Verona city guide: The perfect addition to an Italy cruise
By Katie McGonagle | 6 Apr 2022
This is your ultimate guide to Verona, the city of star-crossed lovers. It makes for the perfect addition to an Italy cruise and an ideal alternative to Venice, says Katie McGonagle.
Verona has a lot to thank William Shakespeare for. Not only did he set two of his most famous plays here, forever associating it with the phrase ‘fair Verona’ despite never setting foot on Italian soil, but he also sparked an obsession that still draws millions of visitors to this underrated city every year, making the perfect addition to an Italy cruise.
It’s not in the triumvirate of top-tier cities alongside Rome, Florence and Venice, but has more than enough to entertain for a pre or post-cruise stay without the crowds. This is your ultimate guide to Verona, the most romantic of cities.
Verona City Guide
Visitors flock here in search of the ‘real’ Romeo and Juliet, captivated by theories that the story was based on two feuding families from the late Middle Ages, known as the Montecchis and the Cappellos.
The names are just similar enough to Montague and Capulet for tourist guides to proudly proclaim Romeo’s House in the centre of the city and to encourage visitors to queue up for their fantasy moment on Juliet’s balcony. It’s largely wishful thinking, but while some come in search of a tragic love story, they leave having fallen for this seductive city.
Must-sees: What to do in Verona
Verona packs layer upon layer of history into a remarkably small square footage, so wherever you turn, there’s bound to be a landmark of some significance.
Start with the Roman Arena, an enormous amphitheatre built around 30 AD and, extraordinarily, still in use today for opera, rock and pop concerts. It’s also due to host the 2026 Winter Olympics opening ceremony.
From there, it’s an easy stroll along Via Mazzini – stopping to window shop at the likes of Gucci and Dolce & Gabbana on this designer store-filled street – to the bustling Piazza delle Erbe. Nowhere is Verona’s jumble of architectural eras more apparent than in this market square, where a Roman statue of the Madonna sits atop a 14th-century fountain, overlooked by a baroque palace and a series of fresco-covered facades.
If you want a really good view, try climbing the stairs (or take the lift, if an 84m-high tower sounds a bit of a stretch) of the Torre dei Lamberti, which sits at one corner of the square offering an ideal vantage point on the busy market stalls below.
Just a few steps away, Piazza dei Signori pays tribute to another of Verona’s literary heroes: Dante wrote part of his Divine Comedy here and is depicted deep in thought in the centre of this enormous square.
It sits next to the imposing Scaliger Tombs, a macabre monument to the Della Scala family who once ruled over this region. It’s worth taking a guided tour just to hear the intricate stories of the power struggles that plagued this dynasty for centuries.
Eating and sleeping in Verona
The must-try dish in Verona is risotto all’amarone, which infuses an ordinary risotto with the rich, bold flavours of the region’s signature red wine. You’ll find it on menus across the city, from ordinary osterias up to fine-dining establishments, but for a truly sumptuous version, Antica Bottega del Vino is one of the best in town.
There are some excellent hotels just outside the centre, but if you want to be in the heart of the action, the NH Collection Palazzo Verona Hotel has the dual benefit of being modern in design but also centrally located. Rooms start from £275 per night (nh-collection.com).
Explore further in Verona
It’s hard to tear yourself away from the maze of medieval streets and tiny, tucked-away alleys in the old town, but there’s more to Verona outside its city walls. Cross the ancient Ponte Pietra over the Adige River – the once-furious torrent that was subdued in the 19th century after flooding left the area in ruins – for a superb vantage point on the old city to one side and the cypress tree-dotted slopes of Castel San Pietro on the other.
The bridge itself has a fascinating tale to tell, built by the Romans and a key trading route for centuries until several of its pillars were bombed during the Second World War, leaving it impassable. The riverbed was later dredged and the bridge rebuilt using original materials.
If you want to go further still, the balmy shores of Lake Garda are as little as half an hour away. The southern tip around Peschiera del Garda tends to be busier than the north shore, but you’ll find plenty of space to stroll along the waterfront with a gelato in hand.
Getting to Verona
British Airways will fly to Verona from its new base at Gatwick from March 29 (ba.com). Meanwhile, Jet2.com serves the city from a number of regional UK airports including Manchester, Birmingham, East Midlands, Leeds Bradford, Bristol, Stansted and Belfast International (jet2.com).