In fair Verona we lay our weekend break. If you know anything about this northern Italian city, which dates back to Roman times, it’s probably as the scene for Shakespeare’s Romeo And Juliet.
But there’s plenty to keep you occupied here apart from the story of star-crossed lovers.
Verona is compact and easy to navigate — and if you’re hoping classic Italian food will be a highlight of your trip, you certainly won’t go hungry.
Where to stay
The northern Italian city of Verona is compact and easy to navigate. Stay at Hotel Milano, where the rooftop hot tub offers views of the city’s 2,000-year-old Roman arena (above)
There aren’t many hotels in the world where you can sit on the rooftop in a bubbling hot tub, looking out at a 2,000-year-old Roman arena — but you can at this boutique property. There’s a bar-restaurant up there too, perfect for sultry summer evenings with an Aperol Spritz. The cheapest rooms are categorised as ‘small’ but they are all tastefully furnished (hotelmilanoverona.com, room only from £92).
Novo Hotel Rossi
This 50-room property is close to the main railway station at Porta Nuova, which means it’s about a 20-minute walk into town. But that also means it’s priced better than hotels closer to tourist attractions. You can always borrow one of the hotel’s free bikes to get you about. Rooms are simple in a chic way that reflects plenty of Italian flair (novohotelrossi.it, room only from £67).
Check into the good-value Hotel Mastino, a whitewashed building that has shutters on the windows, giving it a postcard look
Given its location, just a couple of minutes’ walk from the pavement cafes of Piazza Bra, this hotel represents good value. The whitewashed building has shutters on the windows, giving it a postcard look, and it’s in a buzzy location next to an American burger joint if you’re done with pizza and espresso (hotelmastino.it, B&B doubles from £88).
Things to do
Opt for the Opera
Verona’s huge Arena was built by the Romans for gladiatorial combat in the 1st century AD, but these days it is more famous for staging a summer opera season, which was first held 100 years ago. Although the best seats get booked up early, you can usually get a last-minute spot if you’re not fussy where you sit, with tickets from £18 (arena.it).
Visit Juliet’s balcony
Verona is known as the scene for Shakespeare’s Romeo And Juliet, and you can now stare up at Juliet’s balcony (above), which is just along from the picturesque Piazza delle Erbe
Even if you never loved Shakespeare at school, almost everyone can recite the line: ‘O Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo?’
In any case, you can now stare up at Juliet’s balcony, which is just along from the picturesque Piazza delle Erbe — although in high season you won’t be alone (casa digiulietta.comune.verona.it).
A 20-minute walk along the Adige River from the Castelvecchio Museum is the Basilica of San Zeno (chieseverona.it). A tad plain from the outside to some, maybe, but inside, this church hides some real treasures.
These include 1,000-year-old bronze doors with 48 intricately sculpted scenes from the Bible — and if you look closely on the walls, you can see graffiti that dates back to the early 1300s.
You’ll enjoy the best views of the city when you ascend the hill to Castel San Pietro (pictured)
For the best view of the city, walk over the Ponte Pietra — a Roman bridge that was built around 100 BC — then take the funicular (£1.60) up the hill to Castel San Pietro. It’s the spot to get those all-important selfies with the city in the background.
Where to eat
Antica Bottega del Vino
The Antica Bottega del Vino eatery in Verona has existed since the 16th century. Above is a bird’s eye view of the historic city
Verona is deep in the heart of wine country and valpolicella is the local tipple. You won’t have any trouble locating a bottle or two here — in fact, the thumping great wine list runs to 180 pages.
The atmospheric eatery has been around in one form or another since the 16th century. At the front, it’s more of a bar where you can buy snacks (£1.60 each) to go with your drink. The back is a restaurant which features dishes such as Venetian-style pasta with beans (£12; bottegavini.it).
On summer evenings, the tables at this family restaurant spill on to the quiet backstreet outside, and you’ll find a good mix of locals and visitors at lunch and dinner. In this region, risotto is as prominent as pasta and you can try it here cooked with Amarone wine and pumpkin (£13, ristorantegreppia.it).
Trattoria Al Bersagliere
Dine on codfish ravioli at Trattoria Al Bersagliere, which lies a ten-minute walk from Piazza Bra (pictured)
This trattoria is only a ten-minute walk from Piazza Bra but it’s in the opposite direction from where most tourists are going. Here you’ll find dishes such as codfish ravioli or bigoli pasta with duck sauce, both costing around £11 (trattoriaalbersagliere.it).
How to get there
BA (ba.com), Wizzair (wizzair.com), easyJet (easyjet.com), Jet2 (jet2.com) and Ryanair (ryanair.com) all fly to Verona. An airport bus to Porta Nuova rail station costs €6, or a taxi is approximately €20. A Verona Card (€25 for 48 hours) is available from the tourist office in Palazzo Barbieri.