Ah Verona, the city of love and romance! Or perhaps the city of fictional tragedy and tourist traps… it really depends on your opinion of Romeo and Juliet! While it may be a big reason to visit, there are so many things to do in Verona that aren’t related to this famous fictional couple!
I have been lucky enough to live close to Verona for two seasons working in Italy. Being the nearest city meant lots of day trips but this year we spent the night. It is somewhere I could visit again and again. It is true that tourists flock to the city mainly for it’s connections to Shakespeare’s romantic tragedy. But Verona is so much more than love letters and heart-shaped padlocks.
One thing you cannot deny is that Verona is a beautiful city. It has a little something to offer everyone, regardless of your relationship status!
How to get there
Conveniently, Verona has its own airport. It’s small but flights are generally pretty good with popular airlines flying in regularly from the UK. You can reach the city centre in 15 minutes via taxi for about €20 or by bus for €6 and it will take around 45 minutes.
It is the perfect distance from Lake Garda to do a day trip from either direction. You don’t even need a car as you can get from Lake to city and back via bus or train from Peschiera. You can even travel by car or train between Verona, Milan, and Venice if you’re looking to experience more of northern Italy.
There is much more to Verona than Romeo and Juliet, I promise. But, it is kind of a big deal, so it’s only right you see the bacony for yourself, right?
In a small courtyard just down from the market square, it is one of the most popular things to do in Verona – Juliet’s balcony and museum. Highly recommend arriving early (Like, before 9 am) if you want to avoid the crowds! Here you will find a statue of Juliet and various tourists groping her bronze breasts and posing for pictures. It is said to bring you luck in love – despite Juliet being particularly UN-lucky!
I’m not saying it works, but I did touch the statue for luck the same year I met Lee and we technically met at Verona airport so hey! Who knows right? Coincidence or the magic of Shakespeare?
If you want a quieter view, just before the entrance to the courtyard, is a shop embroidering aprons, baby bibs, and other items. If you go in and upstairs, you can see the courtyard from their window!
You can leave your names and notes on the walls as you enter the courtyard. If you would like a reply, you can even write a letter asking for love advice. Use the boxes provided to ‘post’ your letter and volunteers will (eventually) get back to you! (Just watch the film, Letters to Juliet!)
Open 8.30am – 6.45pm and from 2 pm on a Monday. Free to see the balcony but entry into ‘Casa di Giulietta’ or Juliet’s house is €6. Free with the purchase of a Verona card (€20 for 24 hours).
Did you know? There is no clear reason for this house being chosen as the site of Juliet’s balcony? Only that the family that once owned it had a surname that resembled Shakespeare’s character! While it may be a 14th-century building, the balcony was added during the 20th century!
Another of the more obvious things to do in Verona is the Arena. It may be smaller but it is actually OLDER than Rome’s Colosseum! Built in 30AD, an incomprehensibly long time ago. This Arena was once used for all things made famous by the Romans. Think blood baths, fights with exotic wild animals and 30,000 spectators.
Today things are kept a little more civilized with the famous Opera festival each summer and various other events throughout the year. Shows have been known to wow even the non-opera fans but are incredibly long! Expect to be there for up to 3 hours!
If you plan on attending a show in the Verona Arena be sure to take a cushion to sit on and plenty of water. Temperatures are high in the summer and the stone steps used as seating are not comfortable! Tickets are surprisingly affordable and no seat is a bad seat, with the Romans perfectly designing these areas for great views all round.
If you just want to check out the arena in the day, you can look around for €10 or free with the Verona card. Open tue-sun: 8.30 a.m.- 7.30 p.m. Mon: 1.30 p.m.- 7.30 p.m. Ticket office closes an hour before and the Arena may close earlier to prepare for events so always check before you go.
Did you know? The Verona Arena was partly destroyed by several earthquakes from 1117 but has otherwise stood the test of time.
Constructed in 1172, struck by lightning in 1403 and then rebuilt to it’s current 84metres in 1463. This tower has seen some changes! As well as being a historical monument in the city, it is also the tallest building and provides the best 360 views of Verona.
Get the lift or climb the 368 steps to the top for breathtaking views of the city. Open 10am-6pm Mon-Fri and 11am-7pm at the weekend. The last admissions are 45 minutes before closing and will cost €8 or nothing with a Verona Card.
Did you know? The 4 bells in the tower have had different uses over the years. The Rengo was used to call the Army in an emergency, The Marangona would be used to warn of fire in the city and 2 smaller bells were used to mark the time of day. Although bells can be heard every half hour, you won’t see these move!
Verona’s main market square since Roman times, selling every imaginable souvenir. If you stand in the middle and turn on the spot, it feels like you’re travelling back in time. All around are buildings from as early as the 1300’s. Painted frescoes can be seen clearly above the bustling restaurants and marble statues still decorate the centre. Admire the Casa del Mercanti and be transported back to the Middle Ages.
Castel San Pietro
Head up Saint Peter’s hill and admire views across the River Adige. You can reach it by foot, open-top tourist bus or the funicular (cable car) for €2. Check out the Roman theatre en route and enjoy a drink from the hilltop as the sunsets.
One of the more popular things to do in Verona and literally translating to the ‘old castle’ this building and the adjoining bridge is not to be missed. For €6 you can head inside and browse the artworks and artifacts of the Middle Ages or for free with the Verona card. The bridge gets pretty busy with tourists snapping photos, understandable given the pretty views over the river and interesting architecture.
Gutted to have discovered this only after leaving Verona, this could well be the oldest working library in the world. Hosting a medieval night in May and offering guided tours if booked in advance. A must-see for book lovers and history buffs alike.
for €20 you can take a hop on hop off guided bus around the city with sightseeing Italy. If you are on a budget though, Verona is easy to negotiate on foot. A Verona card includes buses operated by ATV and, If you want to see the city from a different angle, you can even take a rafting trip down the river Adige!
If you want to enter several of the main sites and museums, it is definitely worth getting a Verona Card. Guaranteed to save you money, this card will set you back €20 for 24hrs or €25 for 48hrs. Don’t forget – even if you purchase the card online, it must be activated at the tourist office, located by the Arena. As well as ‘free’ entry, it will also fast track you into places like the Arena which has long ticket lines in the height of summer. With the Verona card, you can save a few euros, with a discount on the rafting and sightseeing buses too.
Where to eat and drink
Cafe Wallner set just back from the Piazza Bra. You can sit in or out with plenty of space, fresh-baked pastries and great coffee. Offering vegan options and soya milk on request (not listed on the menu.) If you are looking for breakfast or snacks on the go, grab a pot of fruits from the market square for €2-€4.
Lunch and Dinner
If you want authentic Italian food and dining with the locals, then head to Osteria Al Duca. With its own curious history and connections to Romeo and Juliet, you can get a feel for the Veronese culture. Great Polenta dishes if you’re looking for meat-free but traditional! If you want an authentic restaurant, minus the meat and dairy then you can find that too! La Lanterna vegano ristorante is run by a couple of chefs that wanted to create those same incredible dishes – cruelty-free.
Café al Theatro is just set back from Piazza Bra (where the arena is) and serves up perfect pizzas and small but tasty dishes of mushroom risotto and Spinach Ravioli. If you want to dine with a view of the arena, you can do without breaking the bank! La Costa in Bra has several pizzas for under 10 euro!
As a general rule, look for places with photos of the food if you want (probably) low prices and (likely) low quality – I’m not a foodie necessarily so I’m ok with this if I’m looking to save a few euro but it depends on your preference! Menus are almost always at the front of the restuarnat for you to look at. Don’t be affraid to browse a few for options and prices before you choose! Yes, a waiter may try to entice you in but just politely decline if you havent made your mind up!
Gelateria Romana isn’t a family run hidden gem – I’m sorry. BUT they do make amazing ice cream and it is made fresh daily! Check them out here for vegan and gluten free options!
Where to stay
I have only stayed in one place in Verona, as most of my visits have been for the day. But Casa Perotti was perfect. Clean, spacious enough for 4 of us (using the sofa bed which had been made up beforehand) Beautifully decorated in a charming building and with all the facilities you need. Even a percolator (for propper coffee!) and cushions to take to the arena if you need them!
Is that everything?
NO! There are still many more things to do and see in Verona. The Verona Card will get you into more than 15 places for free with several other reduced entrance fees. As well as these places, there are plenty of free sites and numerous churches to visit. Walking tours will help you trace the history of Verona from the Romans through the middle ages to the present day. Even if history isn’t your thing, Verona is a great place to shop for any budget, enjoy music, theatre or just soak up the atmosphere with a Spritz or two.
Good to know…
- Public toilets can be found just off the courtyard below the Torre dei Lamberti tower, have some change ready as ‘spend a penny’ days are gone. More like 70 cents here!
- Water fountains can be found around the city, including along the main high street between the arena and the market square so save some money and take a bottle with you!
- Aperitivo time is a must after 6 pm. Grab a Spritz in Piazza delle Erbe and enjoy the snacks that come with it (Some places even serve a buffet for free with the price of a drink and you can skip dinner completely!)
- Head to Veronetta for a more ‘local’ experience. This vibrant district is popular with students and offers a different experience of the city.
- Don’t write off the opera just yet – it might just be more affordable than you think…
- Check the app store for ‘Verona Smart App’ to stay connected wherever you are, ‘Verona Turismo’ to keep up with events and sign in with your Verona card and ‘Verona Map and Walks’ for self-guided walking tours of the city.
Living so close to Verona while working on Lake Garda, I must have visited the city more than 10 times now. Still, there are things to do in Verona that I haven’t yet ‘ticked off’ and despite being so many times, I am still happy to return there. Even if it’s just for dinner and people watching!
Wouldn’t recommend high season if you can avoid it (Late July and August) but if that is the only time you can go, please don’t be put off! Exploring before 10 am will get you beautiful photos with fewer people in them. Wandering the backstreets and steering clear of the main squares, you will find plenty of hidden bars and restaurants. Evenings aren’t as busy as so many people are just there for the day. Get a Verona card to avoid the queues and consider alternatives to avoid the crowds. River rafting and exploring on foot will offer different unique experiences of this charming city.
So what do you think? If you have any questions, please let me know! Head to Instagram for more photos and the Verona story highlight which includes mini video tours of some the places mentioned in this post!