venerated 4th-century shrine to Verona’s patron saint, St. Zeno (who died in 380), and the sublime Madonna and Saints, a triptych by Mantegna.
Where to Stay
Hotels tend to be more expensive during the Opera Festival, held in July and August. The city is also a popular location for trade fairs, (primarily September to November) when hotel rates can rise considerably. As always, independent-minded travelers should look into renting apartments through Airbnb, VRBO.com, and Homeaway.com – by far the best way to get a feel for local life.
For location, it’s hard to beat the wallet-friendly Hotel Torcolo, just steps from the Arena, at Vicolo Listone 3. Luxurious options include the fabulous Hotel Gabbia d’Oro just off Piazza Erbe, open since 1900 in an 18th-century palazzo.
Where to Eat
The most authentic budget Verona restaurant is Osteria Sottoriva, Via Sottoriva 9, with hand-written menus and cheap wine – happily (and unusually for Italy), it stays open all afternoon. For small plates and tapas-style dining, try Caffè Monte Baldo, Via Rosa 12, an old-fashioned café transformed into a trendy osteria. For seafood, especially pastas (and pizzas), Alla Colonna (Largo Pescheria Vecchia 4) is a good bet.
Antica Bottega del Vino (Via Scudo di Francia 3) is a step up in price and quality, serving dishes such as risotto cooked in valpolicella and smoked duck breast, plus a superb wine list. Osteria al Duomo (Via Duomo 7) is famed for traditional dishes – be warned that this means donkey meat pasta (bigoli con ragù d'asino) and various horse meat dishes (anything with “cavallo” in the name).
After dinner, make for Gelateria Ballini (Via Santa Maria Rocca Maggiore 4) or Gelateria Ponte Pietra (Via Ponte Pietra 13).
Verona by Night
Verona’s students drive nightlife here, though the best clubs tend to be out of the center – Berfi’s Club is at Via Lussemburgo 1. In the historic heart of the city, start the evening with apéritivo and Aperol spritz at Caffè Filippini on Piazza Erbe (open since 1901).
Rivamancina at Vicolo Quadrelli 1 is the best place for high-end cocktails, while Cappa Café on Piazzetta Bra Molinari has an outdoor terrace overlooking the river – surprisingly rare in Verona. Convivial local bar Osteria a la Carega (Vicolo Cadrega 8) is open till 2 am, with tables splayed out on the piazza.