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City of Romance

Think Verona and of course you think Romeo and Juliet. Since the whole world knows Shakespeare’s famous story, the better part of the world makes its way here to stand below Juliet’s balcony and dream of romance.The city is a real treasure to visit. More than just the graceful and modest stone balcony in the courtyard of the Capuletti (Capulet) townhouse, Verona bursts with wonders of architecture, history and art.

Cradled by a great bend in the river, Verona has always been an important city, from Roman times right through to today. Its Roman Arena is famous not only for being in good condition, but actually still used to stage the famous outdoor summer operas and pop concerts. Walking through its arches into the seating area makes you feel an eternal spirit, just wandering back a few moments since it once hosted gladiators and wild animals. Now people rave to the beat of rockstars.

Walking through its extensive and most pleasant pedestrian precincts (how wonderful every town in Italy becomes when vehicles are banished!) you come onto the Piazza dell’Erba, the medieval market just a step away from Juliet’s home. If you look up at the houses that line the square you can see many of them were decorated with the most beautiful frescoes, now fading away as the years pass.

A great place from which to see the whole of Verona at your feet is to clamber up (well there’s a lift, you don’t have to clamber too much) to the top of the Lamberti Tower, the great belltower next to the Basilica of St Zeno, where the son of Charlemagne is buried. From the very top you can see the great houses, the busy streets, the terracotta crinkled roofs and the Palladian villas on the the hills around. Be careful though, the bells ring out every thirty minutes!

In Verona, architecture is art; places to see are almost without number, from the old bridge that crosses the Adige to the tombs of the Scaligeri, set high in their filigree stone piers.

Oh yes, and what of Romeo’s house? Did it survive through the ages, or it is just legend? Well, there is a house just behind the church where Shakespeare’s Duke of Verona is buried. It once belonged to the Montecchi (Montague), high walls hiding their ancient home. One Cagnolo Nogarola once lived there; he is associated with the story of Romeo. Few people pass by to see – after all the famous scene was at the Capulet’s place – but it’s there if you want to drop by.

Romeo and Juliet bring people to Verona; the city is romance itself!

First published in Reveal Italy, November 10 2012