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A few weeks ago, for my fortieth birthday, my sister, aunt, uncle and I headed to Northern Italy for a week of sightseeing, eating and celebrating. We were based in the small town of Lecco, situated on Lake Como. Each day we ventured out on various trips, and my favorite was our day spent in Verona.
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DAY TRIP TO VERONA, ITALY
Verona is a small Roman city in the Veneto region of Northern Italy. Situated about 160 km east of Milan and 120 km west of Venice, it is easily accessible from either city by car or train.
On this particular trip we drove to Verona and found street parking for our van after 5 minutes of searching for a spot. We arrived a little later than expected and desperately needed a cappuccino and a pastry since we rushed of the house to hit the road.
After a much needed pasticerria stop, we met our guide, Mariapia. Since most of us were new to Verona, we arranged for a guided tour. Italian tour guides are the real deal as they have to be certified and receive intense training to be authorized as a guide. I HIGHLY recommend doing a guided tour when visiting historical sites in Italy. You will learn so much about what you are looking at- all about the history, architecture, and art. A good guide will recount local legends that you will miss if you go on your own. And if you are visiting Verona, I highly recommend Mariapia –she literally wrote all of the English and Japanese guidebooks to Verona!
Verona is not a huge city, so its reasonable to spend a day and see all the major sites, have a leisurely lunch, and even have time to window shop in the high-end stores or grab a gelato! The three main sites to see are:
This is the Roman Colosseum located off the main Piazza, Piazza Bra. This amphitheater was built in the first century A.D. and pre-dates the one in Rome! It was used for the same purpose, gladiator battles!. Mariapia told us many tales of what happened in this stadium, and yes, it was pretty much as brutal as the movie, Gladiator. She even told us where the name Arena comes from – the Latin word for sand which graced the floor to soak up the gladiator blood!
Now the L’Arena is still home to several concerts a year and you can tour inside for 10 Euro a person. Since we were short on time, we only visited the outside of this Colosseum.
A short walk from L’Arena, you will find a bustling piazza, appropriately named Erbe. The markets in this square date back to the times when farmers would sell their excess crops, or agricultural goods. Erbe literally means herbs, so you can see how this name is a good fit.
Now a days the vendors sell fruit, flowers, along with local crafts and souvenirs for tourists. Like most Roman piazzas, a fountain is found in the center and the surrounding architecture is very Roman. We also saw the penthouse flat that Madonna owns. An awesome mix of Roman history and modern glamour, which pretty much sums up Verona.
Perhaps the most famous site in Verona, is the balcony of Juliet Capulet. The one made famous in William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet! Not only did Mariapia take us round to see the balcony (for 3 Euro you can enter the house and go out on the balcony), she also took us to the villa where it is believed Romeo met Juliet, and she sat us down for about 15 minute to recount the 14th Century legend of these two famous lovers that prompted Shakespeare to write his play in the mid 1700s.
In the piazza where the balcony is located also stands a bronze statue of Juliet. Legend has it that if you touch her right breast, you are assured luck in love. Along the wall you will find hundreds of locks donning the names of lovers who came looking to seal their love in Verona, much like Romeo and Juliet.
After a morning of sightseeing, we had worked up quite an appetite. After our tour, we headed back to Piazza Bra to sit in the piazza at one of the restaurants lining the square and have a leisurely lunch. We chose to dine at Bistrot Mamma Mia and it was your quintessential Italian lunch. We started with Aperol Spritz (aperol and prosecco), which is drunk before a meal as an aperitif (to get the appetite ready). We dined on caprese salads and delicious plates of pasta, all while people watching from the outdoor tables, over looking the square and the Colosseum. Truly a fitting end to a wonderful day in Verona!
I love Roman cities, and could have spent more time wandering around. We did window shop through Louis Vuitton and down Via Giuseppe Mazzini. I’m sure Verona would be a great place to stay for a night, and take in another meal or two, all the restaurants looked delicious. But Verona was the perfect spot for a day trip, or maybe a layover as you make your way from one larger city to another. I am so glad we had the opportunity to visit.
Have you been to Verona? Did a visit to Juliet’s statue really make you lucky in love?
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