Considered one of the most popular travel destinations in Italy for romance, Verona is located between Milan and Venice in northern Italy's Veneto region. Verona is famously known as the setting for William Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet," but it's also home to several historic and contemporary things to do for guests of all ages. From touring the original home of the Roman Forum at Piazza delle Erbe to watching the opera inside an authentic Roman arena, you're sure to find plenty of exciting attractions and activities on your trip to Verona any time of year.
To start your trip with a bit of history, head to the original site of the Roman Forum, Piazza delle Erbe. This rectangular piazza is located in the heart of historic Verona and is surrounded by beautiful medieval buildings and towers. In its center you'll find a 14th-century fountain topped with a Roman-style statue.
Although once used as a central location to sell produce and handmade goods, most of the stalls at Piazza delle Erbe now offer tourist souvenirs instead. However, you'll also find a number of small cafes where you can have coffee in the morning or a glass of wine to end the day along one side of the piazza.
Step Through an Arch to Piazza dei Signori
From Piazza delle Erbe, walk through Arco della Costa, an arch with a whale rib hanging from it, into Piazza dei Signori, a small square surrounded by monumental buildings. In the center is a statue of Dante and perched atop buildings around the square are more famous signori. This square was once the seat of the city's public institutions and you'll see the tower of the Palazzo del Capitanio, the 15th-century Loggia del Consiglio that was the town hall, and the 14th century Palazzo della Prefettura, formerly the Palazzo del Governo that was a residence of the Scaligeri family.
Pay Respects at the Scaliger Tombs
Perhaps one of the most influential families in the history of Verona, the Scaligers ruled the city throughout the 13th and 14th centuries. As a result, a number of monuments were constructed around Verona, including the Scaliger Tombs. This group of five Gothic funerary monuments is located in a courtyard outside the church of Santa Maria Antica, and each tomb is dedicated to a different Lord of Verona: Cangrande I, Mastino II, Cansignorio, Alberto II, and Giovanni. The Scaliger Tombs are free to enjoy and open every day of the year; however, each tomb is separated from the street by a wall with iron bars that prevent tourists from disturbing the dead lords that rest there.
Located just off Piazza delle Erbe near Palazzo della Ragione, Lamberti Tower (Torre dei Lamberti) is a good place to get an overview of Verona. Climb the stairs to the top (or pay an extra euro to take the elevator most of the way), and you'll have fantastic views of the city and beyond. Construction for its medieval bell tower started in the 12th century; it was raised a few times since then until it reached its final height of 84 meters in 1436. Additionally, Count Giovanni Sagramoso added a clock to the tower in 1798 to replace the one on the nearby Torre Gardello that had stopped working.
Tour Juliet's House and Balcony
Perhaps the most popular tourist destination in Verona, the 13th-century building known as Juliet's House is home to a museum dedicated to the titular female protagonist of Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet." The house is a great example of Gothic architecture in the city, and inside the museum you'll find a collection of period furniture meant to replicate what Juliet would have had in her home during the time. Located in a courtyard off Via Capello, Juliet's House also features the famous balcony where Romeo professed his love to the young Juliet and a statue of Juliet herself. Visitors can see the balcony and bronze statue for free, but access to the museum requires a small fee.
Alternatively, you can also see the house attributed to Romeo's family on Via Arche Scaligere. Afterward, sample the traditional food of Verona, including horse or donkey meat, at Osteria al Duca next door.
Visit the Roman Theater and Archaeological Museum
Built into a hill overlooking the Adige River, the Roman Theater and Archaeological Museum is easily accessible from Juliet's House via Ponte Pietra, a picturesque stone bridge that crosses the river. The 1st-century Roman theater found here hosts outdoor performances in the summer, and the museum—which is housed in the former Convent of Saint Jerome—features Roman mosaics, Etruscan and Roman bronze sculptures, and Roman inscriptions. Both attractions are open seven days a week, and tickets are required to get inside each one.
Say a Prayer at Duomo di Verona
The Romanesque Cathedral, also known as Duomo di Verona, is a complex of buildings that includes a 12th-century Baptistery, the Canons Cloister, Saint Elena Church, and the remains of a 4th-century paleo-Christian basilica.
The octagonal Romanesque baptismal font, decorated with carved Biblical scenes, was carved out of a single block of marble, and the Baptistery has frescoes from the 13th to 15th centuries. The cathedral's frescoes are from the 15th to 18th centuries and the exterior is decorated with 12th-century reliefs. the Cathedral Complex is open on Sundays through Fridays year-round, with varying hours by season, and tickets are required to tour the facilities. However, you can also see the inside of the cathedral during religious services on Sundays for free all year long.
Built as a residence and fortress in the 14th century, Castelvecchio now serves as a museum dedicated to medieval life in Verona. The building complex includes several towers and keeps as well as a brick bridge crossing the river, and the former parade ground inside is now a nice courtyard for the museum, which features 16 rooms of the former palace filled with sacred art, paintings, Renaissance bronze statues, archeological finds, coins, weapons, and armor. Tours are available daily throughout the year, and tickets are required to explore the museum; however, residents of Verona over the age of 65, people with disabilities, and guests using the VeronaCard can get in for free.
See the Opera at Fondazione Arena Di Verona
The biggest and most imposing monument in the city, the Fondazione Arena Di Verona is the third-largest Roman arena in Italy after the arena in Capua and the Colosseum in Rome. Built in the 1st century, the amphitheater holds up to 25,000 spectators and now hosts a variety of musical concerts including Verona's leading opera companies. In fact, it's hosted a prestigious opera festival known as the Festival lirico all'Arena di Verona since 1913.
However, the best time to visit this Roman arena is during the daytime when the sun shines brightly on the stage. Although part of the seating is now covered in bright orange and red chairs, it's still easy to imagine the original look of the amphitheater when it was used for less savory activities than watching a play or opera.
Have a Picnic at Piazza Bra
Once a suburban braida (field), Piazza Bra is a huge piazza located inside the main gate entering Verona. You'll see the Roman Arena on one side of the piazza, next to the neoclassical Palazzo Municipale, and several porticoed buildings with cafes and restaurants along a broad walkway on the opposite side. Piazza Bra is also home to an extensive garden with a central fountain, which makes for a great place to take a picnic lunch or bring your carryout from one of the restaurants nearby.
Located on the grounds of a large castle complex on the eastern shores of the Adige river, Giardino Giusti is a sprawling garden designed in the Italian Renaissance style and known as one of the best examples of Italian gardens in the country. Along with eight separate sections of gardens, this famous attraction also features a hedge maze and a walking trail through a small, wooded area on the edge of the grounds. Throughout the year, the Giusti Garden also opens its doors to a variety of events including the Festival of Beauty, the Singing Garden, and rotating contemporary art exhibitions. Giardino Giusti is open year-round—except on Christmas Day—from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tickets are required to tour the gardens, but discounts are available for students, seniors, groups, and those traveling with the Verona Card.
Take a Day Trip to Lake Garda
If you have a bit of time to explore around Verona, consider taking a day trip to Lake Garda. Known as Lago di Garda in Italian, Lake Garda is one of the biggest lakes in Italy and is a popular destination for tourists and locals alike thanks to its crystal blue waters, pleasant climate, and clean beaches. There's also a number of nearby attractions.
The town of Sirmione, located at the south end of the lake, is home to the towering fortress known as Rocca Scaligera, which was once owned by the influential Scaliger family, as well as Grotte di Catullo, the remains of a Roman villa that used to exist on the peninsula. On the western shore in the town of Gardone Riviera, you'll also find the former home of poet d'Annunzio, known as Vittoriale degli Italiani.
The Verona Card is an all-inclusive ticket offered by the Verona Tourist Office that grants guests access to a number of museums and attractions around the city. If you plan to check out more than one of these famous attractions, buying a Verona Card may save you time and money on your trip.