Verona is a smaller city that often gets overlooked as it’s really only famous for being the fictional home of Romeo’s Juliet. But if you happen to be up north, it’s a really convenient destination for a few days, a mere hour train ride away from Venice.
We bought the Verona card for 15 Euros which really structured our days. The card is good for 48 hours and gets you into a variety of sites for free. This forced us out into the city in a way that we would never have gone on our own. (OK, I never would have gone on my own. My husband needs no excuse to look at several hundred-year-old structures. But for me, the combination of having a checklist and “free” made it almost an exercise in how much I could game the system. Plus, once you’re getting in for free, you don’t mind leaving a church once you’ve had enough and moving on to the next place.) This does make it a very historical trip, although there is a lot of shopping to be done in Verona, too, and if you go in April, you’ll be there in time for Vinitaly.
Verona has the largest collection of ancient Roman artifacts outside of Rome, with it’s own Coliseum and an old Roman theatre across the river. The Teatro Romano offers wonderful views of the city as well as houses an archaeological museum. The Coliseum is known as the Verona Arena and dates back to the 1st century. It’s still in use today having a full schedule of opera and other performances. It was too early in the season to catch it when we went, but I recommend checking into tickets if you know you’re going to be in the area. It would be a stunning place to take in a show.
Museo di Castelvecchio is a 14th-century fortress, whose bridge was destroyed by the Germans and then rebuilt to fit the period it was originally made in. They’ve also built onto it a modern sort of wing that is now a museum with old frescoes and statues. In addition to the ancient architecture, it’s fascinating to see how they’ve incorporated the new construction, bringing together the old and the modern in a way that isn’t garish and tries to honor the old without doing some soulless copy.
Likewise, Centro Internazionale di Fotagrafia Scavi Scaligeri combines modern art with the ancient. The photo gallery is actually housed inside the underground excavation of the old Roman street. I was there for a Giorgio Casali exhibit and it was a treat to see his iconic images of 50’s and 60’s Italian style set against ancient Roman cobblestones and aqueducts.
The big cuisine of the region is horse, donkey and red wine risotto. I couldn’t bring myself to order the horse or donkey, even though both smelled quite good, and I realized that makes me a gigantic hypocrite, especially as I had just spent 3 days in Emilia Romagna where you could often see dinner wandering around out of your bedroom window. But the good news is the risotto is delicious as is many of the other things I ordered while there.
I really enjoyed La Enoteca Segreta for dinner, especially when it came to dessert which was a shortbread cookie with grappa and powdered sugar on it that I still think about on the reg.
Another place that people talk about is Antica Bottega del Vino. This place was good, too, but big and packed and the front is also a bar with a small-plates menu. As the name might indicate, they have an insane wine list.
Lastly, there was a place we went for lunch in Dante’s house. It was on the expensive side for lunch, but we just liked the guy. I don’t know. He had an 80’s playlist and was friendly. There was a fried egg with truffles that we enjoyed as well as the red wine risotto. And he had wines by the half bottle which is sometimes handy. Many places in Europe don’t really do wines by the glass and the ones they have aren’t that great. (Contrary to what you hear, I don’t think the “house wine” is all that great.) Ristorante Milio e Santa Anastasia.
And definitely, stop into one of the cafes at Piazza Erbe for an aperitivo before or a drink after dinner. It’s also where I bought one of my favorite pairs of shoes ever.
Verona is in Valpolicella and Amarone country and if you can get out of the city and do a wine tour, I would recommend it. Unfortunately, I wouldn’t recommend the tour we used. I thought it was overpriced for only taking us to two wineries, and the guides were a little stiff. In an industry already known for being pretentious, I find the people of Amarone country to be even more arrogant. The first place we went was Quintarelli which poured us thimble sized tastes with the seriousness of a surgeon opening a child’s heart. It didn’t put us in a mood to buy, nor did the price which had little to nothing under 3 figures and quickly moved into the 4 figures. We did, however, have them take us to Valentina Cubi on a friend of ours recommendation and the family who ran this place was down to Earth and lovely.