Sandy and I wanted to better understand our city so today we went on a 90 minute orientation tour of Verona. Here are a few highlights…
There are 10 bridges in Verona over the green Adige River. Ponte Scaligero, extending from Castelvecchio to the Arsenal is the most romantic.
The Arco dei Gavi was built in the 1st century. It has the name of the builder engraved on it which is rare for that time. It originally straddled the main Roman road into the city (now Corso Cavour). During the rule of Napolean in Italy it was demolished and then was rebuilt in 1932 next to Castelvecchio.
Porta Borsari was the only entrance gate to Roman Verona.
Locals rub the bottom left corner of this plaque for inspiration.
Pandoro is a traditional Italian sweet bread and was first produced in Verona. It is cone shaped and often dusted with sugar to resemble the snowy peaks of the Italian Alps during Christmas. A shoe store now operates where the original bakery was located. The name of the baker Melegatti graces the side of the building and two concrete pandoro cakes sit on a ledge near the roof.
Our guide said this was the best coffee in the city. We still need to confirm this.
Now a place for restaurant seating, this building was once used by the wool industry during the Middle Ages.
Piazza delle Erbe, a market square lined with restaurants and shops, is at the heart of the city. A helpful tip in dating the buildings in the center of Verona… if it’s brick it is Middle Ages (see the tower below) and if it’s plaster it is Renaissance (pastel frescoes to the left).
The winged lion is the symbol of the Republic of Venice. The open book reads “Pax tibi, Marce, Evangelista meus” (Peace by upon you, O Mark, my Evangelist). It is said that in cities that submitted to the Venetian Republic one finds the lion’s paw resting on the open book with these words. In cities that were conquered by the Venetian Republic one finds the book closed.
Piazza dei Signori is quieter than Piazza delle Erbe. Locals call the square Piazza Dante for the statue of the Italian poet Dante Alighieri that dominates it. Dante was expelled from Florence for political reasons and was granted asylum in Verona by the ruling Scaligeri family.
The Scaligeri were to Verona what the Medici family were to Florence. Cangrande was the most celebrated of the Scala family that ruled Verona from 1277 to 1387. In 2004 the body of Cangrande was removed from its sarcophagus to determine the cause of his death. It turns out he was poisoned by a lethal dose of the foxglove plant.
Off Piazza delle Erbe to the southwest is Verona’s historic Jewish Ghetto.
Romeo and Juliet made Verona a household word. Tourists from all over the world visit Juliet’s balcony. The house on Via Cappelli is from the Middle Ages and was designated as the Cappelletti family house (the balcony was taken from a neighboring house and added in the 1800s). Shakespeare anglicized the names of the historically real families of Montecchi and Cappelletti. Dante, who resided in Verona, mentions the strife between them. Shakespeare based his story on a tale by Matteo Bandello, written around 1550 and gathered from word of mouth embellishments of the feuding families.
The arena is the third largest in the Roman world. Most of the stones are original dating from the first century A.D. Over the centuries crowds of up to 25,000 have cheered gladiator battles, medieval executions and modern plays and operas.
Verona is truly one of Italy’s most beautiful cities. We are blessed to call it home.