When planning their next trip to Italy, lots of folks seem to wonder “is Verona worth visiting?”. Despite its stunning cityscape and extremely rich history, the birthplace of literature’s most famous couple (Romeo and Juliet) is often overlooked by foreign visitors.
That’s what I’m here to fix today!
How? It’s simple: I’ll give you 10 different reasons why there’s no answer but yes to the question “is Verona worth visiting?”.
Before that, though, I’ll make up for my bias by letting you know why a few people choose to skip it instead.
Why some travelers avoid Verona
There are other destinations in Italy they’d rather visit first
Verona faces unfair competition both at the national level and within its own region as well. The city is a 90-minute drive away from Venice and about two hours from Milan.
While that also means the city is perfect for a day trip if you’re staying in the area, Verona is consistently overshadowed by its more exuberant neighbors.
To be fair, I’m not saying Verona should have the upper hand over Italy’s top attractions. Yet you can easily make room for it on a second trip to the country, for example.
Speaking of which, there’s something else you should try for a full Italian experience. Pick one large city, a couple of midsize ones, and a few towns if you have the chance to be in the country for longer than a week. That way Verona can definitely fit into your plans.
The nightlife scene isn’t particularly busy
Granted, Verona is not really the kind of town you’d normally head to if you wanted to dance the night away. It does feel like a small city, as the majority of streets get quite empty after dark.
That said, the city is dotted with bars and clubs that sometimes close as late as 4 p.m. (though 2 a.m. is more common). On top of that, its Roman arena hosts a world-famous opera festival in the warmer months.
The historic core and the area known as Veronetta on the other side of the river are where you should go in case you’re looking for a fun night out.
But not even at Piazza Bra (pictured above), the city’s main square, folks linger for too long come nightfall.
Why is Verona worth visiting?
1. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site
The story of Verona’s founding and the origin of its name are uncertain; that’s how ancient it is. We do know, however, that it was settled in prehistorical times.
Sitting at the crossroads of the Alps and the Plain of the Po (Italy’s longest river), it worked as a sort of checkpoint between the Latin and the Germanic realms.
The strategically located city and its surroundings have been fought over by kingdoms and dynasties for 2,000 years, which has left its mark on a set of fortresses and Verona’s primarily medieval building stock.
And that’s not all: Verona’s cultural scene has always been thriving, to the point that the city has often been praised as a Florence of the northeast. Every corner in town exudes history and erudition so intensely that even the more clueless visitors feel inspired.
2. Romeo and Juliet were born there
Well, maybe born is a bit of an overstatement, but the fact remains William Shakespeare’s legendary play (as well as the more obscure The Two Gentlemen of Verona) is set in the city.
Romeo and Juliet’s impossible love turned Verona into a much sought-after stop among local and foreign couples alike, alongside Venice and Florence.
Nobody can tell for certain whether Shakespeare ever visited Verona. Yet there’s a balcony in the historic core that went on to be nicknamed “Juliet’s balcony” (although the story of the house is controversial).
A bronze statue of Juliet placed in the courtyard in the 1960s became more popular than the balcony itself, as people took to rubbing its right breast to be able to go back to Verona (or so superstition says). No wonder the right breast looks weirdly smaller than the left one!
3. You’ll marvel at the ancient walls and gates
Verona boasts an astonishing five different walls built between Antiquity and the 1800s to protect the city. Several of the city’s rulers (the Della Scala Family, the Venetians, and the Austrians) expanded a defense system first adopted by the Romans.
A handful of ruins of the original imperial walls are still standing (including two gateways, the magnificent Porta Borsari and the more modest Porta Leoni). The most impressive set of walls, however, is the one erected by Veronese authorities in the 13th century, which is visible through the whole eastern section of downtown.
It used to reach Castelvecchio, a beautiful medieval fortress that is complete with a moat. Verona has even a fortified bridge linking Castelvecchio to the other side of the Adige river (seen on no. 1).
The city’s romantic vibes both contrast sharply and fit seamlessly into its imposing and warring past. Thank God the Capulets and the Montagues lived within the walled city, or their brawl could’ve cost Verona its architectural heritage!
4. It’s a very walkable town
Regardless of your physical condition, Verona will welcome you. It’s true that the northern end of town is surrounded by hills known as Torricelle; this is the foothills of the Alps after all.
Yet the only attraction you’re likely to visit in that part of Verona is Castel San Pietro, a medieval fortress where you can get superb views of the entire city. There’s no need to walk uphill, though, since an elevator will take you up there.
The city center, in contrast, was laid out within a dramatic bend of the Adige river, which means it’s almost flawlessly flat.
What’s more, unlike the bulk of Italian cities, most streets follow a strict grid plan. So you’ll have to go out of your way to get lost here.
And the best part is the two banks of the Adige are lined with extensive riverwalks that you can stroll along for hours as a cool breeze blows.
5. You’ll be close to countless must-sees in northeastern Italy
It’s also pretty close to the Alps and South Tyrol, Italy’s picturesque German-speaking region.
Within a one-hour-drive range, you’ll have the chance to discover dazzling towns like Vicenza, Mantua, Padua, and Brescia, each with its own set of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Most importantly, the Province of Verona is home to a great deal of Lake Garda (pictured above), Italy’s largest and a fantastic and relaxing destination year-round.
Trust me when I say Verona isn’t an end in itself but a gateway to the rest of northeastern Italy!
6. The views from above are breathtaking
The hills surrounding Verona seem to have been created on purpose to offer unimpeded views of town. They’re located right outside the city center and aren’t too tall, so you’ll get to watch everything in detail.
The most popular viewpoint is Castel San Pietro, a 19th-century Austrian barracks that stands at a site first settled for defense purposes during the Iron Age.
For a more central vantage point, you can walk up the medieval Torre dei Lamberti at the heart of downtown and have the entire city at your feet.
From up there you’ll have a commanding sight of bustling Piazza delle Erbe, where an ancient forum was replaced by an open-air market as the centuries passed.
7. The Verona Arena is probably the best-preserved of them all
The Verona Arena has been the city’s ultimate symbol for circa 2,000 years. Like the majority of such venues across the Roman Empire, it was abandoned at some point between the Christianization of Europe and the onset of the Middle Ages.
Yet unlike most other arenas, it was given new roles throughout the centuries (i.e. hosting jousting tournaments and the burning of alleged heretics at the stake) and started being hailed as a city icon as far back as the 15th century.
Local authorities then closed the structure to the general public (which helped protect it from further decline) and even took on the upkeeping of its interior by the 17th century, something unheard of at the time.
In 1913, the arena went on to find its current use as host of an internationally acclaimed opera festival that has since taken place each summer, as well as of concerts year-round.
Apart from that, you can always tour the building during the day, learn about its two-millennium-old history, and marvel at the monumentality of the whole thing.
8. Verona is the unofficial capital of Italian wine
The Province of Verona accounts for 14% of the output of wines with a protected designation of origin nationwide, which means this is wine country at its finest. Two of the region’s quintessential wines are Soave and Amarone della Valpolicella.
Verona also hosts the biggest wine fair on the planet, Vinitaly, where 4,000+ wineries from around the globe showcase their labels. While the event is not open to the general public, it gives an idea of how Verona is all about that booze.
You won’t miss out on Vinitaly, though, as the city is jam-packed with top-notch wine bars, agencies offering wine tours and tastings, and eateries whose wine list can make any Michelin-starred restaurant jealous.
9. Yet it’s not overrun with tourists
Verona is the 19th-most visited city in Italy, behind the more famous destinations and a bunch of mountain towns and seaside resorts.
But while Venice welcomes almost 13 million tourists a year, Verona barely receives 3 million of them — despite being roughly the same size as its island neighbor.
So apart from the obvious sights such as Juliet’s House and the Arena, the streets of Verona are teeming with a deliciously ordinary city life revolving around regular shops instead of souvenir stalls.
Exploring the city feels even more pleasant as you’re not constantly reminded your stay is bound to end in a few days by flocks of tourists zipping past you.
10. The cuisine is to die for
Because it has been influenced by the culinary traditions of Venice, Milan, and neighboring Austria (which actually ruled the city between 1815 and 1866), Veronese cuisine is both hearty and refined.
As in other parts of the country (such as Tuscany), many of the recipes were created by poor farmers, which is why ingredients like risotto and cornmeal feature prominently.
Verona’s best-known recipe is pandoro (seen above), a Christmas cake whose name literally means “bread gold”. Pandoro and the Milanese panettone vie for the title of ultimate Christmas dessert in northern Italy.
For a taste of authentic Veronese food, you’ll want to head to either a trattoria like Trattoria Da Camillo or an osteria like Osteria Nori. That’s what fairly priced restaurants specializing in local cuisine are called in Italy!
So is Verona worth visiting? How do you feel about it? Unless it’s a matter of priorities rather than worth to you, I can’t think of an excuse to keep from adding it to your bucket list.
History? Yup. Architecture? Check. Romance? Galore. Amazing food? Not to mention that! What are you waiting for to book your tickets?