Verona! Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet immortalized this city as the romantic epicenter of the world, and Juliet’s balcony attracts tourists from all over, hoping for a glimpse of the most famous love story ever.
Many take a day trip from its famous neighbor, Venice, but I challenge you to do the opposite. Out with the rude, dirty, over-packed City of Canals; and in with the welcoming, well-preserved, and gorgeous Italian city of Verona.
Are 3 days enough? Too many? I’d say it’s the perfect amount, and that is including a day trip to the lovely Lake Garda, less than 50km away.
Chances are that you’ll arrive at Verona Porta Nueva – either by train or bus, the stations are there – and, like every other visitor, you’ll stand on the taxi line to hop in your ride. That’s what we did, and 13 minutes plus €$13 later, we got to our Giulietta & Romeo hotel. Later I’d find out that walking would have taken the same time or less! Check that if you’re backpacking or like rolling your luggage through town.
After checking in, the obvious stop (is it lunchtime yet? It’s 12 o’clock somewhere!) is Piazza Bra. That’s the central square, where the real landmark (move aside, Giulietta’s house) is: Arena di Verona. Not as big as Rome’s famous Colosseum, but proportionally perfect to the much smaller town, the Arena is the kind of monumental construction that you can look at all day. And the Piazza Bra’s restaurants enjoy that, with innumerous tables outside, serving the most traditional Italian dishes, the customary Apperol Spritz and the greatest espressos to be sipped.
We were a large group of 7 adults and two children/strollers, and the place that could accommodate us better (on that day, that time) was Mamma Mia Bistro. Há what a name! I remember when I heard an Italian saying a spontaneous ‘mamma mia’. Loved it! Now, mamma mia, some might never forgive what was ordered on our own table: horse meat! I know, I’m so sorry. I love horses too. But, that being said, I love cows, fish, etc. I’m too Brazilian to be a vegetarian, but I do always thank the life of the chicken when I’m dissecting a roasted one. I don’t consume that much meat (as much as I could hunt if I were pre-historic?) and I will always choose the free run option.
Controversies aside, the fact is that horsemeat is a tradition in Italy. And mamma mia, Mamma Mia Bistro has it, served with polenta, and everybody on my party that tried thought it was delicious.
If you still are here and don’t hate me, let’s continue with our day.
Walk around! Take Via Giuseppe Mazzini and browse through the local and international shopping options (Gucci, anyone?) , making your way to Romeo’s girlfriend quarters. Giulietta’s house is, obviously, as fictional as the tale (although my mom still thinks it’s a real story), but there you can: 1) Touch Juliet’s right breast for luck in love; 2) Give a letter asking for relationship advice to Juliet’s secretary (the service actually exists, just like that movie Letters to Juliet); 3) Buy cute red romantic souvenirs.
Make sure to also pass through the Palazzo del Capitano and the Torre dei Lamberti, but, as a matter of fact, don’t worry much about following a map. Verona is small, and you will end up walking through it all. It’s fun to turn around a corner and find a medieval tower, a gothic square, or even the less-hunted Romeo’s house.
At night: dine at La Grillia, my favorite restaurant in town. My gnocchi formaggio e tartufo (truffle and cheese) was to die for. My table also ordered the Carne alla Brace Fiorentina, a huge beef that you choose the size of the cut – from 800 to 1.200 grammi – served with your choice of side. All around us, friends are sharing laughs and stories, powered by the best Valpolicellas and Barolos bottles.
Bienvenuto a Italia!
Day trip to Lake Garda: we found that the best way to get there is getting the bus all the way to Sirmione. Catch line 26 at Porta Nueva bus station, and sit by the window for the hour-long ride.
Sirmione is a precious town located at the tip of a long peninsula that penetrates the southern point of Lake Garda. Enclosed by brick walls, you’ll enter it by the medieval castle. Feels a lot like a Disney fairy tale. Kids love it too, mostly because of the variety of gelato shops, much needed to refresh the hell heat of summer months.
P.S: Summer is hell in Europe’s south countries. Expect crowds and over 40ºC temperatures. Just deal with it! Or go during low season.
If Sirmione is too congested, it might be better to leave sooner than later and head to Peschiera del Guarda (you can take that same bus, line 26, that stops there). The less famous town is so cute! Emerald blue waters contrast with the old but well-preserved architecture. Colorful flowers decorate all buildings, making the town a romantic lake retreat. ‘Should I have stayed here?’ rotates through my brain.
Have lunch at the floating platform of Caffe Centrale, at Via Dante, 21; then walk around, perhaps go for the tour at Caserna XXX-Maggio, considered one of the most important prisons in Italy.
To go back to Verona, you can catch the train. The easiest thing, just make sure you check the schedule first: I had to wait 1h for mine.
Back in Verona, at night: I hope that you’re there during one of the Opera Nights at Arena di Verona. It happens mostly during summer months, and mainly on weekends. If not, also check the schedule for concerts at Teatro Romano: built on the 1st century BC, the spectacle is amazing beyond the stage, overlooking the wild Adige River.
Use your last day to check all you might not have done or seen yet in beautiful Verona: did you see the Castelvecchio and crossed the Castelvecchio bridge? Actually, make sure to see all bridges around Verona. Did you walk in the Basilica of San Zeno and Sant’Anastasia church? Did you admire the impressive Scaliger Tombs?
Most importantly: did you have the caramel sea salt gelato at GROM?
Also make sure you visit Piazza Erbe, both during the day – for the market – and at night, where the crowds of young Italians make Verona also a great destination for nightlife enjoyment.
Message me for extra details, I’d love to help!
And comment here your own experiences in Verona. Let’s hold hands, and grow together. Love!