The city that belongs to those 2 ill-fated lovers: Romeo and Juliet.
And, yes, you can visit Casa di Guilietta — Juliet’s House.
You can see the balcony and actually go into the house and out onto that famous balcony.
There are love notes tucked all over the walls.
And while I loved the movie “Letters to Juliet” (I admit it), I wasn’t really into seeing this site in Verona.
I knew there was so much more to this city than this very touristy, rather kitschy site.
Let’s start with some basics about Verona.
Verona is a city in the Veneto region of Italy and has a population of about 250,000.
It’s about an hour and 20 minutes by high speed train from Milan.
Or it’s about an hour and 10 minutes by high speed train heading west from Venice.
It’s not off the beaten path in any way.
But it does see less visitors than these cities.
I found Vicenza — just 45 minutes west of Venice by train — to be less touristy.
But while Verona sees a fair amount of tourism, I did find streets to wander down that were less busy and more filled with locals.
The trick in most cities is to simply duck down a street where there aren’t a lot of people.
Verona actually sits on the Adige River and the city itself is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
So naturally it’s going to see a good amount of tourism.
And with good reason.
My advice: don’t simply do a day trip from Milan or Venice.
Stay a couple of nights because the evenings are when you’ll see the day trippers disappear and you’ll be mingling with the locals — and a few other savvy travelers like you.
Here are some of the best things to do in Verona.
Spend some time in a piazza.
There are a few of wonderful piazzi in Verona with Piazza Bra — near the famous Arena (we’ll get to that) — being a fabulous spot to people watch with a gelato in hand.
It’s lined with colorful buildings and outdoor cafes.
There’s a green park where you’ll see children playing, couples cozying up on the grass and old men chatting away on the park benches.
Piazza delle Erbe is another piazza which is on the site of the old Roman Forum and is still the center of the city.
Here you’ll find some really cool old buildings and the Gardello Tower (the clock tower) looming over the square.
It used to be that the market here was more local and authentic.
But it’s now more geared toward tourism with market stalls selling trinkets, handbags and scarves made elsewhere in the world.
Piazza dei Signori is much smaller and more intimate.
It might be my favorite mostly due to the fact that there’s a fabulous statue of Dante here.
Whichever you choose, spending time in an Italian piazza is a must.
Simply slow down and watch the Italians and the tourists go about their day.
Visit Torre dei Lamberti.
And if you can, walk up the 238 steps to the top.
Or if you can’t walk then take the lift.
I walked it.
And the views from the top?
You can see all over Verona, to the green hills (that would be toward wine country) and back toward the river.
There are 2 bells in the tower — the Rengo and the Marangona.
These bells kept time for Verona and gave structure to the inhabitants’ days with each bell ringing for different reasons.
Now the bells only ring for funerals.
It’s €8 to climb (or take the lift) to the top of tower.
So worth it for those views as long as the weather is clear.
Go into a church or 2.
I always recommend visiting at least one church in each town or city as this is such a part of Italian life — or at least it was.
Usually you’ll find some incredible architecture and works of art such as sculptures and paintings.
There are a couple in Verona that I’d put high on the list.
The first is the Verona Cathedral otherwise known as Cattedrale Santa Maria Matricolare or Duomo di Verona.
Admittedly I didn’t make it into this one but from my research I wish I had.
It looks lovely.
I did, however, visit Basilica di Sant’ Anastasia which is a church of the Dominican Order.
It’s a Gothic style building and one that I highly recommend to travelers to Verona.
The artwork and the architecture are amazing.
I loved the old worn tile floor in its orange and black colors.
A couple of others worth a look-see include San Lorenzo Maggiore and San Fermo Maggiore.
There are, of course, more.
Attend a performance at the Arena.
By far the most famous site and THE best experience in Verona is to see a performance at the Arena di Verona.
This structure was built back in 30AD.
You read that correctly.
Games and shows were put on here to crowds of 30,000.
In fact these ludi, as they were called, were so famous that people came from far away to see them.
Today the Arena is used for Opera and other musical shows.
It’s hosted popular musical acts such as Pink Floyd, Alicia Keys, One Direction and Sting.
On my visit in early September I missed the Opera season which runs from late June to early September.
But as luck would have it, an Italian pop star by the name of Laura Pausini was perfoming.
And my hostess at Palazzo Gelmi B&B (I’ll get to this) was able to get a ticket for me.
I knew nothing of this Italian pop star other than what I looked up prior to going to the show.
But as I entered this ancient arena — the mix of old stones and modern technology of lights and big screens — filled with enthusiastic Italians, I could feel the energy.
When Laura Pausini came out the arena erupted into cheers and singing and … well I got emotional.
It was one of those travel experiences where you really feel like you are connecting to the locals — the culture, the history, the people.
There I was — this American middle aged woman — dancing with the rest of them.
And not comprehending most of what was being sung and said.
But understanding the emotions of it all.
The joy of those around me who were seeing one of their favorite performers.
The love you could feel for Laura Pausini and her music and her talent.
And Laura’s love for her fans.
I can still remember those feelings of standing in the ancient Arena and being part of Italian life.
One of the best travel experiences — EVER!
If you do one thing in Verona, experience a performance in this old Arena.
It’s the best thing to do in Verona.
And if you can’t attend a show of some kind, at least take a tour of it.
Wander near the river or down a quiet street.
There are some lovely places to grab a bite or a drink along the Adige River.
I found it to be a bit quieter here so it’s a good spot to walk to if the daytime crowds are getting to you.
Wander down a street that has fewer people.
I stumbled on some cute shops and cafes — and this lovely colorful courtyard with this bicycle.
And during my wanderings I found a restaurant that I ended up eating at later that night called Amo — although I think it has since closed.
But taking a walk down a quiet street during the day can lead to discovering interesting shops, cafes and restaurants that might be away from the touristy areas and lead you to where the locals shop or eat.
Verona can get busy in certain areas — Piazza Bra, Via Mazzini and Piazze delle Erbe — but you can find those peaceful spots even in the high tourist season.
Don’t be afraid to get a little lost.
Do some shopping.
There are some fabulous shops for all tastes and budgets in Verona.
The aforementioned Via Mazzini is the place for designer and higher end shops.
Corso Porta Borsari is a spot for more handcrafted items which the Italians are known for.
I’m not a huge shopper, but I almost always end up buying something Italian made on my trips to Italy.
Always worth the splurge!
So if you want hand made, be sure to check out Corso Porto Borsari.
And nearby is the Valpolicella wine region.
If you stay in Verona a few nights, you may want to take a day trip to this fabulous wine region — especially if you are a wine aficiando.
Personally I’d recommend staying a few nights out in the vines.
But if you are strapped for time, then you may want to take a day to visit a vineyard or 2 and enjoy the beauty of the vineyards.
It’s a stunning area with some amazing wines.
And it’s not heavily touristed like some other wine regions in Italy — especially by Americans.
If you don’t have time for a trip into the vines, then stop by one of the wine shops in Verona.
There are a few scattered about that will offer up tastes of the nearby wines.
And if you must…
Visit Casa di Giulietta.
I did stop by to see the famous balcony and the crazy crowds around it.
I think I stayed all of about 5 minutes to snap a few photos and see what it is all about.
Take a tour if you want for €6.
It’s not something I would recommend or put on a best things to do in Verona list.
But I also believe in wandering your own way.
So if it’s your thing then go for it.
Would you like to visit Verona?
Here is some further information on this remarkable Italian city.
Where to stay and eat
I stayed at Palazzo Gelmi — a 3 room B&B located right by the Arena.
The rooms are gorgeous and the service is outstanding.
I’d stay again.
I ate at Amo the second night but the website I have is not working.
But there seems to be a new Amo coming up on a search.
If it’s still roughly the same place, then I’d recommend it.
The first night I had dinner at La Griglia which is around the corner from Palazzo Gelmi.
The food was delicious and they had an exceptional wine list.
I’d highly recommend it.
When to go
While most Italian cities can be year round destinations, I’d highly recommend visiting Verona from April to September.
This way you can see a show at the Arena.
Opera season — called the Opera Festival — for 2018 runs from June 22 to September 1.
So if you want to see an opera performance then plan your trip around those dates.
During the spring (April, May and early June) you may be able to attend some other concert or show.
The same holds true of September.
But you may not know who is performing until you plan your trip as sometimes these are not announced until a few months before.