Two hours from Milan and Venice, and only a little more than an hour from Brescia, where we were staying, is the city of Verona, best known for being the home of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. Juliet’s House will be the place you will want to visit first upon arrival (though doors to the museum don’t typically open till mid-morning). Even when we arrived to the city early on a weekday morning, a mop of tourists had already gathered in the courtyard of where the real-life Cappello family once lived. There’s a statue of Juliet at the foreground where people wait in line to grab her bronze breast because supposedly it makes the one doing so lucky in love. My husband and I passed on this chance, confident that we were going to be OK either way. Watching people anxiously line up to do so, with women as well as men happily posing for photos with the boob of a statue in their hand was, however, the comical introduction to our day in Italy’s City of Love.
Walking through the house itself was a great glimpse of the story of this family and of Juliet herself, although it might disappoint some to learn that Shakespeare’s play is more fiction than truth. Nevertheless, standing on Juliet’s famous balcony is a fun experience. Leave a note for Juliet among the hundreds left from visitors around the world on post-its they stick on the stone wall leading up to her house. Whatever inspires you to take the visit know that in the end, even I – who didn’t really think it was that big of a deal at first – was pretty smitten with the romance of it all.
However, Verona is so much more than this one spot (and more than just one Shakespeare play was set in Verona – The Two Gentlemen of Verona, and The Taming of the Shrew being the other two). The city is a UNESCO World Heritage site with beautiful architecture and ancient Roman walls that mark the entrance into the city center.
Because most tourist attractions open later in the morning, we spent a lot of the morning walking around, a perfect time to explore since the streets weren’t as crowded as they turned out to be later in the day. Though the evening scene is also beautiful here, if you are just planning a day visit make sure to arrive early to enjoy it a bit more.
Even the popular Piazza delle Erbe wasn’t as crowded as it often is and we were able to climb the Lamberti tower, Verona’s tallest Medieval tower built by the Lamberti family in 1172, and enjoy the panoramic views with being rushed. The piazza has cafes and a lot of vendor stands where you can shop for gifts and souvenirs.
Of course, you can’t miss checking out the Verona Arena, an Roman amphitheatre built in 1st century. Today is is where the city hosts large-scale opera performances celebrated world-wide. In fact, during our visit, a stage was being set up for a concert later that week. My kids really enjoyed this part of our visit.
We ate in one of the cafes right across from the amphitheatre and people-watched. We shopped a bit and indulged in some gelato as we walked admiring all the colors and gorgeous buildings. We left before night fall, our feet exhausted, but our minds delighted with all we had seen. Upon my return, I would consider staying a night in town just to get a feel for it then and maybe even try to catch a Shakespearean play or opera in the arena, all of which add to the romantic air of this wonderful city.
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