I love laying over in Venice, we stay outside of the city but it’s so easily accessible by train I usually find myself wandering the canals at every opportunity. Yet, even the maze-like streets of Venice can seem redundant. This is when day trips come in handy. An hour and a bit outside of Venice you’ll find Verona – popular for being the birthplace of Romeo and Juliette. Yes, the fictional Shakespeare characters - you may remember them from your public school English class in grades 7 through 9.
Unfortunately as the summer months are upon us Verona was swarming with tour groups, student and adult alike. Not that you'd be able to tell here, but the sheer number of people in the streets and at the historical attractions somewhat diminished the charm of the Medieval city.
The first item on the agenda was food and based on a recommendation from a colleague we ended up at Peperino Pizza & Cucina Verace a charming restaurant with out of this world pizza. Originally we picked it as they offer gluten-free pizza, but I’d go even if there weren’t as the food was incredibly tasty and surprisingly reasonable. What’s more, they had an activated charcoal option. Yes, black crust. Ever the gimmick-buyer I had to try it.
You may have noticed there’s no cheese on the pizza shown above. And you know what, I didn’t miss it. I’ve been trying and failing to cut dairy from my diet but take steps where I can. The combination of deliciously soft and doughy crust with the fresh sauce was more than satisfying. If I were to visit Verona again, this pizza would be my only reason.
The quality and reasonable cost of Peperino’s was quite a surprise as the restaurant is nestled on a street at the base of the Arena di Verona, a large Roman amphitheater. This was the first attraction we looked at on our visit to Verona and although fascinating I was just unable to get excited about it. Due to some event they had a mess of gigantic pharos surrounding the Arena.
Onward we made our way to the Castelvecchio Bridge, which gave us beautiful views of the Adige river which runs around Verona.
We then passed through Piazza Delle Erbea a square with several market stands and a gorgeous fountain that dates back to 1368. I loved this square for its extremely pretty buildings, many with frescoes, statues and marble.
It’s a sin (to me) to visit any Italian town without consuming at least one scoop of gelato, so we stopped at Gelateria Impero. I was impressed to see a pomegranate mascarpone gelato and had to try it. For research. Unfortunately, it was pretty sweet which really kind of took over any flavor. This is the issue with eating so much gelato, after a while you become a bit of a gelato snob.
While enjoying our gelato we saw an ornate gate built around two decorative structures, I had no idea what they were until right now, thanks to Google. La Arche Scaligere are five gothic style tombs, which celebrate the Salinger family who ruled Verona for about a century. I would recommend stopping by the monuments and spending some time admiring their detail and intricacies. I wish I had but with my hands full of gelato and company that wasn’t as interested I passed up the opportunity.
I wasn’t surprised to find myself quite bored and underwhelmed by the popular attraction of Juliette’s house where visitors flock to stand on her balcony and attach a note to the “love wall”. To enter the courtyard where the entrance to her house is you must pass through a tunnel, which is unfortunately covered in “love notes” which would be cool if they weren’t pasted up with gum and band-aids. You can also add your lock to a gigantic love lock wall.
If you don't bring a lock, not to worry as there is a gift shop that sells them 1 foot away (opportunist much?). In the courtyard is also a statue of Juliette where people line up to have a photo of them touching her boob taken. For good luck of course. I would highly recommend NOT going to this attraction. Even if it’s the reason for Verona’s popularity.
As with any day by this point I was in desperate need of a coffee and we quickly stopped at Duchi Café for a cuppa to-go. It wasn’t the best coffee but the interior was quite trendy and eclectic which I enjoyed.
One thing to note is that there seems to be a lot of shoe stores in Verona and now in hindsight, I regret not having bought a pair. The styles ranged from normal to totally off the wall with feathers and 6-inch platforms. We came upon several “all shoes at 40 euros” type places where there was only one price regardless of which shoes you got and the stores were all organized by size.
Overall, I am glad to have ticked Verona off my bucket list but I probably won't rush back anytime soon. There is real beauty and detail in the streets of the city but that is somewhat overshadowed by the crowds. You can tell how magical this place would be if it were less busy by the following hard-to-get picture.