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See

The glorious layers of history that blend in this elegant city. In the compact historic center, stroll from the Piazza Bra, graced with the spectacular Arena from ancient Roman times, to Piazza delle Erbe and Piazza dei Signori, that feature medieval and Renaissance architecture. Imagine Shakespeare’s lovers as you admire the balcony of the Casa di Giulietta. Of the many awe inspiring churches, the Gothic Sant’Anastasia, the Romanesque Basilica di San Zeno, and Duomo, which houses a Titian masterpiece, are tops.

Don’t miss the 14th century Castelvecchio, now home to an art museum that features ancient sculptures, Renaissance masterpieces, and a contemporary garden. Tour the Teatro Romano, or in summer settle in there for an open air concert in amazing surroundings.

Shop

It’s delightful to window shop along the pedestrian only Via Mazzini, Via Cappello, and Corso Portoni Borsari, all flanked with glamorous designer boutiques such as Gucci, Dolce e Gabbana, and Canestrari for jewelry.

Verona is also well known for its antique shops, with lots on Corso Sant’ Anastasia, and a big outdoor Antique Market on the 3rd Saturday of every month at Piazza San Zeno. On the same Piazza is a market on Tuesday and Friday mornings, where you can bargain for cheap clothes and accessories. For Verona’s biggest open market experience, head to the Stadio where stalls fill the place up every Saturday. The Piazza delle Erbe is home to a daily fruit and vegetable market that’s geared to tourists, so you can pick up postcards and trinkets there.

Eat

Delicious Veronese specialties include pasta fagioli, risotto, bigoli (thick spaghetti) and cavallo (horse meat). Cozy spots where these are excellently prepared for moderate prices include Ristorante Osteria La Pigna, Locanda Castelvecchio, La Taverna di Via Stella and Al Duomo, that’s always packed with locals and has mandolin music on Wednesdays. Make a reservation at Al Pompiere, a rustic spot, famous for its house cured meats. For a romantic evening, Osteria La Fontanina is a perfect choice.

Panzerotti, (deep fried ravioli), are delicious Veronese snacks served at Pasticceria Povia. Sweets there and at Pasticceria Cordioli are wonderful, including the town’s signature cookies: Baci (kisses) di Giulietta and Sospiri (sighs) di Romeo. Also, La Boutique del Gelato is tops for a wide variety of scrumptious flavors.

Drink

A perfect place for sunset cocktails is the Terrazza Bar al Ponte where you can relax with pretty views of the river. Since Verona is surrounded by some of Italy’s finest vineyards, the historic center is full of great osterias where wines by the glass are served with low priced snacks (sausage or salami) and traditional foods. The most famous and most tourist-filled is Antica Bottega del Vino, while local’s favorites include Al Carro Armato, del Bugiardo, and Mandorla. For cocktails and a lavish apertivo buffet, head to Campidoglio.

And if you want to join the younger set in one of Verona’s many welcoming pubs, Highlander or Re Carlo (that stays open till 4 a.m.), both offer great beer selections.

Stay

Verona has options for all budgets in its historic center, including the 5-star, antique-stuffed Gabbia d’Oro, the 4-stars Hotel Victoria (featuring contemporary design) and the vibrant, traditional Colomba D’Oro. Best budget hotels (simple two stars) are the Aurora and Hotel Torcolo. B&Bs abound in a variety of prices—on the high side is the 16th century converted mansion, Domus Nova, while Corte delle Pigne is charming and low-priced. You may consider staying in the countryside, a 10-15 minute drive from Verona’s center, where there are such gems as the amazing Byblos Art Hotel, a 15th century villa that combines historic and contemporary design, or the Agriturismo Delo, a farm estate surrounded by vineyards.

Walk

Join the Veronese for the passeggiata (early evening stroll), along the elegant Via Mazzini, from Piazza Bra to Piazza delle Erbe, where you can settle in for a drink and people watching at Casa Mazzanti. Or take a walk on the banks of the River Adige, over the Ponte Pietra (Stone Bridge), and peek in at the Romanesque Church of San Stefano and San Giorgio in Braida, where a Veronese masterpiece hangs above the altar. It’s also lovely to wander through the Giardino Giusti, magnificent Renaissance gardens, featuring mythological statuary, perhaps stopping at Tutt’Art for their bargain fixed price lunch. If you’re feeling energetic, head uphill to Castel San Pietro for splendid views, particularly at sunset.

Get Out

A drive to Lake Garda, landing at the former Roman spa town of Sirmione is heavenly, where you can stroll through cobblestoned streets and taste excellent gelato, splurge for lunch on the terrace of the elegant La Speranzina, or dine less expensively inside the walls at Il Girasole—both are great for fish.

Alternatively, a fab time can be had enjoying the Valpolicella vineyards—the tourist office in Piazza Bra will have the most current info as to which wineries are open for tastings, or you can join in on a guided tour of the area. Also, there’s Gardaland, Italy’s largest amusement park, complete with roller coasters and an aquarium, it’s big fun for the whole family.

Listen

Opera and pop music are presented in summer at one of the most amazing venues on earth: the Arena di Verona, a Roman amphitheatre, featuring great acoustics and top of the line performers. For the rest of the year, opera and ballets are presented at the Teatro Filarmonico, a beautiful 18th century theatre. You also can enjoy chamber music concerts by students of the Conservatorio di Verona in various venues throughout town.

In summer there’s a wonderful Jazz Festival, or a delightful evening can be had at Le Cantine de l’Arena, a restaurant which features cabaret and jazz. For indie-rock, Rivamancina is fun, featuring great cocktails and an apertivo spread. Dance to the music at chic Berfi’s Club, and for the ultimate disco experience, head to Alter Ego, on the outskirts of town, where you get stunning views of Verona from the terrace.

Avoid

Showing up not prepared for an Arena show– bring your own seat cushion or covering, binoculars, and refreshments, as what’s sold there is way overpriced.