People often consider Verona as the City of Love, and it is every bit as romantic as its name. Even without the story of Romeo and Juliet, the red tile roofs, stone bridges and medieval architecture is enough to induce a whimsical, romantic feelings in everyone who walks its streets. The same can be said for the sights it has to offer outside of the fame-induced by Romeo and Juliet. Though Verona might not be large, there is certainly something worth seeing and here is my top 8 with a review on whether or not the Verona Card is worth the dosh.
>I got some more off the beaten path destinations in Verona, too.
Ponte Scaligero and Castle Vecchio
My favourite bridge in the city, Ponte Scarligero is a 14th century gothic, fortified bridge made of red brick and induced a sense of medieval fairy tale in my heart.
The bridge is perfect for photo opportunities and leads up to the Castel Vecchio with the River Adige flow below with its crystal clear water dotted with gravel banks is much wider than I expected. The direct translation of Castel Vecchio in Italian means old castle, and like the bridge, it was built by the Scaliger in the 14th century.
It is now converted into a museum with a one-way route that takes you around the exhibits and up the walls. Its entrance fee is included in the Verona card, otherwise, it is not worth a visit unless you are interested in medieval paintings and want to see the view from the walls. Though I must admit I rather liked walking along the fortified walls and peeking out at the city.
Address: Corso Castelvecchio, 2, 37121 Verona VR, Italy
Entrance fee: Bridge is free, Museum included in Verona card otherwise €6 standard
Opening times: Tue – Sun 8:30 – 19:30, Mon 13:30 – 19:30
The Italians believe that if a single girl and a single boy met in the maze of Giardino Giusti, they will become each other’s true love. Now I don’t know if that was true or not, but that certainly describes the sense of wonder and magic I felt when I visited.
Giardino Giusti was built in the 16th to 17th century and considered to be one of Europe’s most beautiful Renaissance gardens. The entrance is hidden along a side road, and it was love at first sight as I gaze through the gate into the cypress walkway.
The maze at the foot of the hill is punctuated by lemon pot plants, though the over-abundance of the colour green made it less beautiful to me. At the end of the tree-lined avenue is a set of stairs that lead up the hill where you get a beautiful vista of the city on one of the benches, and enjoy the tranquility of the moment.
Address: Via Giardino Giusti, 2, Verona VR, Italy
Entrance fee: Not included in Verona card, but discount to €5, otherwise €7
Opening times: April – Sept 9:00 – 20:00; Oct – March 9:00 – 19:00
The historic hub of Verona, this square used to serve as the Forum in Roman times and a marketplace in the medieval ages. Although still full of activities, it is now home to souvenir stores as well as some fruits stalls selling fruit salads to tourists. Surrounding it are the 14th-century Mazzanti houses, the baroque Maffei Palace with Gardello Tower built in the 17th century.
In the square, there is the Madonna Verona fountain, which was built in the 14th centuary but using an existing Roman statue dating to 1st century BC. The Piazza is paved by shiny limestone and has an elongated, flattened orb shape that I found refreshing from your usual square. It is essentially the middle of the old town of Verona and you will probably pass by it many times as you make your way around.
Arena and Piazza Bra
It is the sight that greeted visitors from afar as they walk from the Porto Nouva Station to Verona city center. Surrounded by restaurants, Piazza Bra is a beautiful cobblestone square (or circle?) that offers a vast empty space with a fountained park in the middle next to the ancient Roman Arena. The latter is the joint second largest outside Rome alongside another one in Pula, Croatia. Legend has it the Arena was built by the devil, who offered to do it for a merchant who was jailed and sentenced to death and wanted to be remembered. However, the merchant changed his mind and prayed to God who sent down a team of angels stopping the devils before they can finish. Hence the damaged exterior; in reality, it is the result of an earthquake in 1117.
The arena has a capacity of 30,000 and is still used for performance during the Verona Festival. It is less impressive when you are looking around on the ground floor, but the view improves significantly as you climb further up. Do be careful of the steps as they can be very slippery.
Entrance fee: €10 standard, reduced €7.5
A 120m long arched bridge that was built by the Romans in 100BC, it span across the River Adige connecting the Roman Theater to the other side of the river. It was damaged, but not destroyed during WWII and they were able to use the limestone blocks to rebuild it. It’s not as pretty to walk through, but looks great from afar. It also leads you directly to the stairs that lead up to Castel San Pietro which provide a great sunset and panoramic views.
I have said it before and I will say it again: I am not a huge fan of churches – but I visit them, a lot, because you never go anywhere in Europe without a church being one of the most visited sights in the city.
This particular one immediately stood out to me due to its Romanesque facade with rose-coloured building blocks, with its Campanile prominent from afar. It also has a rose-petal like glass panel above the front door, representing the wheel of fortune. Not to mention this is the alleged marriage place of Romeo and Juliet! The patron saint of the church, St. Zeno and pretty much everything you want to know about the church will be on the leaflet you get along with the tickets.
The courtyard you see when you enter is so pretty that my sister and I spent 20 minutes taking photos there. It was an abbey erected in the 9th century with charming arched fences with dusty red brick roof that gives it an exotic, romantic vibe.
The interior of the church matches with the exterior and has a unique split level with a staircase leading directly down to the crypt where San Zeno’s body is hosted since 921 BC.
Do not miss the original bronze doors which you can see inside the church.
Address: Piazza San Zeno, 2, 37123 Verona VR, Italy
Entrance fee: Included in Verona card, otherwise €2.50, reduced €2.00
Opening times: March-Oct Mon-Sat 08.30-18.00, Sundays and Festival days 12.30-18.00; Nov-Feb Mon-Sat 10.00-13-00 13.30-17.00, Sundays and festival days 12.30-17.00
For the best city center view, Lamborini tower is your friend. The entry ticket is free with Verona Card but if you are not a staircase person than spending that euro on the elevator would be beneficial to your knees. Even then you would have to walk a couple dozen steps up to the very top of the tower where you can admire the views of the city from a 84m vantage point. Truth be told, the tower is much prettier viewed from afar, but for anyone with time to spear or lack the energy to head up Castel San Pietro, this is a great alternative.
Address: Via della Costa, 1, 37121 Verona VR, Italy
Entrance Fee: Included in Verona card, but elevator cost extra €1; otherwise €6, reduced €4.50
Opening times: Mon – Sun 10:00 – 19:00
Piazza Castel San Pietro
I am a huge fan of panoramic views, and to be honest, who doesn’t like looking over a stunning city as the sun sets? Almost every place has an amazing view point and I wasted no time in seeking out the Verona ‘it’ spot.
Castel San Pietro is built on the San Pietro Hill on the east of the River Adige, which has a long history of settlement dating back to the Iron Age.
The current barracks were built in the Mid-19th century by the Austrian Emperor and are not open to the public. However, the Piazzale in front of it, it’s still accessible and the view is absolutely free, with a stone fence that you can rest on as you await the magic to happen. There are some cypress trees blocking the view, but if you head there early you can snag a good spot at the corner.
A set of beautiful stairs nestled between two buildings opposite Ponte Pietra leads you up to the view point and there is also a small park about two-thirds of the way up that would make a good picnic spot and offer the northern view of the city.
Address: Piazzale Castel San Pietro, 37129 Verona,Italy
Free to enter, open space (no opening times)
I know what everyone is thinking: do I need to buy the Verona card? The short answer is, yes. Especially if you want to visit the Arena which alone costs €10 (€ 7.50 for reduced fare), and the Verona card itself costs €18 for 24 hours and €22 for 48 hours. There are no special fares for students or elderly, but children below the age of 7 get free entries.
It included entry fees to 15 attractions and discounts on 5 other. The deal is better if you stay in Verona for more than one day; but even for one day you would get more than your money’s worth by visiting the Arena, Juliet’s House, San Anastasia Church (which I didn’t review but it’s worth a look) that are all close to one another.
Unless you decide to skip the Roman Arena altogether and happen to be eligible for reduced fare I would say go for the Verona Card. You can buy it at most attractions and churches in Verona, though beware some only sell you the 48-hour card.