What’s Doing in Verona
A popular tourist destination in northern Italy, the romantic and stunningly beautiful city of Verona has a population of over 250,000 inhabitants. While the city, which straddles the Adige River, is famous for its ancient Roman history and architecture, it is also steeped in a strong literary tradition as the setting of three of Shakespeare’s plays, “The Taming of the Shrew,” “Romeo and Juliet,” and “The Two Gentlemen of Verona,” which is believed by some to be the playwright’s first major work.
Verona played an important role in Europe’s military history. The city was an ally of the Roman Empire for many years before becoming a Roman colony in 89 B.C. It was also an important strategic location in the ancient world by its being situated at the crossroads of four main thoroughfares, one of which was the Via Postumia, an ancient Roman road in northern Italy. In the 20th century, Verona was the seat of the South European Allied Terrestrial Forces, an important security organization during the Cold War.
Today, the picturesque city is filled with the remnants of its ancient Roman and medieval past, as well as numerous references to its rich literary heritage. As you stroll through the streets of Verona, take note of its many spectacular historic plazas, gates, castles, and palaces, as well as significant tributes to Shakespeare’s work.
WHAT TO DO
Begin your journey at one of the city’s most memorable public spaces. The Piazza Bra is the largest plaza in Verona and is home to numerous shops, cafés, and restaurants, a small garden lined with cedar and pines, a fountain, and a bronze statue of Victor Emmanuel II. The plaza is also surrounded by several historic buildings designed by Italian architect Giuseppe Barbieri, including the Palazzo Barbieri, the city’s town hall that was built in 1848, and Gran Guardia, a venue for conferences and exhibitions that was originally a military garrison.
Also located at the Piazza is the Verona Arena, an ancient Roman amphitheater that is now used for operatic and other musical performances. The original structure was built in the year 30 A.D., and could seat up to 30,000 spectators in ancient times. Today, it can accommodate audiences of up to 22,000, and has hosted performances by several notable opera singers as well as popular contemporary artists such as Pink Floyd, Duran Duran, Pearl Jam, and Sting. The Arena is also the location of the Verona Arena Festival, an annual summer opera festival that originated in the early 20th century.
Located at the southern end of the Piazza Bra is the Portoni della Bra, a medieval gate with two arches and a clock. The gate was built in 1480 as part of a passageway to connect Castelvecchio, or Old Castle, with the former Citadel. Near the gate is a bust of Shakespeare inscribed with a quote from “Romeo and Juliet” about Romeo’s banishment from the city of Verona.