Saturday, 19 May 2018


I had heard that getting to Verona from Venice was quite easy and once I heard that I wanted to explore there too; perhaps it is the influence of Shakespeare?  It was easy thankfully - only an hour and 20 minutes by regional train from Venice (it is quicker but far more expensive on the Inter-City).  Upon alighting from the train we made our way to Piazza Bra, perhaps the focal point of the city and certainly a good place to start any walk.  I am not sure this is a comprehensive tour of the city - a lunchtime pizza and beer might have been responsible for missing off a few crucial places.  It was fun to look around the old city though.
Castle and Bridge
With our back to the amphitheatre we headed down the street opposite to our first port of call - the large and imposing castle on the banks of the River Adige. We paused our walk at this point so that we could go inside the castle.  Inside was an exploration of some of the history and art of the region and we had some interesting commentary describing some of the main features.  It also provided the opportunity to climb high up on the castle walls to see the view that the defenders would have had way back when.  It was certainly easy to see why the castle was built in such a strategic spot.
River Adige
Once we had had our fill of art we pushed on and next port of call was the large footbridge that was part of the castle complex reaching across the river.  There was little to explore on the other side but we did get a better view of both bridge and river.  It was difficult to tell which parts had been restored after the war, but inevitably it had been badly damaged by the retreating Germans. Having explored this fascinating old bridge we moved on and the next sight was just the other side of the castle; a rather strangely placed victory arch.  I say that because I would have expected such a feature to be a triumphal entrance to the city but it seemed to be only a decorative piece with no particular function standing by the side of the river.
Victory Arch
We continued down the same street which was flanked by some very handsome looking buildings.  I was surprised that the city streets didn't seem to be too clogged with traffic, which was quite a relief.  We eventually got to Porta Borsari, a remarkably preserved gate dating from Roman times that was quite rightly attracting a good deal of attention.  Beyond here the walking was along a pedestrianized street and we started to think about lunch after our early start and the walking around the museum that we had done all morning.
Porta Borsari
Lunch was taken in one of the many restaurants in the Piazza Delle Erbe (Square of the Herbs) and our view across the square was a joy while we had our lunch.  A market was in full swing in the middle of the square and the hubbub it was creating was very pleasing.  We determined to take a closer look afterwards and the array of produce, luxury food items, clothing and souvenirs were quite bewildering.  We enjoyed milling around for a while after lunch but didn't actually purchase anything as we would have had to carry it with us all day.
Piazza Delle Erbe and Torre Dei Lamberti
We next went to the Torre dei Lamberti, the largest tower in Verona.  In a bid to lose some of the calories from our lunch we climbed the stairs to the top of its 84 metre height.  The view from the top was magnificent and well worth the climb.  Some of the more obvious sights in the city can be seen from here including the amphitheatre, the modern day football stadium that houses Hellas and Chievo and the other smaller towers that pepper the city.  We lingered for a while making sure to take in the view from all four sides of the viewing platform high above the city.
At the bottom we also had admission to the art museum and so we spent a bit of time looking around there too.  I cannot say that I enjoyed most of the art but there were a couple of pieces that really caught my eye at the far end of the gallery.  There was also an interesting display about the fragility of the earth that was quite thought provoking.

Tower View
At the end of our tour we found ourselves in the Piazza Dei Signori where there is a statue of a famous poet taking pride of place in the heart of the square.  This was not Shakespeare though, despite his connections, but perhaps the most famous Italian poet of them all Dante.  At the far end of the square we took a look at the Scaliger Tombs, some rather overblown looking gothic mausoleums containing the relics of some of the most important Veronese families.
Scaliger Tombs
Although the last few sights had had modest numbers of visitors we could perhaps have expected that the next place would be rammed.  We walked the short distance to Casa de Giulietta, the supposed house of Juliet from the famous Shakespeare play.  It was thronged with crowds especially to see the statue of the young girls outside.  Apparently her right breast will bring luck to anyone who rubs it and as you might expect it was highly polished compared to the other one!  Inside the building was just as crowded and we refrained from standing on the famous balcony on the way up, hoping for it to be less crowded on the way back down.  We were completely wrong on that front - when we came down from looking at the upper floor rooms there were twice as many people!

Our last destination was the famous amphitheatre.  I don't know why because I have previously been to the Coliseum twice but I always wanted to go there.  During the summer months it still hosts concerts and opera - these must be amazing experiences in this most atmospheric of arenas.  We headed down the main shopping street of Verona in order to get there.  The throngs of visitors and array of interesting shops contributed towards us taking our time over walking to the Amphitheatre in Piazza Bra.
Shopping Street
Once inside the arena it was everything I imagined.  Elliptical in shape and easily walked around in a few minutes its scale was nonetheless most impressive.  The arena was being readied for the summer season and at ground level carpenters and joiners were readying the wooden decks and stage for the forthcoming shows.  I really liked the fact that even after all these years the place has a purpose beyond just being ancient and a cool place to wander around.  The arena can hold an impressive 22,000 people for one of these shows. Artists of the calibre of Maria Callas, Dire Straits, Rod Stewart and Sting have all performed here. I did take the opportunity to walk the circumference of the arena at the highest level.  The views both inside and out were quite something and it is well worth doing this if you come.
Inside the Amphitheatre
Sadly the amphitheatre marked the end of our short city walk but it was perhaps the most appropriate climax to our visit.  By the time we got to this point we were pretty satisfied with our visit and we wandered across Piazza Bra, enjoying the architecture of the surrounding buildings as we did so.  The walk back to the station took only another 15 minutes and passed by Porta Nuova as we did so.  This city gate is at the heart of a massive roundabout and although I tried hard to get a good photo of it, I found it impossible due to the weight of traffic and numbers of big lorries and buses that kept getting in the way.  Our train was waiting and that seemed rather more pressing to get to.
Piazza Bra
Verona is delightful and well worth more than the day we devoted to it.  There were buildings that we didn't really do justice to, or even get to at all, but we did feel as if we caught the essence of the place.  We will certainly be back, of that I am sure.

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