Italy Trip

15 Verona Italy Attractions We Love + One to Skip

15 things to do and see in Verona, Italy including Venetian Gothic architecture, Italy’s most beloved piazza, basilicas, an ancient arena, frescos, controversial statues, and bridges with stunning views.

Nestled in Northern Italy’s Veneto region, fair Verona is perhaps best known as the setting for Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet.” Yet you won’t see Juliet’s House on our list of sights to see in Verona. Find out why, plus see all the sights we love most in Verona on the sightseeing map below.

Verona Frescos in Pizza delle Erbe

The following list of sights in Verona contains pictures by Paolo Ferraris (Italian Photographer behind ALOR Italy) personal anecdotes by Brandy Shearer (Author of ALOR Italy) and curated videos to help plan a trip to Verona.

Things to Do in Verona Italy

A romantic city of curved streets winding gracefully around piazzas, bridges, and 21 churches Verona is highly enjoyable to explore on foot. Our map of what to see in Verona takes advantage of the density of attractions in Verona Centro (historic city center). Walking times between attractions range from as little as 2 minutes to at most 24 minutes. The best part? Many of the sites listed below are free to explore!

Verona Italy Map

1. Porta Borsari

As the original main entrance to Verona, Porta Borsari is the perfect spot to start a day of sightseeing in Verona! Just past Ponte della Vittoria (Vittoria Bridge), Porta Borsari is an ancient white limestone Roman gate that dates back to the 1st century AD. Today only the external facade of the original gate remains. The name “Borsari” comes from the Middle Ages when vendors stopped at the gate to pay taxes which were then placed in large bags. Nowadays, just inside Porta Borsari sits a few rows of bistro tables where you can join the locals sipping cappuccino in the morning shade.

Italy Pic of the Day Verona Porta Borsari
Porta Borsari Verona

2. Piazza Bra & Vittorio Emanuele II Statue

Piazza Bra is the largest piazza in Verona. It’s also home to Giardini Vittorio Emanuele II (a lush community garden) Fontana di Piazza Brà (a beautiful fountain) and a rather important statue by Ambrogio Borghi of Vittorio Emanuele II. Vittorio Emanuele II was the first king of Italy and is credited for unifying the kingdom of Italy in 1861! He’s basically the OG, the true Godfather aka the “father of the Homeland” of Italy. The piazza itself is surrounded by cafes, shops, and restaurants making it a perfect spot for an outdoor aperitivo.

Piazza Bra in Verona
Piazza Bra in Verona

3. Arena di Verona (Verona Arena)

Another rather spectacular sight by Piazza Bra is one of the best-preserved ancient structures in the world. The third-largest in Italy the Verona Arena is a Roman amphitheater built 2,000 years ago. The elliptical shape gives the Verona Arena excellent acoustics. So while Romans built the arena for bloody battles between Gladiators and wild animals, the likes of Bruce Springsteen, Leonard Cohen, and Pearl Jam have also done the slaying here.

Video of Leonard Cohen playing in the Verona Area to get a feel for shows at the Verona Area.

Even if attending an event is not doable it’s worth stopping by to see the structure itself… because it’s pink! Made of stones from the surrounding Valpolicella region, on bright sunny days the Verona Arena has a pinkish glow. Originally the outside of the Verona Arena had three tiers of arches until a major earthquake in 1117 caused the outer wall to collapse. There is only one small section of the original exterior wall called “wink” still intact and it stands nearly 100 feet tall!

4. Venetian Gothic Architecture

Turns out, Venice is not the only city in Italy to have Venetian Gothic architecture. Verona has elements of Venetian Gothic throughout the city, seen most easily by looking up! Venetian Gothic is a variant of Italian Gothic architecture that is unique thanks to Byzantine and Islamic architectural influences from trading routes to the east. The Ogee arch is perhaps the most romantic and defining characteristic of Venetian Gothic architecture. Look above window frames for an arch with two ogee (s-shaped) curves meeting at the apex. While these pointed arches are the most important aspect of Venetian Gothic architecture, bold colors and graceful structures that appear light are also characteristics to be on the lookout for.

A quick story about the photos above and as promised, the reasons we recommend skipping “Juliet’s House” in Verona. Paolo had just focused on the window’s arches when the blind opened, and there stood Romeo. Or at least a young man bearing a striking resemblance to the actor who played Romeo in Franco Zeffirelli’s ‘Romeo and Juliet’. Thanks to the piazzas and Venetian Gothic architectural charm, the city of Verona is romantic in its very bones. This is what is said to have inspired Shakespeare to base “Romeo and Juliet” in fair Verona. So why skip Juliet’s House one of Verona’s most popular tourist hotspots?

For years Mayors of Verona have attempted to thwart crowds at Juliet’s House with everything from taxes to turn styles, but huge lines still form daily on Via Cappello in Verona. Pre-COVID upwards of a thousand people at a time would cram into a 400-meter space to take selfies while cupping the breast of a bronze Juliet statue. The ritual is said to bring luck in love, yet the realities of Insta-era travel are anything but romantic. Take a look.

Video of crowds swarming Juliet’s statue at Juliet’s house in Verona, Italy.

Juliet’s house in Verona is just a symbol. It’s not actually Juliet’s house because well… Juliet wasn’t a real person. Plus, it’s believed Shakespeare never stepped foot in Verona. For these reasons we recommend skipping Juliet’s House in Verona in favor of romantic architecture, beloved piazzas, and cultural highlights unique to Verona you won’t want to miss.

5. Cattedrale di Santa Maria Matricolare (Duomo of Verona)

One ticket is all you need to see four of Verona’s most stunning city churches including the remarkable Cathedral or the Duomo of Verona.

Cathedral of Verona

San Zeno the bishop of Verona first declared the church sacred between 362 and 380. Decades later, a larger basilica was built. A visit to the Cathedral includes access to a sprawling complex that includes the Capitular Library, the Canons’ Cloister, the Church of St. Giovanni in Fonte, the Church of St. Elena, and the Bishop’s residence. Glass floor panels allow a glimpse back to Roman times when the complex included villas with private baths old ruins of the previous church, which lie beneath.

Video of the Cathedral of Verona

6. The Basilica of Saint Anastasia

Dedicated to the Virgin Anastasia (a 4th Century martyr) the Basilica of Saint Anastasia is a resplendent example of Italian Gothic style. First constructed in 1290 this lushly colorful Gothic basilica has three large arching aisles supported by twelve Veronese marble pillars making it the largest church in Verona. A feat considering there are 21 churches in Verona!

7. Palazzo di Cansignorio (Palace of Cansignorio)

Verona is home to one of the most well-preserved examples of a medieval fortified house known as the Palace of Cansignorio. Imposing defensive towers stand watch over a closed central courtyard.

Palace of Cansignorio Tower

The charm of the courtyard is in its calm. We had been standing in Palazzo di Cansignorio (Palace of Cansignorio) when I spotted an elderly woman, cane in hand, walking towards what looked like a dark alleyway. If you watch this video for just the first few seconds, you’ll see her!

Video of Piazza delle Erbe and Madonna of Verona Fountain, Verona Italy

Quickly ducking into the same alley, I saw a crowded market ahead. I wasn’t expecting much, but then Verona opened her heart to me as I stepped into Piazza Erbe.

8. Piazza dei Signori & Loggia del Consiglio

Finished in 1492 the Loggia del Consiglio (Council) on Piazza dei Signori, is the first Renaissance-style building in the Veneto region. An imposing statue of poet Dante Alighieri stands in the center of the piazza in front. Walking through the piazza is a surprisingly cozy experience thanks to warm colors and arches stretching over each street leading into Piazza dei Signori.

Piazza dei Signori in Verona Italy
Piazza dei Signori in Verona Italy

9. Piazza Della Erbe (Piazza Erbe)

While tourists head to Piazza Brà to see the Verona Arena, Italians make their way to see the oldest and most beloved square in Italy, Piazza Della Erbe. During the day food and hat vendors line the market. Come time for aperitivo the square takes on a Spritz buzz. Be it for the locals at the market, the architecture, Fontana Madonna Verona (which dates back to 380), or the Colonna di San Marco, Delle Erbe is always full of life.

It’s no wonder year after year, the international travel press continually recommends Piazza della Erba more than any other square in Italy.

Once the site of the ancient Roman forum, today the piazza, ringed with medieval and Renaissance architecture, might just be Italy’s most stunning. During the day, a market sells produce, souvenirs and clothes; at aperitivo hour, youths (and tourists) pack the piazza’s cafes and bars. Leave the square via the Arco della Costa, with its hanging whale rib (legend says the bone will fall on the first person to pass under it who has never told a lie) to take a peek at the Arche Scaligeri, among Italy’s most elaborate gothic funerary monuments.

The Guardian

Another little story. As I made my way across Piazza Della Erbe to the Colonna di San Marco Piazza when Paolo said “Piccola this is Piazza Delle Erba and that (he said pointing up) is the Lion of Saint Mark.”

Piazza delle Erbe Colonna di San Marco
Piazza delle Erbe Colonna di San Marco

Me: “Wait Piazza Della Erbe? Doesn’t that mean Grass Square?”

Paolo: “Sì”

Is it just me, or does everything sound more romantic in Italian?

10. Colonna di San Marco & the Lion of Saint Mark

Symbol of Venice, the Venetian Republic, and the Venice Film Festival award… Ladies & Gentlemen may I present The Lion of Saint Mark.

Italy Pic of the Day Verona Colonna di San Marco
St. Marks Lion on the Verona Colonna di San Marco

From Venice to Vicenza, the Lion of Saint Mark is commonly seen atop tall columns in some of the most beautiful piazzas across the Veneto region of Italy. The Lion of Saint Mark represents Venice’s patron saint, Mark the Evangelist, the author of the Gospel of Mark. Ever wonder why the winged lion, or the Lion of Saint Mark, is the symbol of Venice?

Under this winged lion’s paws stands a bible, on which the words “Pax tibi Marce, evangelista meus, hic requiescat corpus tuum” are inscribed. They translate in English as “Peace to you Mark, my Evangelist, here may your body rest.” According to Venetian tradition, Mark was traveling through Europe. When he arrived in Venice, an angel appeared to him and spoke these words.

Now, St. Mark was originally buried in Alexandria, Egypt but in 828 two Venetian merchants stole his remains and brought them back to Venice. Saint Mark’s Basilica was built to house the remains. Fascinating stuff right! The Lion of St. Mark also symbolizes some pretty lofty qualities. Power, majesty, the strength of the word of St. Mark, spiritual elevation thanks to the wings, and wisdom thanks to the book. Across Italy, there are other versions of The Lion of St. Mark. One of which includes a sword said to represent justice.

In other words, The Lion of St. Mark is one cool cat in Italy. This is one of the things I love most about Italy. Every statue, every fountain, and every piazza has a story. The love of which is part of what makes Italians such romantic people.

11. Ponte di Castelvecchio (Scaliger Bridge)

Is it just me or does one of these little guys look like he’s had a rough year? Just in case you have to, here are a few pigeon jokes to have in mind when you cross Scaliger bridge in Verona.

  • Pigeons are doves that never get invited to weddings.
  • If pigeons try to take over as the American bird, would it be an attempted coo?
  • What do Pigeons and politics have in common? Both have right and left wings.
  • What do you call stoned Pigeon poetry? high-coo.
  • What can a Pigeon do with his pecker that a man can’t? Eat with it.

Don’t worry, that’s the last time I’ll talk birdy on this post!

Jokes aside Scaliger Bridge is a sight to behold in Verona. Also called the Ponte di Castelvecchio, Scaliger Bridge is considered by historians to be “the most audacious and wondrous works of the Middle Ages in Verona.” Scaliger Bridge is massive and somehow magical.

12. River Adige

From Scaliger Bridge, I highly recommend enjoying a walk along the Adige river. Running through the heart of fair Verona river Adige has a total of seven bridges connecting historic and modern Verona. Each bridge offers a unique view and endless opportunities to photograph Verona.

River Adige as seen from Ponte Della Vittoria

Next head towards Ponte della Vittoria for a little historical controversy.

13. Ponte Della Vittoria

In 1931 Ponte della Vittoria (Victory Bridge) was named after Verona’s fallen soldiers from the first world war. Four bronze statues known as the “allegory of the victory” were added to Ponte della Vittoria in 1936. Take a peek at the heroic statue on Ponte della Vittoria below. Any guesses as to why it would cause a stir back in the day?

Italy Pic of the Day Ponte della Vittoria Naked Heroes
Italy Pic of the Day Ponte della Vittoria Naked Heroes

Unfortunately, Verona saw more than one war. As World War II made its way to Italy, the four statues were removed and sheltered in an attempt to save them. It’s a good thing too! Despite negotiations to protect monuments and bridges, retreating German soldiers blew up all the bridges of Verona, including Ponte della Vittoria on April 25, 1945.

Now, you would think, statues having survived the second world war would be put back in proud tradition immediately after the bridge was rebuilt, but no! Apparently, Mayor Uberti felt the anatomy of the horses could produce “disturbances in the little ones.” It wasn’t the nude heroes, but the nude horses that caused a stir!

In the end, the statues were victorious and added back before the second inauguration of Ponte della Vittoria on May 24, 1955. Always bet on a horse named victory.

14. Basilica di San Zeno Maggiore

Here are a few of the most striking features of the Basilica of San Zeno.

Italy Pic of the Day Basilica di San Zeno Maggiore Verona
Basilica di San Zeno Maggiore, Verona

The bronze doors of the Basilica of San Zeno are recognized as a masterpiece of European Romanesque art. There are forty-eight panels in total, each representing a scene from the Old or the New Testament.

The scale of Romanesque Architecture is overwhelming. The Basilica of San Zeno in Verona is no different. Thick walls, tall arcade arches, few windows, sturdy pillars, barrel vaults, but above all big, big, big. Standing in the Basilica of San Zeno made me wonder, why were such large structures built in the first place?

Italy Pic of the Day Basilica di San Zeno Maggiore Hall
Basilica di San Zeno Maggiore.

So why was the Basilica of San Zeno built to be so large? The Basilica of San Zeno is a complex of buildings that were rebuilt after the devastation from the Huns and natural disasters including a massive earthquake in 1117. The relics of the patron Saint of Verona (Zeno of Verona) were moved to the basilica in 807 and the structure seen today was completed in 1138. This means the basilica was constructed to house large crowds and guard the body of Saint Zeno!

“Larger churches were needed to accommodate the numerous monks and priests, as well as the pilgrims who came to view saints’ relics. For the sake of fire resistance, masonry vaulting began to replace timber construction.”

Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.
Italy Pic of the Day Basilica San Zeno arches
Basilica San Zeno Space

Back in the day, the body of the Patron Saint of Verona would most certainly require a building large enough to accommodate visiting monks, Benedictines, and religious travelers. If you visit the Basilica of San Zeno, be on the lookout for subtle graffiti in the frescoes. The monks did it! The graffiti offers hints at local history including floods, earthquakes, plagues, and wars.

Italy Pic of the Day Basilica San Zeno Monk Graffiti
Graffiti by Monks on Frescoes of the Basilica of San Zeno

The San Zeno Basilica itself is often quoted as “one of the most beautiful and better-preserved examples of Romanesque architecture in the whole of Northern Italy.” If you ask me, the cloister is the pearl of the Basilica di San Zeno Maggiore.

If these walls could talk, what would they say? That’s what I wonder every time I find myself walking around a Cloister. Tall arches frame a private garden. A gurgling fountain that obscures soft whispers. What secrets do you think might have passed through these archways?

Italy Pic of the Day Basilica di San Zeno Maggiore Courtyard
Basilica di San Zeno Maggiore Cloister

Standing in Piazza Zeno looking at the Basilica of San Zeno Maggiore, there is no hint of the romantic cloister. Why? Turns out there’s a reason for the visual disconnect between the Basilica di San Zeno Maggiore and the cloister!

“The cloister together with the tower, is all that remains of the Benedictine abbey demolished in the nineteenth century. The cloister was built in the tenth century and was renovated several times. The current one dates back to the early fourteenth century.”

Associazione Chiese Vive

Looking back, it all sort of makes sense. The Abby tower, bell tower, the basilica itself, and the cloister as a whole don’t seem to fit. None of the pieces seem to visually be in perfect harmony, yet they are all distinctly beautiful.

Basilica di San Zeno is famed for a few reasons.

  • One, well preserved Romanesque architecture
  • Two, its crypt served as an inspiration for Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. A recurring theme of any visit to Verona.
  • Three, Veronese Carnival & Papà de ‘Gnocco.

15. Il Carnevale Veronese (The Veronese Carnival)

If you’ll indulge me, a final anecdote that sums up the spirit of Verona. One of the special things about visiting Basilica di San Zeno is standing in Piazza San Zeno. After staring up at the Basilica I started looking around Piazza San Zeno itself. Something just felt different. The square felt less touristy, more lived in. Calm. Restaurants and shops line the square behind a row of tall trees and benches providing respite for the elderly tossing bread crumbs to pigeons.

Seeking shade myself, I ducked under a tree near an elderly woman sitting alone. I smiled and said “buongiorno” not thinking much about it. The woman looked up and smiled revealing two teeth. One upper, one lower. Only then did I notice her clothing looked a bit tattered. We waved to each other, each flashing another smile before I headed into the basilica. It was a brief but sweet exchange that I’d come to understand better later.

Despite a history of being the poorest part of the city the district of San Zeno is a popular part of Verona. The inhabitants of San Zeno are said to be the ones who preserve the true spirit of Verona, almsgiving.

“According to tradition, it was precisely to the poor inhabitants of San Zeno that Tommaso Da Vico, in 1531, donated a legacy in his will to be able to celebrate, at least once a year, with gnocchi, cheese and wine. This is the legendary origin of the Veronese carnival which still takes place today with the parade of allegorical floats led by Papà de ‘Gnocco, an old “king” with a beard and hat who holds an immense fork as a scepter surmounted by a giant dumpling. The procession that parades through the city streets ends right in Piazza San Zeno where gnocchi are still distributed to all present.”

Città di Verona

This is a side of Italy that I love. Italians take pride in and celebrate taking care of each other.

Video of the Veronese Carnival & Papa Gnocco

From Venetian Gothic architecture to Italy’s most beloved piazza, the ancient arena, the second-longest river in Italy to all 21 churches and basilicas, Verona is the perfect place to start exploring one of Italy’s most beautiful and tasty regions. Over the last ten years, Paolo and I have traveled extensively together throughout Italy and we both agree. The Veneto region of Italy deserves its due as one of the most beautiful and tasty regions in all of Italy.

Subscribe to see more in our next Pictures of Italy post featuring Verona!

References

6 comments

  1. I love reading what you write and seeing the pictures that Palo takes and that you post. I loved Verona besides doing the pre-requisite standing on Juliet‘s balcony for five euros we had a really fun day watching a bunch of kids playing soccer. They were playing in the piazza and they had an enthralled audience of Americans and they really knew how to show off and show us a good time. They had fun showing off and I had fun looking at the beauty, vitality and pure joy of their youth. I love reading everything you write I wish you joy and health and fun. Take care! Dolores Conners Sent from my iPhone

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      1. I absolutely agree! The WordPress platform is a bit trickier in their interface than insta, but I prefer it so much more because of the freedom and authenticity!

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