Quick, which do you think is Italy’s fourth most visited city, behind Rome, Venice, and Florence? It’s Verona, in the northern Veneto region roughly an hour to 90 minutes between Milan and Venice. And that can be chalked largely (though not entirely) to a certain William Shakespeare, who used the city as a backdrop not just for Two Gentlemen of Verona but most famously his immortal tragedy Romeo and Juliet.
More than a million visitors a year (before COVID, more like five million) flock to what may well be one of Europe’s most romantic cities, drawn mostly by the legendary “star-cross’d lovers”, and their focus is especially on the Casa di Giulietta (Juliet’s House) – actually another family’s 13th-century townhouse, sold to the city in 1905 – and specifically to the courtyard with the famous balcony (actually added in the early 20th century) where “soft! what light through yonder window breaks.” (If you like, you can even add your own message of love to the thousands already wedged into the courtyard’s walls.)
But there’s plenty else to enthrall you in this UNESCO World Heritage Site. Topping that list will be the ancient Roman yet very well preserved Arena di Verona, built under the Emperor Tiberius in 30 CE to seat 30,000 and today a magnificent venue for mass cultural events. It’s on the bustling Piazza Brà, a square which is the hub of Verona’s historic centre, and also home – in addition to a park and various caffès, eateries, and shops – to the 19th-century neoclassical Palazzo Barbieri, housing the city hall and the arcade-lined, mostly early-17th-century Palazzo della Gran Guardia.
Just a ten-minute stroll away brings you to another distinguished square, the medieval Piazza delle Erbe, once the forum of Roman magna Verona and today still home to a daily open-air market as well as medieval and Renaissance buildings including the 12th-century city hall Torre dei Lamberti (affording great views from its tower).
For more where that came from, check out the English-language page of TurismoVerona.eu, and use your Iberia Joven discount to book a flight to the city of Shakespeare’s star-crossed lovers!