No matter what time of year one travels to Verona, there is always something unique and exciting to experience.
During springtime, the beginning of the travel season, visitors can enjoy nature and the hustle and bustle of the famed Verona Carnival. During the summer, travelers can soak up culture at the famous Verona Arena during Opera Season – a celebration of music, theater, dance, and more. Autumn is ideal for enjoying local food and wine, as harvest season results in the area’s most delicious produce and locally made wine. In the winter, travelers can enjoy Christmastime activities and skiing at nearby resorts.
Whether looking for art, architecture, history, or cuisine, Verona literally offers something for everyone.
FESTIVAL & EVENTS
Verona is home to a variety of unique events and festivals that allow travelers to experience the depth of the city’s culture.
The city’s most important event occurs every summer when Verona hosts an opera festival in the famous Roman arena. The event is massive and always sells out. It’s no wonder why – as it features performances of history’s most renowned operas and is one of the biggest celebrations of music in the city. Giuseppe Verdi’s Aida, which was the opera that opened the festival when it began in 1913, is usually performed each year alongside other operas as well as classical music concerts and ballet performances
Another big event is the Carnevale di Verona. Held annually since the sixteenth century, this event features a massive parade on the Friday before Lent, during which people dress in masks and costumes and ride atop opulent floats. Each of Verona’s neighborhoods is represented by a local costumed character. In the neighborhood of San Zeno and the majority of the city, it is tradition to enjoy a hearty plate of gnocchi on this day, which is also called Venerdì Gnocolàr (Gnocchi Friday) by the locals.
The next day, Carnival celebrations continue in Verona with the Regata Storica sull’Adige on Saturday afternoon. During the event, locals participate in a historic reenactment along the Adige River which features Prince Reboano’s ride in a canoe along the river. Afterwards, a costumed procession makes its way across the city center to Piazza Bra.
Verona also hosts one of Italy’s top wine festivals – Vinitaly. This wine fair is usually held for four days and features a wide array of wines, winemakers, and wine tastings. It also features industry events such as meetings and seminars. It draws thousands of people from across the country to celebrate the long winemaking tradition of Verona.
February sees the city transform during its annual Valentine’s Day festival – Verona In Love. The city is known as being the setting for Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, so this festival celebrates the town’s identity as a destination for lovers. The event includes shows, concerts and other performances, and the city is decorated with red heart lanterns and millions of love notes. Piazza dei Signori hosts romantic concerts for lovers to attend together.
During Christmastime, the city hosts a variety of seasonal events, such as the International Nativity Scene Exhibition. As part of the event, over 400 nativity scenes from across the globe are displayed in the Verona Arena. The exhibition is accompanied by music and light shows.
Another seasonal event is the Feast of Santa Lucia, or Saint Lucy. Celebrated each December, the event features a 3-day Christmas market in Piazza Bra with a variety of food, toys, and Christmas gifts. The event is very special for the local children, because according to tradition Saint Lucy arrives at night and brings gifts to all good children, while bad children receive only coal.
One of the most important historic cultural traditions in Verona is the Palio del drappo verde, also called the Palio di Verona. As the world’s oldest footrace, the Palio began in 1208 and was held every year until the Napoleonic period. Eventually reinstated in 2008, the race covers a distance of 10.75 km and the traditional palio or cloth is awarded to the winner. This centuries-old tradition is legendary, and was even mentioned in Dante’s Divine Comedy.
Each September, Verona hosts Tocatì, an International Street Game Festival. The goal is to celebrate simple and ancient games that may otherwise be lost. The games take place throughout the city center in Verona’s main streets and squares. Each year, a foreign country is invited to share its traditional games along with food and music.
While in Verona, one must visit Giardino Giusti – which is a beautifully sculpted Renaissance garden. Located across from the city’s historic center, the garden is delicately manicured with towering, sprawling cypress trees. The garden opened at the end of the fifteenth century, making it a destination that is as historic as it is naturally beautiful. Offering stunning panoramic views of the city, the garden serves as an oasis for locals and visitors alike.
Another way to enjoy the outdoors is to explore the city’s piazze. These city squares include Piazza dei Signori – home to a nineteenth-century statue of Dante, and the fourteenth century Palazzo della Ragione – and Piazza delle Erbe – home to a stunning Roman fountain, the city’s administration, and a lovely market which sells local herbs and produce. In fact, Piazza delle Erbe was once the site of the city’s Roman Forum.
Piazza Bra is the largest square in Verona and home of the city’s famous Arena di Verona. Featuring a garden, cafés, restaurants, and historic buildings, Piazza Bra is the city’s main gathering place and the heart of its social life.
While walking the city streets, travelers can enjoy the weather while admiring outdoor architectural sites such as the Scaligero Bridge, Porta dei Leoni, Porta Palio, and Porta dei Borsari – all features of the city that reflect its Roman history.
Another important Roman site is Arco dei Gavi, a Roman arch that dates back to the first century AD. Constructed to celebrate the influential Roman Gavia family, during the twentieth century the arch was moved from its original position to its current location next to Castelvecchio.
With the Adige River running through the center of town, it is hard to miss Verona’s bridges. Ponte di Pietra was constructed by the Romans during the first century BC and its iconic arches attest to the principles of Ancient Roman architecture. The bridge was reconstructed several times by the Romans then again during the twentieth century following World War II.
Not to be confused with the Verona Arena, which is the city’s Roman amphitheater, Verona is also home to a Roman theater that was built during the Augustinian Age. Ruins of the theater are visible today, and the monument is also the site of an Archeological Museum housing Ancient Roman mosaics and sculptures found in Verona and the surrounding area.
Rising above the Roman theater is Colle San Pietro. The hill has a rich history and once featured a Roman temple followed by a medieval church and then army barracks during the Austrian occupation. Today, travelers can climb to the top of the hill on foot or take the scenic funicular, which offers remarkable views of the Roman theater and the rest of Verona’s city center.
The Della Scala Family or the House of Scaglieri, which governed Verona during the Middle Ages, was one of the city’s most important ruling families. The influence of the Scaglieri is visible even to this day in the city’s art and architecture. Visitors to Verona may wish to visit the Scaglieri Tombs, which feature Gothic monuments dedicated to the members of the family.
Porta San Giorgio was once an integral part of Verona’s medieval city walls. The gate, which served as a fortress, was decorated during the Renaissance in the Doric style to elevate its aesthetics.
If looking to enjoy winter sports, there are a wide variety of ski resorts just a couple of hours outside of Verona. Verona’s location in Northern Italy makes it a great jumping off point for those wanting to enjoy skiing in the Italian Alps.
For a wonderful respite from the outdoors, travelers can take time to explore the city’s many museums and churches.
Some of the best churches to visit in Verona include the city’s Romanesque Cathedral of Santa Maria Matricolare, the Gothic Sant’Anastasia, the Romanesque San Fermo Maggiore, the Renaissance styled San Giorgio in Braida, and the Romanesque San Zeno Maggiore. Other key churches worth visiting include the striped Church of San Lorenzo and the fifteenth century Church of San Bernardino.
For art lovers, a must-see is the gallery inside Castelvecchio, the city’s medieval castle. Housed within the castle is one of the area’s top art galleries, which contains a spectacular collection of artistic works, as well as antiques and artifacts such as jewelry, ceramics, weaponry, and armor from Roman times.
Other museums to visit while in Verona include the Museo della Radio – a museum dedicated to the engineering and history of radios, the Museo Civico di Storia Naturale – the city’s Civic Natural History Museum which contains artifacts, specimens, and fossils, the Museo Archeologico al Teatro Romano – a museum located at the Roman theater which features ancient artifacts and art pieces, and the Arena Museo Opera – a multimedia celebration of opera.
Each first Sunday of the month, Piazza San Zeno hosts a bustling antique market. Featuring booths that showcase a variety of handicrafts, antiques, and local products, the market offers many unique treasures to take home. Piazza delle Erbe also hosts an outdoor market from Monday through Saturday. Here, locals and visitors can purchase fresh fruits and vegetables, clothing, home goods, souvenirs, and much more.
The city’s main shopping street is Via Mazzini, which extends from Piazza Bra to Piazza delle Erbe and features the shops and boutiques of many national and international brands. Corsa Porta Borsari, which is parallel to Via Mazzini, is also the site of several fashion and shoe stores.
A visit to Verona simply is not complete without a stop at the city’s most impressive structure – the Roman Amphitheater. Built in the first century AD, this arena was once used for gladiator shows in Ancient Rome. It is so massive that it is said to have been able to hold the entire population of Roman Verona and is believed to have been the third largest Roman amphitheater. Today, the structure can accommodate 15,000 audience members and, thanks to its perfect acoustics, the arena is still in use today as the host of Verona’s opera festival and a concert venue.
Shakespeare’s influence is felt heavily throughout Verona, as the city was the setting of one of the playwright’s most famous works – Romeo and Juliet. The tragic love story has solidified Verona as the ideal destination for lovers, and today, visitors can see the homes of both Romeo and Juliet, with the latter featuring Juliet’s famous balcony, as well as the tomb of Juliet, which is housed in the Church of San Francesco al Corso.
Verona is also home to some of the country’s best DOC and DOCG wines, so a visit to Verona promises a vast selection of unique local wines that are of the highest quality.
The city itself is not far from popular wine towns and other important Italian destinations such as Venice, so Verona can serve as a great place to stay when looking to visit other sightseeing locales throughout Northern Italy.
With fascinating cultural traditions and an impressive number of Roman ruins, Verona offers a wealth of unique opportunities to travelers of all interests. From the world-famous Arena di Verona to the charming city squares and streets lined with medieval and Renaissance architecture, falling in love with the city of Romeo and Juliet is guaranteed.
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