Fox Guide: Verona
Culturally rich, geographically stunning, gastronomically enchanting (and home to our very own Pale Fox) we believe Italy has it all! Verona is a romantic and sometimes overlooked city that offers us more than just Juliet’s balcony. The city nonchalantly incorporates swathes of history into its fabric.
Things to Do
Piazza delle Erbe, one of the city’s main squares, reveals Verona’s long history as traders in brick and stone. Normally, the piazza is bustling with a market, fun for a browse but not somewhere you’ll find authentic souvenirs. In fact, we think the Piazza dei Signori next door has more genuine Italian charm than its busy neighbour. Make your way there from the Piazza delle Erbe through an arch, from which a whale’s rib is dangling; legend says that the rib will fall on the first truly just person to pass beneath the arch.
‘But soft, what light through yonder window breaks?’ If you recognise this famous quote of Shakespeare, you’ll know that Romeo and Juliet is allegedly set in Verona. Never mind whether it’s fiction rather than reality, you can visit the balcony of the timeless heroine at the Casa di Giulietta (Juliet’s house). Whilst you’re there, if you would like guidance in love or are seeking your star-crossed lover, you can write a letter to the secretaries of Juliet! By the way, it is also supposed to be lucky to stroke the right breast of Juliet’s statue in the courtyard.
Leaving the picturesque Centro Storico, stretching over the river is Castelvecchio of the Scaliger dynasty, built around 1354–1356. It is not a beautiful building itself but a striking medieval fortress which is now home to a diverse collection of statuary, frescoes, and jewellery. Alternatively, to see some more splendid architecture, the churches of Verona are your best bet; the Basilica di Sant’ Anastasia is a fine example of Italian Gothic architecture with its vaulted ceilings and red marble pillars.
Having crossed over the ancient Ponte Pietro, take the funicular up to Castel San Pietro to save your breath for stunning views of the city. Even though many go for sunset, we propose this as an early morning activity to avoid the heat and crowds. If you must choose one viewpoint over another, we prefer the open gardens of Castel San Pietro to the Torre dei Lamberti.
Verona is especially famous for its summer opera season with many performances held outside on gloriously warm evenings. The Roman Arena is the world’s biggest open-air venue and dates to 30AD. If you are not able to catch one of these spectacles, the underrated Arena Museo Opera hosts a multimedia exhibition. The museum includes scores and letters from musical greats such as Puccini and Verdi, along with photos, costumes and sets.
Each February, thousands flock to the city for its festival ‘Verona in Love’, the streets are filled with hearts, decoration and poetry. If an atmosphere of romance is what you’re seeking, this is the time of year to visit.
We won’t lie to you and argue that Verona’s classical art scene matches up to the likes of Rome and Florence, but you will find some different treasures. Galleria dello Scudo devotes its activity to showing intriguing modern and contemporary art, as well as eminent Italian artists from the first half of the Twentieth century, such as Giacomo Balla and Tancredi.
Firstly, be sure to book a table on the outdoor terrace at Re Teodorico. Next to Castel San Pietro, here you should take on the Italian attitude and indulge in a long lunch. In the evening, visiting the Antica Bottega del Vino is an absolute must; even for just a glass or two. Once a meeting place for intellectuals and artists, now the bottega is a recognised place ‘where wine is the undisputed protagonist’. The floor to ceiling wine cellar boasts exceptional vintage labels and staff with expert advice.
If you are eager to try some of the area’s specialities head to a more traditional trattoria such as La Taverna di Via Stella. Here you will find various risotto dishes as vialone nano is a rice type cultivated in the plains surrounding the city. It is the perfect base for Risotto all’Amarone, Amarone being a local red wine. For an important occasion, Pastissada de caval is customarily served as a second course; it is a horse meat stew made tender by a long cooking time. With this, polenta is a common side dish you’ll find in the Veneto region, made from boiled cornmeal, it should be served soft and creamy.
Much like lots of things you can find in the city, there is a delicacy inspired by Juliet! Baci di Giulietta are small chocolate biscuits baked with toasted almonds and often filled with chocolate or jam. They make a nice gift.