Italy, Reviews

A Weekend in Verona 

First of all, we can’t believe it’s taken us this long to write this blog post on such an underrated city to visit! Ellis and I visited Verona back in October of last year by pure chance – we’d never planned on visiting, it hadn’t even crossed our minds.

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Forever jetting away

When our trip to Venice in August of 2016 (see blog here) came to an end, we were sat in the departure lounge of Treviso Airport waiting to board our plane back to Gatwick. Minding our own business, reminiscing of our times being serenaded down the narrow canals of Venice, we overheard a conversation in the background. The conversation was between two young couples who were sharing stories of their travels around Italy. One couple brought up that they’d spent a few days in Verona and were definitely better off for it. It made their trip. Ellis and I instantly looked at each other, both thinking the same thing. I said to her “you know what, let me check out some flight prices” to better gauge an understanding of the budget that we’d need. Within moments, we’d seen prices for £70 return for the both of us. Wow. And before you know it, within a couple of days being back in the UK, we had a trip to Verona all booked! The spontaneity involved made it all that more exciting!

Our trip to Verona was Friday to Sunday – we’d read a few times that there’s not all that much to do there, and that a weekend can be long enough, with the correct planning, so that’s what we opted for. Landing on the Friday at 10am gave us ample time to get to our Hotel The Best Western Plus Hotel De Capuleti (such a fitting name for the history that’s found within the city!) and get out to explore the city. Side note: This isn’t exactly a review of the hotel, we didn’t spend all that much time there, it was more of a base for us to put our heads down, get changed for dinner and get a well earned kip! However, we will say that the hotel was extremely well located, with less than a ten minute walk into Piazza Bra, the main square (or circle?) in Verona where you can find an abundance of cafes, bars and restaurants as well as the main focal point, Arena Di Verona, a large Roman Amphitheatre which is dated back to the 1st Century and still plays host to many large scale opera performances. So, for £65 a night, we couldn’t complain! Amazing!

Ponte Pietra


Was Friday to Sunday Long Enough?

Could we have spent another day here? Yes. But if you’re strapped for time, Verona can be seen in the two days, just. As we landed at 10am at Verona’s Villafranca airport, and with just a short 15 minute cab journey to our hotel, we had pretty much all day Friday and all day Saturday to explore. So… let us show you what we got up to.

Exploring Verona

Once we had dropped our bags off at the hotel, we decided we’d jump straight into the deep end and go and explore the city. After a quick chat to the hotel concierge who’d sent us in the right direction, we were off to explore the Piazza Bra, the main focal area of Verona. After an 8 minute walk, our thoughts were “Wow, This place has character!” The square has a fort like feeling to it. We walked under and through part of an original fortified Roman wall which still borders some of the square.

Arena di Verona

The Roman Amphitheatre, Arena di Verona, still stands tall in the centre of the Piazza with many other notable buildings in the background. The arena is absolutely fascinating to look at. Having never ventured to Rome before (yes, it’s on our list of places to go), it was so intriguing to lay our eyes on such an emphatic Roman Structure. The square wasn’t too busy but it had a nice feel to it, great vibes (after our time in Venice, we were half expecting it to be extremely busy, but to our surprise it wasn’t) and a tonne of cafes and restaurants.


Once we had explored the vicinity, we ventured further out of the Piazza towards Casa di Giulietta. For those that don’t know, it is said that Verona had inspired Shakespeare’s tragedy Romeo and Juliet, more notably, the stone balcony at the Casa di Giulietta and is where the Capuleti family is said to have lived.

Casa di Giulietta courtyard

The walk from the Piazza down to the 12th Century, gothic house took around 5 minutes and all we had to do was follow the well laid out sign posts and hoards of tourists heading in that direction. The house attracts thousands of visitors from all over the globe, wishing for the best for their love life.

Upon arriving, it became clear to see how this setting had inspired such a famous tragedy for these star-crossed lovers. With a small stone balcony approximately 20 feet up overlooking a quaint courtyard, it was obvious why so many people flock here.

Giulietta

At the front of the house within the courtyard stood a bronzed statue of “Giulietta”. Females from all over cup one of the breasts of the statue in hope that it brings them fortune in fertility. Nice sentiment, but slightly odd…

Nevertheless, once our eyes averted this mind boggling ritual, we decided to step inside this gothic building. The house, turned museum, now houses a large quantity of memorabilia from the countless Romeo and Juliet plays, books and films that have been created throughout the past few centuries, inspired by the original written by William Shakespeare himself. It was crazy to see just how influential one mans work back in the 1590’s can be. Once we wandered around the 3 storey house, we stepped out onto to balcony itself. It was pleasant to step onto such an infamous spot and look over the small courtyard, but we didn’t spend too long up here as there were plenty of people taking photos from down below!

Alright Juliet?
Romantic poems on the walls

Once back down, we noticed a nice sentiment – romantics had scrawled poetic declarations of love on bricks and stone around the entrance to the courtyard. The love was literally on the walls. There was also a small postbox featured inside the building where love letters can be posted in a hope that one of “Juliet’s Secretaries” will respond to you, which the film “Letters to Juliet” was based upon.

Write to Juliet

Once we’d spent a couple of hours in close proximity to Casa di Giulietta, exploring the shops, grabbing lunch and people watching, we thought we’d venture up to Castelvecchio, a castle turned museum of great gothic architecture and with history deep in its veins.

Castelvecchio and the rain 😦


However, just as we arrived, the heavens opened above us. Armed with just the one umbrella, we rushed ourselves around the castle, took a few snaps of the adjacent bridge and off back to the hotel we went! We were in no mood to be stood wandering around a castle in this weather.

We’ve got to mention the restaurant we ate in that night. Pizzeria Leon D’oro. We had walked past it in the morning of our first day in Verona and the setting it is laid in made us go up and look at the menu.

THE best pizza we’ve ever had

There’s a lovely veranda/al fresco eating area and when we saw the menu we were shocked at how reasonably priced it was. We’re both massive foodies and lovers of pizza, but when our pizzas came out to us that night, we were gobsmacked. These were by far the most supreme tasting pizzas we’d ever had. I still stand by the comment that I’ve never had a better tasting pizza since. Great service, truly authentic.


A day trip to Lake Garda

As the small waves patted against the rocks beneath our feet we’d realised we’d never quite felt peace and tranquility quite like it – we could have sat there for hours, running back to the same gelateria to grab a large cone stuffed with a variety of flavoured ice creams to our heart’s content.

On the Saturday, our final full day of the trip and with high hopes, we took a trip to Lake Garda, the largest lake in Italy. The lake is an extremely popular tourist destination, with locals and other Europeans alike, taking to the lake for their summer holiday in search of tranquility and relaxation. It was Ellis’ dream to visit, and I wanted to make it a reality.

Lake Garda from Sirmione

Before we set off to Lake Garda, we did our research. This is not a place you can go to blind, with no information on your destination or what to do there, you will surely fail in having a great time, something we couldn’t afford giving the time we have in Verona. So, after we had spoken to the receptionist at our hotel and armed with a map of the lake, we were advised that Perschiera del Garda should be our go to destination – easily accessible by bus from the Piazza Bra. Brilliant we thought.

Or was it?

Once we arrived at Perschiera del Garda we had no idea where we were. Prior to getting on the bus, we were advised to get off at the train station as it was the final stop of the bus journey and walk. But we weren’t exactly close to lake, or anything for that matter. A slight panic seemed to sweep across Ellis’ face as it doomed on her that we were about to spend our last day stranded, near a train station but not near the famous lake we had so hoped to spend the day by. After walking for what felt like miles back and forth, we found the lake, but it most definitely wasn’t what we had hoped for. Wherever we were, it was desolate, nothing was open and Ellis’ dream of visiting Lake Garda was slowly dying. We found a tourist information hut but it was shut, great. One helpful Brit we had came across told us that we should go to Sirmione, a much more lively peninsula town, and only a fifteen minute bus ride away. Our day was saved!

Scaliger Castle

Sirmione is a small peninsula town situated in the southern area of the lake with history, picturesque views of the open water and plenty of places to grab a gelato, pizza and drink. It gently reminded us of our time in Venice. After such a dreadful start to the day trip, things turned out perfectly. The stars had aligned and the smile had returned to Ellis’ face (and mine for that matter) and all was well in the world.

Once we stepped off the bus as it had taken us as far as can be along the peninsula, the sun burst through the overcast sky. Directly in front of us was what seemed to be a fortress, a sort of entrance into the small town. We later found out it was to be the Scaliger Castle which took our breath away. We couldn’t not venture inside this beautiful piece of architecture. Its foundations jutted out into the lake, and once at the top, the views of the lake were incredible, truly spectacular. We were atop a fortress that was once used to protect the area of Sirmione.

The view from the Castle

Once our feet were back on the ground, it was most definitely time to grab some food. We could now finally relax knowing that we were in a truly fascinating area of Lake Garda and that we had the time to explore. Just opposite the Scaliger Castle was a small pizzeria which we dined al fresco, but to be honest we were spoilt for choice of restaurants where we could have grabbed lunch. I’ve never seen so many restaurants in such close proximity to each other. If I remember correctly, we actually walked around for 5 minutes in a loop deciding which of the numerous places to eat shall receive our custom – lucky them.

Some of the quieter streets with Scaliger Castle in the background

Once our hunger was subdued, we ventured north further up the peninsula to get a real feel for Sirmione. Personally, I felt it to be similar to Venice’s backstreets but a lot quieter. That most definitely isn’t a bad thing though! For those who have had the pleasure of exploring Venice, you would have noted the number of tourists the city attracts, thousands upon thousands descend upon the city to explore the canals, the lido, the backstreets and the other islands. But Sirmione was extremely tranquil. It was quiet, but not so that it was scary. Everyone was at peace. There were plenty small shop fronts with owners sat outside taking their opportunity to bask in the rare October sunlight as a steady pace of visitors meander down outside their places of work, it was absolutely wonderful. It’s these moments that make every downfall so worth it.

Quiet streets of Sirmione
What a colourful building

After exploring the small shops, we grabbed a gelato from one of the many Gelaterie that Sirmione had to offer and walked down towards the lake and just sat and stared out into the horizon. As the sky had started to clear, we could see other lakeside towns in the far distance.

Lake Garda

As the small waves patted against the rocks beneath our feet we’d realised we’d never quite felt peace and tranquility quite like it – we could have sat there for hours, running back to the same gelateria to grab a large cone stuffed with a variety of flavoured ice creams to our heart’s content.

So, after spending a long half a day in Sirmione, enjoying the sights and each other’s company (after that rocky start to the day), we decided that it was time to try and get back to Verona. Just outside of Sirmione’s entrance were plenty bus stops and we were kindly directed to the stop which is needed for the bus journey which heads directly back to Verona’s Piazza Erbe, in the heart of Verona.


A walking wine tour through Verona

As the afternoon grew into the day, and with the rare sunshine gifting us the energy to wander some more, we decided that now we’re back in familiar territory, we shall head up to Piazzale Castel San Pietro “The most beautiful viewpoint over Verona” we had read countless times online. Off on the walk we went, along the Adige River in hopes of making the altitude rich viewpoint in good time.

Ponte Pietra

However, as soon as we had reached The Ponte Pietra or “Stone Bridge” in English, the landscape in front of us glistened in the early evening sun. Our mood changed from determined to mellow. We had already seen so much on this one miraculous sunny October day that the energy we had left we didn’t want to exacerbate on a “miniature hike” into the evening, so we decided to detour back along the Ponte Pietra and back into the centre of Verona, and are we glad that we did.

Our wine glasses for the tour

Upon reaching the first end of the bridge we could see that there were many stalls set up along the bridge with small crowds of people at each one all with a wine glass in hand. We spoke to what seemed to be a member of staff who had helped organise this attraction and said “Welcome to Verona’s walking wine tour”. After some small chit chat, we paid €20 for two wine glasses, a piece of paper which represented confirmation that we had paid for “6 glasses of wine each”, a brochure of what the wine tour was and off we went with not a clue of how a “walking wine tour” works. Oh well, first time for everything.

10m further down the bridge, we reached our first stall. It was very much like a christmas market kind of stall, a small wooden structure with one person manning it with a variety of wines on display. We watched on as other people took to the stall and pointed at their preferred wine. Once a half glass was poured into their glass, their piece of paper was scanned electronically. This was easy peasy.

One of the most enjoyable, unplanned events we’ve ever done!

With us both pointing to a red wine on the table, we received half a glass each, sipped it airily and looked at each with the same thought of “we have no idea what were doing, but God, do we love it!” On we moved to the next stall around 30m away where another variety of white, rose and red wines were on offer.

Each of the stalls pathed way a short tour of Verona. We stopped off at random stalls once our glasses were empty, plodded along at a sluggish pace, taking in the sights that Verona had to offer. Along the walk were bell towers, churches and various other gothic structures. It was extremely welcoming to see Verona in the evening sunlight as the first day we had in this city was doomed with overcast and showers – what a turn for the best. What made the tour that more exceptional was that we completed it at our own leisurely pace paired with the olives, breadsticks and crisps that we snacked upon at each stall. How fitting, we couldn’t have asked for a better end to our trip.

Enjoying the sights on the tour


Final Thoughts

All in all, our trip to Verona was spontaneous, short and sweet but 100% unforgettable. I’d recommend this city break to anyone and would definitely rank it in the top 3 places we’ve visited. A day trip to Lake Garda (preferably Sirmione) is a must do if you have the time to allow for it as it’s a whole new setting to explore. The city of Verona is one we’d definitely like to go back to, that’s for sure.

If you’ve enjoyed reading about our trip to Verona, why not like, share and comment on our post!

Thanks,

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