Quite simply, a stroll along Verona’s River Adige is not just relaxing, it’s a walk through history. From Castelvecchio’s magnificent bridge to Ponti Pietro, to the renaissance towers dotting the skyline, there are no dull spots along the river
Torre dei Lamberti
Begun in 1172, the Torre dei Lamberti stands as a beacon in the Verona skyline. In 1403 the tower was struck by lightning and finally restored 21 years later. Elevator trips to the top can be had for €8, offering a stupendous 360 degree view of Verona and the hillsides.
"The “old castle” was an important military installation during the middle ages, built by the Scaliger family. It has seen its share of damage, as recently as the second World War, but it remains one of the most recognizable buildings in Verona. A museum is available for visiting, touching on the history of the Scaliger family and the fortress and bridge’s importance in the city’s history.
In terms of large, the Arena Romano in the heart of Verona makes large seem, well, small. Set in Piazza Bra, the Arena itself was built in about AD 30 and was built to seat 30,000. Currently, 15,000 can be seated comfortably and the theater is still very much in use. Check the website for concert tickets to see your favourite Italian opera in an ancient setting!
Piazza delle Erbe
Verona’s most active square is both an exercise in patience and budget control. On any given day and at any given time, Erbe is heaving with tourists and their selfie sticks, and the market stalls are equally heaving in merchandise to commemorate the experience. Gratefully there exist numerous sidewalk cafes, all roughly equal in offferings and prices, to allow you to relax, sip an aperitivo, and watch the tourists go mad.
Though slightly off the main paths, a trip to Verona’s Cathedral, Basilica San Zeno is well worth it. Romanesque architecture at its finest, San Zeno costs only €3 and an audio guide in your language is provided. The interior is stark and less gilded than most Italian churches and is a refreshing homage to an earlier time.
Would we even know Verona were it not for Shakespeare’s star-crossed lovers? Of course we would but we might think of it differently. Romeo and Juliet’s authenticity aside, this balcony, a 20th century addition to an otherwise equally false Capulet home, nonetheless attracts throngs of visitors daily, eager to photographed and be photographed on the balcony. Entry is free but it isn’t always easy so go early to avoid the madding crowds.
Arco dei Gavi
Take a wrong turn from Castelvecchio and you will totally miss it, so don’t. It’s been around since the 1st century AD and the stone road is worn with centuries of wagon wheel use. It’s not quite where it used to be; it was destroyed by Napoleonic forces but reconstructed under Mussolini, very near its original spot.
Day trips are available and a quick trip to Lake Garda is only 20 minutes, and very affordable on the train. You can get off at Desenzano and take a ferry to Sirmione, or rent a car and be on your way to wherever you like. Garda is large but navigable and can be done quickly in a day. We recommend you stay a few days to take in the surrounding villages of this most beautiful lake.
Scrovegni Chapel- Padova
Padova (Padua to English speakers) is only an hour away on the slowest, cheapest trains and it’s well worth spending a day there. The university has alumni with names like Copernicus and Casanova, the cathedral houses the remains of one of Christendom’s most famous saints, and this jewel sits adjacent to the old arena which is now a ruins. Scrovegni Chapel is a masterpiece, a captivating fresco cycle by Giotto. The installation was completed in 1305 and is considered one of the Western world’s great masterpieces. €13 gets you a 15-minute climatization chamber stay, followed by a strict 15-minute visit (the fresco is fragile), but what a half hour it is. This is a DO NOT MISS for even the most casual art lover!
Basilica di San Antonio- Padova
The religious jewel in Padova’s crown is the Cathedral of Saint Anthony, whose actual tomb resides here. Admission is free, photographs are forbidden, and crowds are enormous, but you are treated to a majestic cathedral of immense size and unsurpassed beauty. The tomb of Saint Anthony rests in a side chapel and pilgrims are encouraged to pray to the saint and touch the tomb.
Piazza dei Signori
Many’s the time we sat on the steps of the Loggia del Consiglio, just off Piazza delle Erbe and amidst a less madding crowd to eat our pizza. Dante’s thoughtful repose statue provides the center anchor for this lovely square, which features such architectural gems as Palazzo Domus Nova, La Casa della Pietà, Palazzo Cansignorio and Palazzo del Podestà Maine gate, as well as the aforementioned pizza-eating steps of the Loggia. It’s a sit back and relax kind of square.
A 1.5 hour slow, cheap train ride or a 45 minute fast train ride away from Verona is the little known city of Venice. There isn’t much more than we can add to what is already known about this most famous European city except that it’s “as advertised” beautiful, if a bit overcrowded with tourists. A day was all we needed to see and eat and play but you if you don’t mind swimming against a sea of tourists who are is a hurry to catch their tour bus, then a few days is probably going to be to your liking.
A gondola can be rented for 30 or 60 minutes, costing you a whopping €32 as a starter but hey, it’s Venice, how many other gondola rides are you gonna get a chance to take?
Rialto Bridge- Venice
The oldest of the 4 bridges that span the Grand Canal, Rialto Bridge isn’t the original. In fact, it’s ben built several times since the 12th century. You’re guaranteed not to be alone on this bridge as it’s a significant tourist attraction, and it’s easy to see why.
Bridge of Sighs- Venice
By our own estimation, we’ve seen 4 Bridges of Sighs, now including the original here in Venice. Its original purpose was to serve as a passage from the Interrogation Rooms of the Doge’s Palace to the prison, so it was the last view prisoners saw before carrying out their sentences. Today, less ominously, the bridge offers a gorgeous backdrop for canal photographers.
Piazza San Marco- Venice
Yes, it’s a happy Chelsea rolling around this grand square which looks at beautiful Basilica San Marco. Entrance to the Basilica is free but special exhibits, like the tomb holding the purported bones of Gospel writer St. Mark (hence the namesake) will cost you. The free walk is itself a rare treat and worthwhile.
Grand Canal- Venice
If you did nothing else but sit along the Grand Canal, you would have a great day boat and people watching. And we’re not opposed to that, by the by.
Only about 45 minutes by slow train is Vicenza, a thriving metropolis and major Italian industrial center. Don’t let that fool you though, Vicenza has plenty to offer in terms of cathedrals, museums, grand piazzas and the renowned Olympic Theater, a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Don't Forget the Gelato!
Forget about chocolate and vanilla. Pistachio and Hazelnut rule! Flavours and flavours and flavours tempt the taste buds at nearly every corner. Our favourite sits just near San Zeno in Piazza Corrubbio called Cadamora, where the hosts are friendly, the recommendations are spot on, and the gelato is homemade on the premises. Tell Anna Chelsea the dog sent you!