Verona has the second largest amount of Roman remains in Italy, next to Rome. Being at the center of an important roads network, Verona can equally apply the phrase from “all streets lead to Rome” to “all streets lead to Verona”. Used as a strategic base, Verona was built in the first stage of the Roman expansion.
The Arena Ampitheatre, is the first noticeable Roman remain when walking through the city. In the Summer, thousands of visitors from all over the world applaud the many opera concerts held at the arena. It can hold more than 20,000 people and is the biggest open-air lyrical theatre in the world! Our hotel, Guilette and Romeo was located just off of one of the side streets surrounding the arena.
Closer to the hilltop along the river, lies remains of an old Roman Theatre. It was only discovered in the 19th century by a business man who bought the property for development. He changed his mind however, and uncovered many Roman ruins and artifacts in the area. The original marble floor of the orchestra pit, along with rows of stone seats were discovered. The Roman Theatre is part of the Archeological Museum where you can see many of the other artifacts that were found throughout the city. This includes many coins, mosaics and sculptures. It was one of our favourite attractions to visit in Verona.
In 1815 Verona became part of the Austrian empire. The city had a strategic advantage as a fortress town providing a strong defence system throughout the Veneto region, making it the capital of Austrian territory in Italy. During their occupancy, Vienna architects were inspired by the various styles of buildings in Verona. They used local materials to blend their works among other buildings in the city. Despite the fact that they were there only for its strategic military position, the Austrians built beautiful and elegant buildings which are pictured and described throughout this post.
The Ex Arsenale, a beautiful building near the river, was used for weapons and ammunition during their period of takeover. At first glance, it looks as if it were an old school building that had been closed down. The building has not been well conserved but is worth checking out! Apparently there are occasional exhibits and events held there so look it up to see if anything is going on during your stay first.
If you continue to walk along the riverbank you can see San Pietro Castle in the distance, at the top of the hill of Verona. This is where rulers built fortresses and the Austrians decided to build their castle. It is difficult to see from some angles as large cypress trees were planted after Verona became part of the Italian Kingdom in 1866. These trees were to cover up and hide any sign of Austrian domination.
Palazzo Barbieri, today the city hall or Gran Guardia Nuova, also used to be an Austrian headquarters in Verona. It is located in Piazza Bra, the arena square. The building is massive and with its huge Corinthian columns, seems almost similar to a greek temple.
These three buildings were our favourites, but there were many others built during this period. They include: the Military Hospital, the University of Economics Verona (used to be Santa Marta, an old bakery for the soldiers), the NATO headquarters (used to be Carli Palace where Austrian field marshal lived) and many fortresses throughout the city.
“There Is No World Without Verona’s Walls”, taken from Romeo and Juliet, the most famous love story in the world written by William Shakespeare. Verona is the city of love and the capital of music and poetry. Although it cannot be determined if Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet ever lived in Verona, there are many references to real places and historical facts on Verona.
One of the first sites we visited was Juliet’s tomb,the only existing monastery outside city walls at the time of the story. Inside the crypt, under the church, lays an empty sarcophagus made of the red Verona marble where it is believed Juliet laid after she drank the poison in the love story.
A few blocks away are both Romeo and Juliet’s gothic style houses. Juliet’s house is one of the most famous sites in the world, and the amount of people packed into the tiny courtyard proved it! Within the courtyard you see Juliet’s balcony and her bronze statue, which apparently brings good luck if you touch her right breast. Romantics fill the walls and entrance way to the courtyard with love notes. Those who have found their Romeo place a love lock on the gate in the courtyard then throw away the key in the river or one of the many wells spotted throughout the city.
Bra gate, the final stage of the love story, is where Romeo left Verona saying, “There is no world without Verona walls, But purgatory, torture, hell itself. Hence-banished is banish’d from the world, And world’s exile is death.” This was the main entrance of Verona during the time that the love story took place and the assumed exit that Romeo would take to leave.