Verona was the first city I’ve visited since studying abroad that I hadn’t been to before. My first “new” city of the semester is my favorite so far.
Verona is the hometown of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. While the characters are fictional, the town is very real. I was a little concerned that Verona would be full of touristy Romeo and Juliet junk, especially because I visited two weeks before Valentine’s Day, but I worried for naught. Verona was a cute, family-friendly little town with a lot more to offer than a balcony and a statue of a girl with a shiny boob. Although it did have those things too.
Our tour began with a quick loop around Verona via bus. We saw the ruins of a Roman theater and some walls, and we drove past a restored Roman pedestrian bridge on the ancient Roman roads. Roman ruins are so plentiful in Verona that some are even used as support structures for apartment buildings.
Our walking tour began in Piazza delle Erbe, the city marketplace since the Romans took control in 89 BC. The piazza is ringed with 14th Century palazzi, many of which still have their original exterior fresco paintings. On the Sunday that I visited, Piazza delle Erbe was full of families and young children playing. A local children’s museum or activity center of some sort had set up dozens of simple toys and games, and bundled-up parents supervised bundled-up toddlers as the kids burned off some morning energy.
Adjacent to Piazza delle Erbe, the Piazza dei Signori stands surrounded by 12th, 13th, and 14th Century Veronese government buildings. The Scaglieri family tower is also visible. The square is also known as Piazza Dante because of the presence of the statue of the Florentine poet. After he was exiled from Florence, Dante lived in Verona for seven years.
No visit to Verona would be complete without the requisite visits to Juliet’s and Romeo’s houses. Although the characters are fictional, there may be some truth to the legend. At Juliet’s house, a crest over an archway depicts a hat, signifying that the residents were coopers. The Italian word for hat is capello, so Shakespeare buffs have proposed that perhaps Juliet Capulet was a member of the Capuleti family of Verona. A few blocks away, Romeo’s house belonged to the Montecchi family, or the Montagues.
After a relaxing lunch, my friends and I decided to go back to la casa di Giulietta to see if we could find the Club di Giulietta. The movie “Letters to Juliet” was inspired by this little volunteer-staffed club that answers letters from all over the world asking for love advice. The letters are addressed to “Giulietta, Verona, Italy.
We finished our day by meeting at Verona’s Arena, the third largest Roman amphitheater in the world. It is still used for concerts and performances today, and it sits in Verona’s main social square, Piazza Bra. The piazza was filled with cute, young families and people walking dogs. Young teenagers slipped around on an ice rink while older tourists somberly entered an Auschwitz train car on display nearby. All of this, with the magnificent pink marble Arena as a backdrop. Verona is a city with a long history and a bright future.