Verona was perhaps made famous by Shakespeare, although it has a long and rich history, with Roman ruins at Porta Leoni to see, an amphitheatre dating from 1AD, a smaller amphitheatre resting on the banks of the River Adige, and a summer opera season to take in, in between visiting Romeo’s house – and, of course, Juliet’s house and tomb, which is outside the City walls.
There are also numerous art galleries – with exciting tales of recent art heists in Verona’s history – and shopping, culinary delights and plenty of opportunities to visit nearby destinations like Venice, Lake Garda, Milan and Mantua, where Romeo was exiled.
Here are 5 Verona travel tips to make sure you get the most out of your stay in this beautiful and romantic city, whether you are on honeymoon, taking in the opera, or visiting for the day.
When to visit Verona
Verona is a great place to visit at any time of year – Arena di Verona hosts major music and dance events all year round, with stars like Placido Domingo and Adele playing the arena, as well as big-name bands. The summer opera season at the Arena takes place annually from around 20 June to 5 September with a rolling repertoire of well known operas.
Where to stay
Verona has a full roster of accommodation, including reasonably priced B&Bs and pensione quite close to the arena, plus all categories of hotel. It is possible to book close to the start of the summer season, but you may be father away from the arena. Verona is usually very safe and is well policed, with a visible presence from polizia, Carabinieri and military police. A nocturnal stroll back to your hotel is quite pleasant – most people visit a gelateria or bars and restaurants after the opera and then window shop along via Giuseppe Mazzini until they reach Piazza Erbe, where more bars are. Things tend to quieten down after around 1am, though, even in the high season. This can sometimes be the best time to take a walk! There are also plenty of taxis, so if you have mobility problems, getting from your hotel or B&B should not be a problem. Verona is also quite flat, so not too taxing if you are a wheelchair user or have young children in a buggy.
Visiting Arena di Verona
The annual opera season runs from late June to early September and booking usually starts around November the previous year when the season is announced. There is a ticket office by Gate E of the arena and you can usually buy tickets there before the performance or when you arrive in Verona. Seats usually start at 23 euros.
Sit high up in the gradinata if you are mobile and are able to climb the steps, otherwise splash out on a numbered seat. Refreshments are available inside the arena – there are also WCs. The portacabin WCs outside the arena by Gate E are usually cleaner and more readily available. There are usually two to three intervals between acts, so there is no need to panic! You can also nip in and out during the opera (some are 3-4 hours long), but climbing back up to the gradinata can be taxing! With unnumbered seats, get there early, but be aware you might be asked to move up for latecomers – annoying as it is.
Wear comfortable shoes, take a cardigan or shawl for when the temperature drops late at night, and a plastic raincoat, in case of showers!
During the day, the arena is open while the stage crew sets up for the night’s performance, so you can wander round the corridors where gladiators once trod and sit in the gradinata. The arena has an official website with more information. There is also a gift shop selling inexpensive souvenirs, CDs and DVDs of productions, as well as libretti and programmes.
The scenery for each opera is also stored in Piazza Bra and makes for stunning selfies – at the rear of the arena is a hoarding where it is traditional to leave your own graffiti!
Shopping & Eating
Verona is a cornucopia of shops and eateries – via Giuseppe Mazzini is the main shopping mall and is very modern, with designer shops and budget boutiques sitting side-by-side. The market in Piazza Erbe is great for souvenirs and taking in the sun, with shops and bars lining it. Head for via Stella for more shopping – the streets round via Cappello, where Juliet’s house is based, have some good shopping, too. A favourite shop of mine is Dada at Via Marconi 2 – the whole street is full of interesting shops and the supermarket is also situated along this street. Dada is something special, though, and stocks fab shoes and boots, bags, accessories and clothes for men and women! If you visit in the summer when the sale is on, make sure you book extra luggage allowance! Verona is the centre for shoe making and bag manufacture in Italy, so the prices are generally good and products are very stylish.
There are eateries for all budgets in Verona, from cafes where you can buy a slice of pizza to osteria and fine dining – via Arche Scaligere has some interesting eateries and there is a handy list of reviewed eateries in Verona at Tripadvisor. Porta Leoni has nice cafes and bars for lunch, too. Be aware that horse and donkey may appear on menus, including on pizzas. Apart from that, it is very difficult to go hungry in Verona!
The best gelateria is at Ponte San Pietro – you can sit on a shady bench overlooking the River Adige before marching across to the small Roman amphitheatre on the other side of the river. My favourite tipple is Pear William and pistachio gelati!
Getting around – Places to visit
There is a handy bus service from Verona to places like Lake Garda, Venice and Mantua – all are within reach within 40 minutes to two hours. There is also a train station near Porta Nuova, near the centre of Verona, so you can also take the train. Travel can be very cheap, with some bus fares as little as 5 euros. The 205 bus to Lake Garda stops just by the arena and the route takes you to other resorts along the way. Venice is an hour by train, Mantua 40 minutes. Lake Garda is around two hours by bus, but the scenery along the way is spectacular. Riva del Garda is a lovely place to spend time travelling across the lake on the ferries – you can try windsurfing, or simply tan yourself on the shoreline.
Verona to Riva del Garda bus timetable
Verona to Venice bus timetable
Verona to Mantua bus timetable
Verona train timetable
Main image: scenery dock outside Arena di Verona
All images copyright A. Meredith
Want to go to Italy now?
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All Images copyright A. Meredith