Short breaks to Italy: a weekend in Verona

A picture of the Ponte Pietra bridge.  This has brown and yellow bricks and is arched  You can see houses in the background and a tower

By Emma Marshall

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The Oxford Dictionary defines “enchanting” as “delightfully charming or attractive”.  Well, Verona is all of these. It’s a small, pretty, medieval city, with cobbled streets that lead you to its handful of must-see attractions. And it’s hard not to come away from a weekend in Verona without finding something to love.

So if you’re planning a short break to Italy, make sure you put a weekend in Verona on your list.

Where is Verona?

Verona is a city located in the Veneto province of Northern Italy. It is around 115 km to Venice and 155 km to Milan. The capital, Rome, is further away; the distance between these two cities is just over 500 km.

You can also day trip here from resorts on nearby Lake Garda, from Milan and from Venice.

What to do in on a weekend in Verona

The main centre of Verona is not that big. I therefore found that the best way to see everything was on foot. Even at a leisurely pace, you can easily see most things on a weekend in Verona. It’s a perfect place for short break to Italy.  

There are hop-on hop-off buses if you’d prefer not to walk. I visited out of season, however, when they were not running. I am therefore not able to review the route. But you can click here for more information.

You can also book bike tours of the city if you want to combine sightseeing with a cycle.

An itinerary for a weekend in Verona

There is a variety of things you can do on a weekend in Verona. Read on for the route I followed.

Day 1 of a weekend in Verona

Piazza Bra

The Piazza Bra.  Here you can see one side of the square with coloured buildings and a city gate in the background
The Piazza Bra with its coloured building lining the street.  The streets is wet from rain and the light is dim

Begin at Piazza Bra and the heart of Verona with the Roman Arena sitting majestically in the centre of the square.

Built in the 1st Century AD, it predates the Coliseum in Rome. Even now it hosts massive concerts for up to 15,000 people. (In its early life, the capacity was apparently double this).

The Arena - a large amphitheatre.  You can see the numerous arches on the lower and upper level.

You can enter the Arena independently for €10. However, if you would prefer a guided tour to give you a bit more history about the place, you can pre-book entry (click here). This walking tour also offers you skip-the-line entry to the Arena.

Whichever you choose, it’s definitely worth going inside. When you do this, you get a sense of its scale.

You can also appreciate the wonderful acoustics that has made it such an important entertainment venue throughout the centuries. (Every August and September the city hosts an opera festival). Just shout across the Arena to hear the echo of your voice bounce back.

If you feel fit enough, climb to the top of the auditorium. Look back down into the stadium and imagine what it must be like when its full…quite something I would think.

Inside the amphitheatre - you can see the open circle in the middle and the raked seating around it

Piazza Bra has a few cafés and retaurants if you’re in need of a stop before moving on. Or alternatively just sit and take in the Arena from a close distance.  

Castelvecchio and La Porta Borsari

The Castelvecchio - a castle.  Here you can see the two square towers at either end of it

You can then take Via Roma towards Castelvecchio, a small castle by the river. You enter through the drawbridge at the side of the road. From there, you walk into a small courtyard and garden.  

The Castelvecchio Museum is also here – an art museum that you can visit for €6. Other than this, a visit to the castle is really a quick stop and an opportunity to wander across the bridge that strides the Adige River.

The bridge by the Castelvecchio - a castle.  Here you can see people walking along this and a square tower in the background

From the castle, follow Corso Cavour up the city gate, La Porta Borsari. This is a magnificent limestone gate which is nearly 2,000 years old and was once the city’s main entry point.

A picture of La Porta Borsari, a city gate.  This has arches to walk through into the street.  It is white

Piazza delle Erbe and the Torre dei Lamberti

Head further up Corsa Porta Borsari (make sure you look up at some of the beautiful buildings lining the street) and turn off at Piazza delle Erbe. This is another potential coffee or lunch stop.  

The plaza has a number of cafes and restaurants. These have outdoor seating. In warm weather this would be a perfect spot from which to watch people perusing the small market located in the square next to the fountain.

The Piazza delle Erbe - this is a square and there are market stalls here.  You can also see a tower in the background

Look up and you’ll also see the Torre dei Lamberti, a Romanesque style tower dating back to 1172. It is 84 metres high and has 368 steps to the top (you can also take an elevator).

The Torre dei Lamberti - you see this above the shops and restaurants.  It is brown and slim, with a clock on the front.

After leaving the tower, make sure you pop into Piazza dei Signori. You’ll fine this through the stone archway on a side street off the square. I loved this wide open square with its statute of Dante.

Maybe it was the fact that it was deserted (something I discovered is pretty rare in central Verona) or the elegant buildings framing the square. Whichever one it was, I thought it was beautiful here.

The Piazza dei Signori with Dante's fountain in the middle.  There is a brown coloured building one one side and yellow one is adjacent to this

Via Mazzini

If you then fancy a spot of shopping, take a stroll down Via Mazzini. This is an attractive street with some really quite elegant shops on it. I’m sure you could spend a small fortune here if you wanted to, or else shop for some souvenirs to take home.

The Via Mazzini - you can see the buildings on either side of the street and shoppers are walking down with their umbrellas up

When you reach the end of the street, you will be back near the Arena. You might want to stop here for the day and have some early evening cocktails whilst planning your evening meal. Fortunately, there’s no shortage of eateries here, as you’ll notice when you wander around.

Day 2 of a weekend in Verona

Casa di Giulietta

Juliet's statue outside the Casa di Giulietta.  This is bronze with two red balloons behind.  There are post-it notes (love notes) on the wall behind her

Personally, I’d start my second day by going straight to Casa di Giulietta (Juliet’s Balcony). But my advice would be to get here as early as possible.  

Despite Juliet being a fictional character, this is the place where she is said to have lived. Its location – on Via Cappello – has been linked to the Capulet family in Romeo and Juliet and Verona is one of the settings for Shakespeare’s famous play.  

Not surprisingly, it’s a massive tourist draw and can get very crowded. Going early or late in the day improves your chances of being able to soak in the surroundings. There are less people around – and importantly, you can snap some pictures tourist free.  

Juliet's balcony in the Casa di Giulietta.  You can see someone looking out from this

Take the opportunity when it’s quiet to step under the archway. Gaze up at the famous balcony and look at the bronze statue of Juliet in the courtyard.

And make sure you stop for a few moments to gaze at the walls of the archway. These are are littered with post-it notes with messages of love scrawled across them – Verona’s version of love locks on a bridge I guess.

Post-it notes with love messages on the walls of the archway as you go to Juliet's house

If you have a bit more time, there is also a small museum in Juliet’s house (entry €6) which is worth seeing. Inside, there are various rooms where you can admire the art and period furniture.

You can also read various excerpts that have been reproduced from Romeo and Juliet.  The bed that was used in Franco Zeffirelli’s 1968 version of the play is also on display.

The bed that appeared in the 1968 version of the film, Romeo and Juliet.  This is set on a platform with white linen on top.

Last but not least, make sure you stand on the balcony and peer out over the small courtyard below as Juliet might have done. This is a popular place to take pictures.

The Duomo

Not far from Casa di Giuletti and next to the river is the Duomo. You can walk here through the city’s streets (head for Ponte Garibaldi and then veer off to the right before you cross the bridge). Or alternatively you could reach this by going towards Ponte Nuovo and then following the river around.

The outside of Verona's duomo

This is a huge – and stunning – Catholic cathedral. It is definitely worth the €3 entrance fee (which includes a handheld audio guide that will give you more information on the building’s history and design as you walk around). The interior is stunning.

Ponte Pietra

After leaving the Duomo, make your way to the Ponte Pietra, the oldest bridge in Verona.  There are a few cafes and restaurants here where you could stop for coffee and/or lunch.

A picture of the Ponte Pietra bridge.  This has brown and yellow bricks and is arched  You can see houses in the background and a tower
A picture of the Ponte Pietra bridge.  This has brown and yellow bricks and is arched  You can see houses in the background and a tower, as well as the duomo in the distance

The bridge has a string of arches through which the choppy water flows and is a mix of coloured stone.

You step onto it via an archway in a tower on the side of the river. From this vantage point, you can look across to the opposite bank. Here, you’ll see colourful Veronese buildings sitting below tall cypresses, and on the hill above, a castle perched on the summit. To the left, you’ll also see the Duomo looming large a little further down the river.

Looking across the river bank from the bridge.  You can see cypress trees and a castle high on the hill
Looking across the river bank from the bridge - you can see the duomo

You must then cross the bridge. Only then – when you turn around and look back – will you appreciate how beautiful it is. 

I spent quite a bit of time standing by the bridge taking in the panoramic views of the city and bridge. This was one of my favourite spots in Verona.

Teatro Romano and Castel San Pietro

Once you’ve crossed the Ponte Pietra, you’re then a stone’s throw away from the Teatro Romano (Roman Theatre). Predating the Arena, only ruins now remain on the side of the hill, along with an archaeological museum.

Ruins of the Teatro Romano - not much remain and there are trees in between the stone ruins.  You can see across the river to a church

I didn’t go into either but reviews say this is worth doing. I was running out of time on my trip, so decided instead to climb further up the hill to Castel San Pietro (I chose to take the stone staircase up, but you can also take a funicular to the top).  

At the summit, two things are striking. First, how modest the castle is – it’s really a rather plain building surrounded by a pathway and it doesn’t appear to be a building that you can go into. Second, that the views over the city are incredible.  

The castle.  This is brown with a white base and it quite plain

You can see right over the river in both directions, and back across the city above the Ponte Pietra bridge. Although you may initially be slightly disappointed by the castle, you definitely won’t be disappointed by the views you are afforded.  

The view of Verona from the castle - you can see the bridge over the river, a tower and the buildings in the city.

If you’re on a short break to Verona, this may be the end of your trip. If so, take a leisurely stroll down from the castle, back across the bridge and into the city centre.  

Then if you have time, have one last stop in one of the wonderful eateries – be that a final plate of pasta, torta, gelato or vino. This is a perfect opportunity to reflect on your time in a delightful Italian city. I hope you find Verona as enchanting as I did.

For more European city break ideas, see below:

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