While many know of Verona as the setting for Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet (and The Two Gentlemen of Verona), it should be on more people’s radar because of it’s Roman history, impressive Venetian architecture, and rich arts and culture scene. It was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2000. It’s easy to spend several days in Verona, wandering the streets, exploring the squares, enjoying the food and taking in a show.
Old Verona (Città Antica) is based on the original Roman settlement, with current roads mirroring the position of the original Roman roads, which are now approximately 6 metres below the surface. Most of the buildings we see today are built on top of Roman structures.
The Verona Arena is a Roman amphitheatre built in 30 AD, designed to accommodate 30,000 spectators. It’s the third-largest in Italy after Rome’s Colosseum and the arena in Capua. It’s one of the best-preserved Roman amphitheatres, even though the outer ring was mostly destroyed by a major earthquake in 1117.
Today, the Verona Arena hosts the Arena di Verona Festival, a world-famous summer opera festival. The first opera performance was Aida in 1913 to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Giuseppe Verdi’s birth. And as it would happen, Aida was being stage during our visit, so we couldn’t help but to see a performance (and splurged on 2nd row seats). The setting in the arena was magical and the performance was opulent and impressive. Highly recommended!
The Verona Arena will host the closing ceremonies of the 2026 Winter Olympics.
Piazza delle Erbe market square
Piazza delle Erbe is the market square of Verona, once the town’s forum during Roman times. The square is more of a very stretched diamond shape, with an active market, bordered by fascinating buildings and features.
On the western end is Palazzo Maffei, a three-storey Baroque palace decorated with statues of Greek gods. In front stands a white marble column with the lion of St. Mark, symbol of the Republic of Venice.
In the square stands the Torre dei Lamberti, an 84 metre high tower whose construction started in 1172, enlarged in 1448, with the clock added in 1779.
Through Arco della Costa to Piazza dei Signori
From Piazza delle Erbe, passing through a small archway, Arco della Costa, near Torrei dei Lamberti takes you to Piazza dei Signori. Arco della Costa means arch of the rib, as a rib bone (we believe) has been hanging from the arch since the 18th century (possibly longer).
Piazza dei Signori is bordered by architecturally interesting palazzi. A statue of Dante can also be found here; Dante spent time in Verona after being exiled from Florence.
Piazza Santa Anastasia
Piazza Santa Anastasia is a small square bordered by two historic churches.
The Basilica di Santa Anastasia is the largest church in Verona. The Gothic church began construction in 1280 and was mostly finished by 1400. However, it was never entirely finished and much of the front facade remains unfinished. It was consecrated in 1471. The 72-metre bell tower is prominent in the Veronese skyline (along with the Torre dei Lamberti).
Adjacent is the smaller Gothic church of San Pietro Martire, whose construction began in 1283 and was consecrated in 1354.
Between the two churches is an arch that would have led to the monastery. The arch holds the tomb of Guglielmo da Castelbarco, dating to 1321. This tomb would influence the design of other Veronese funerary monuments.
Verona Cathedral or Duomo
The Duomo di Verona or Verona Cathedral was built in 1187 in Romanesque style on the site of an earlier church that was destroyed the earthquake of 1117. Later renovations and additions include the 14th century Gothic windows in the facade, and 17th century upper facade. The 16th century bell tower was never finished. Two griffin sculptures adorn the front entrance.
San Pietro castle and hill
After exploring the Città Antica, cross the Adige river to climb the San Pietro hill for panoramic views of Verona. The hill was an important strategic point throughout history, providing the ability to control the river and territory. During Roman times, the hill was called Monte Gallo, but renamed during the medieval period when a church dedicated to Saint Peter was built on the hill, over the remains of a Roman temple.
A series of fortresses or castles have existed on the site for centuries, leading to the current Austrian barracks constructed between 1852-1858. The site provides amazing views of Verona.
There’s now a funicular that will take you to the top of the hill, reviving a historic funicular that operated between 1941-1944.
While they weren’t things we managed to explore, on a future visit, we would love to see:
- Porta Borsari, an ancient Roman gate from the 1st century, an main entrance into the city
- Portoni della Bra, a medieval gate with a dovetail battlement
- Castel Vecchio Bridge, a fortified bridge connected to Castelvecchio
- Scaliger Tombs, a group of five ornate Gothic funerary monuments in a court outside the church of Santa Maria Antica