THERE ARE MANY TOWERS, BUT THIS ONE IS WELL WORTH VISITING...
The city of Verona, the Alps, the Adige valley, all of this magnificent scenery will be presented to us from one of Italy´s most stunning medieval towers; let´s discover its history.
Built in the second half of the 12th century by one of Verona´s most powerful families, the Lamberti, it stood 37 meters tall at the time. It was the city´s tallest tower, glorifying the name of the family that owned it.
We don´t know precisely why it was built; at the same time, it is challenging to find information about this family, which was expelled from the city in the years after its construction.
In 1295, two bells were added to the building, which is why it was initially called the Tower of Bells. One of them, known as Rengo, was used to summon the city council and to call soldiers in the event of an attack. In contrast, the other, called Marangona, signalled the working hours of the city´s workers and merchants and sounded the alarm in the event of a fire.
Early in the 15th century, in 1403, the upper part of the tower was struck by lightning, which caused a partial collapse. We had to wait almost fifty years for the reconstruction works to begin to gain its current appearance. Restored and raised, with the addition of an octagonal bell tower in brick and white marble, only to be completed in 1463 when it was raised from 37 to 84 metres in height, which is its present height. In 1798, Count Giovanni Sagramoso had the clock installed at his own expense, still part of the tower.
After the restoration work that has been carried out, it is easy to distinguish the original construction from its more recent elevation. The original lower part, 37 metres high, was built with brick and tufa, while the upper part was built only with brick.
The Torre dei Lamberti, located in Verona´s heart and is within walking distance of other monuments and tourist attractions, provides a 360º view of the city and its surroundings. Opened to the public in 1972, the tower offers the option to climb 368 steps to reach the top and its panoramic view, but don´t worry; it has also been fitted with a modern transparent lift to make the visit easier.
Situated at the heart of Verona, Via Della Costa 1, it is open every day of the week except Sundays from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
TODAY IT IS ALL ABOUT WINES
The Veneto area in northeastern Italy is one of the country´s major wine producers. This vast territory, which includes vineyards that stretch from the Dolomites in the north to Lake Garda in the east and throughout the Piave Valley, may be divided into three main wine-growing zones.
The cold alpine environment of Lake Garda, located northwest of Veneto at the foot of the Alps, is perfect for dry white wines and sweet Bardolino reds. The superb red wines of Valpolicella and Valpantena are found to the north of Verona, while the famed dry white wines of Soave, created from the native Garganega variety, are found to the east.
The lowlands surrounding Padua are densely populated with vineyards in the middle of Veneto. Still, it is on the heights that the vines produce the most excellent wines, where the grape types Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot are grown.
The famed Prosecco, made from vineyards on the banks of the river Piave, is the most famous sparkling wine in Veneto´s northeast.
Verona is in the heart of this area, and in its historic centre is one of Italy´s oldest and most traditional vineyards and history, which we will explore...
It is without a doubt one of Italy´s oldest and most prestigious historical establishments, with roots dating back to the 16th century during the Serene Republic of Venice, when it was initially known as Osteria lo Scudo di Francia. Later becoming the Biedermeier during the Austrian occupation of Verona in the 18th century, and finally becoming the famous Bottega del Vino from 1890 until today.
The Antica Bottega del Vino boasts one of the most fantastic wine lists in Italy, having received the "Wine Spectator Excellency" award from the magazine "Wine Spectator" from the years 1996 to 2018 and the "Wine Spectator Grand Award" from the years 2004 to 2019.
Its more than 100-page menu currently features some of Italy´s best wines and those from Europe and the rest of the world, and it is there that we can sample these wines alongside some local cheeses.
It would be helpful to look at the large blackboard in the bar where the daily recommendations are displayed, including the famous local wine produced by the current owners and bearing their name, the Amarone. And if we are lucky, we will be allowed to visit the so-called "Temple of Wine", the cellar located at the basement where thousands of bottles of this precious liquid are kept; In the cellar, on the ceiling beams, we can see written phrases of Dante and other authors alluding to stories related to wine.
The Antica Bottega del Vino is located in Via Scudo di Francia 3, near one end of Via Mazzini and its opening hours are from 11 a.m. to midnight.
LET´S TEST OUR SENSE OF SMELL
On our journey, we will undoubtedly take a memento from each city that will bring back memories over time thanks to all the diverse and lovely places visited.
In the case of Verona, we can carry that memory in the form of a smell since Acqua del Garda, a perfume made very close to the city in the beautiful region of Lago di Garda, captures the essence of this enchanted place, the fragrances of its land, and its fruits.
Lake Garda is the largest of the Italian lakes and is situated in the north of the peninsula at the edge of the Alps. Thanks to its mild climate, the Garda Riviera is characterised by lush vegetation and the cultivation of vineyards and olive trees from which fine wines and oils are produced.
Since ancient times, the beauty of the surrounding countryside has been a source of inspiration. The Roman poet Catullus praised the beauty of the lake in his work "Carmi", just as Virgil and Dante Alighieri dedicated verses to it in their poems. Goethe marvelled at the charm and beauty of its sunsets and described it as "an admirable work of nature". But it was not only writers and poets who praised its beauty; painters also immortalised the lake´s landscape, with the painter Klimt depicting it in one of his colourful and exciting paintings.
The symbol of Acqua del Garda is the dragonfly, an elegant creature whose life is closely linked to the lake´s environment. Since ancient times, the dragonfly, filled with symbolism, represents transformation, maturity, grace, and freedom.
All the scents of this perfume are born from the desire to convey through unique aromatic memories an invisible but indissoluble union with the territory of Lake Garda. Each fragrance contains essences and extracts full of suggestions and memories, blending the lake´s typical natural elements.
Currently, the Aqua de Garda product line has been expanded to include cosmetics and creams that maintain the signature scents of this perfume brand. These things will be easy to find in Verona, starting with the well-known Piazza Bra and continuing down Via Giuseppe, unquestionably one of the most commercial streets, where we will discover several perfumes and cosmetic boutiques.
Be it for ourselves or as a gift when we return home, L´Aqua di Garda will always be an unforgettable memory of a city in Italy that is not only characterised by its history and its monuments but also by the excellent taste of its inhabitants.
TEMPLE OF LOVE. JULIETA´S HOME
We can´t help ourselves; undoubtedly, the best location for that shot that will bring us so many memories of this lovely city. Juliet´s house.
The legend of Juliet´s House with its famous balcony was born with the first dialogue of Shakespeare´s play "Romeo and Juliet", one of the most performed scenes in theatre history. It is the most popular and ideal destination for those in love; we always have a reason to be in love with someone or something and take that photo that will make this place last in time.
You simply need to find the appropriate location in the small patio outside the house where Romeo paused to call his sweetheart and where you may also recreate the classic scene from one of the most beautiful love stories by peeping into the balcony and conversing with... It´s entirely up to you.
The building, known as a tower house, dates back to the 12th century and has a bas-relief depicting a hat on one of its walls, suggesting that it is the coat of arms of the Cappelletti or Capuleti, Juliet´s family. Over the centuries, the structure has undergone numerous renovations, passing through the hands of different owners. In the meantime, the legend has spread, and the public´s interest has increased, identifying it as the birthplace of Shakespeare´s heroine. In 1907, the city of Verona decided to acquire part of the complex, restore it to its former medieval appearance.
When entering Juliet´s mansion, the first thing that strikes you is the massive billboards that line the corridor walls, which are covered in cards and love poems written by tourists and visitors; there are so many that the town hall is forced to withdraw them twice a year. From there, you can see the renowned Juliet balcony and its bronze statue by the sculptor Nereo Costantini, which has become one of Verona´s emblems; let´s believe in the practice where touching it would bring us good luck in love.
The interior of the house was completely rebuilt in the style of the 16th-century manor houses. It is an authentic museum with beautiful frescoes, a rich collection of ceramics, accessories, and costumes from Franco Zeffirelli´s famous film "Romeo and Juliet," which is dedicated to the tragic love story of the two young lovers. Up the stairs, on the first floor, you´ll find the entrance hall, from where you can access the balcony; however, if we want to click a shot here, be patient because the queue is usually long.
The "ballroom," located on the second floor, is a vast room where it is easy to imagine dances and feasts, such as the one in which Romeo and Juliet meet for the first time. Inside the tower is Juliet´s bedroom, which features an imposing oak bed with white lace sheets and cushions, a backdrop with which it is not hard to imagine Juliet nestled between the blankets if we used our imagination.
Since 1930, a group of volunteers has addressed the letters that lovers from all over the world drop in the mailbox there, allowing the most passionate to express their love directly to Juliet.
Juliet may have only existed in Shakespeare´s mind, and she may have never lived there, but the narrative of her love for Romeo will live on in the hearts of everyone who visit, and it has now become a true temple devoted to love.
Juliet´s house is in the heart of Verona, so we recommend walking there; the address is Via Cappello 23, and it will save us a lot of time from the central Piazza Delle Erbe, which is only a few meters away.
It is open to the public at the following times, and the price of admission is 6 euros.
Mondays from 1:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
Tuesday to Sunday from 8.30 a.m. to 7.30 p.m.
A RIB, BUT NOT EVE´S RIB...
Verona is a city with so much history and so many monuments in its historic centre that it´s impossible to admire all of them. Still, there´s one that few people know about and that stands out for its uniqueness, so we´ve devoted this chapter to it.
We are talking about the Arco Della Costa, built in the year 1470 and located in the heart of Verona, and it connects the Piazza Delle Erbe with the Piazza Dei Signori. It is a masonry walkway that connects the Domus Nova with the Palazzo Della Ragione. During the Venetian occupation, it allowed the magistrates, who were appointed by Serenissima´s central government, to travel from their residence in the Domus Nova to the city court, the Palazzo Della Ragione, without having to travel through the dangerous streets where they could be approached by malicious people seeking to bribe them.
The arch was named after a whale´s rib or, according to some, an ichthyosaur, a marine reptile comparable to today´s dolphin that existed around 250 million years ago and has been suspended beneath the arch for millennia by an iron chain. It is unknown why it was hung there, and despite various suggestions, it remains a mystery.
Some believe it is a relic carried from the Holy Land by the crusaders of Verona who fought the Turks in the Battle of Lepanto in 1571 and hung under an arch in the Piazza Delle Erbe as a votive sacrifice; this theory is backed by the discovery of a similar bone within Verona´s cathedral.
Others say it is the fossil of a mystery monster discovered in the mountains above Verona. It was placed in the city centre as superstitious protection, according to an old legend.
However, the most likely hypothesis is the primitive sign advertising an apothecary´s shop or a pharmacy just below the arch. In the Middle Ages, it was believed that whalebone powder had medicinal properties. The Piazza delle Erbe used to be very busy and filled with traders and passers-by on market days. Therefore, understandably the owner of this shop wanted to attract the attention of potential customers with something unusual, curious and visible placed high up for all to see. It seems like the pharmacy still owns the rib under the archway, which replaced the old apothecary´s shop.
There are drawings of the Piazza Delle Erbe from the 18th century that show the rib under its arch, indicating that it was installed there. However, it could have been placed there much earlier, possibly as early as the 15th century.
The Arco de la Costa and its enigmatic rib are only one of Verona´s many mysteries, where history and tradition collide; uncovering it will transport us to a magnificent moment.
We´ll have no trouble finding it here at Piazza Delle Erbe, 20, and, of course, we may see him at any time.
ON THE SHORES OF THE LAKE...
The topography of Italy to the east, with its border established by the Alps, protects the beauty of several glacial lakes. Still, none matches the greatest of them, the Lago di Garda, which is only 25 kilometres from our city, Verona, and is one of the country´s most popular and busiest holiday sites. Several routes connect Verona with Peschiera del Garda, the closest city to the lake´s shore.
According to sources from the eighth century, the term "Warda" comes from the Germanic word "war-da," which meaning "place of the guard, surveillance, or security."
The lake is surrounded by three Italian regions, Trentino, Lombardy, and Veneto, and has a surface area of 368 square kilometres, a length of 57 kilometres, and a width of 36 kilometres. It is surrounded by three Italian regions, Trentino, Lombardy, and Veneto, and its shores border the shore without losing sight of the mountains. We can enjoy a perpetually snowy environment, with Monte Baldo, at 2,218 meters, standing out as the highest point.
Sirmione, Desenzano, Riva Sul Garda, Limone Sul Garda, and Peschiera del Garda are just a few of the little towns on Lake Garda; we´ll visit the latter as it´s the closest to Verona and has lots of history and charm to it.
Walking through the streets of its small historic centre, we will observe fortifications, small ports, canals, and bridges, and it is also there where we will find restaurants and shops at the end of our tour.
As it´s geographically located at the starting point of the banks of lake Mincio, it was not overlooked by Rome. Arilica was founded there, a city that grew rapidly as an important Roman communication route, the Via Gallica, passed through it and a ser guard post overlooking the lake´s south end.
It has always been a strategic location, and its fortification, or Rocca, as it is called among the locals, dates from the 16th century. It is surrounded by a pentagonal wall with gigantic entrance gates and is erected on an island formed by the diversion of the river for additional security. After crossing a pedestrian bridge, we will arrive at the Brescia Gate, from where we will have the best view of the castle from above.
Piazza Betteloni, a tiny port with beautiful views from which boats depart for tours around the lake, maybe reached from the inside. We can witness the show created by the miniature illuminated crosses placed on the boats and are part of an ancient custom if we wait until dusk.
Since the 15th century, the castle has played an important role in major military activities in northern Italy, particularly during the Italian campaigns of the French Revolutionary Wars and the Napoleonic Wars. A French force led by General Masséna expelled the Austrians at the Battle of Peschiera on August 6, 1796, the day after the great French victory at the Battle of Castiglione, and years later, after the siege of Peschiera during the First Italian War of Independence, the fortress was taken by the Piedmontese on May 30, 1848, after heavy fighting.
Since 2017, this entire system of defenses, as well as the city itself, has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its splendor.
There are various options for getting from Verona to Peschiera. From Porta Nuova Station, the train will take us in just 13 minutes, with one portion per hour and a very low fare.
If we take the bus, number 164, from the Via Milano stop in front of the well-known Basilica of San Zeno, it will take us to the center of Peschiera in about 33 minutes for a very low fee.
Verona´s monuments will undoubtedly leave us with good memories, but the view of the Alps and the beach of the gorgeous Lago di Garda demands a visit if we can spare a few hours...
IT IS ABOUT "BEL CANTO"
This massive Roman amphitheatre is the best preserved in Italy and the third in size after the Colosseum in Rome and the amphitheatre in Capua, a city very close to Naples. Clad in pink marble from the Valpolicella region, brick and flint, it takes its name from the Latin word "sand", a material used to cover its floor.
During Emperor Tiberius ´ reign, it was created in 30 A.D. to house the so-called "ludii," legendary gladiatorial games and combats, and wild animal hunts. These games were held in the Arena for about 400 years, until 404 AD. Emperor Honorius forbade them, and the temples remained vacant and abandoned for generations.
At the time of its construction, it was located beyond the city walls unprotected. Its dimensions are impressive; its ellipse is 140 meters long and 110 meters wide and could accommodate up to 30,000 spectators in its 45 rows of stands, which was more than enough for the little Roman Verona founded in 89 B.C. on the banks of the Adige river. Its large capacity demonstrates its prominence among all Roman cities in the vicinity, as people travelled long distances to see the shows held there.
Its stones were used as construction material for other buildings in the city for an extended period, which led to their subsequent dismantling. Remains of a complex hydraulic system were discovered underground during excavations carried out at the end of the 19th century to supply the water needed for aquatic sports.
In 1117 an earthquake destroyed the outer wall, whose remains can be seen today on the north side of the monument known as El Ala de la Arena. On the original four-story facade, only three remain decorated with a line of four arches. Yet, it nonetheless conveys the splendour of the antique column-lined curtain wall that it once possessed.
It has been used as a materials deposit, a stone quarry, and a prison over time; so far, everything has been a delight for the observer, but there is one thing we should know about this monument that we must not overlook.
...ITS OPERA FESTIVAL ...
To celebrate the centenary of the birth of the composer Giuseppe Verdi, on August 10 1913, taking advantage of the magnificent acoustics of the building, the opera Aida was performed in front of an enthusiastic crowd with a spectacular scenography that included elephants and other animals, thus giving birth to the Verona Opera Festival, which is today, without doubt, the most prominent opera festival in the world, not only for its artistic importance but also for the setting in which it takes place.
Taking advantage of the wonderful acoustics that the structure provides, the composer Giuseppe Verdi´s centenary was commemorated on August 10, 1913. The opera Aida was performed in front of an enthusiastic crowd with a spectacular set that included elephants and other animals, and thus the Verona Opera Festival was born. It is currently, without a doubt, the world´s largest Opera festival, not only because of its artistic significance but also because of the setting in which it takes place.
Since then, many organisations have been in charge of putting on the opera seasons until the Arena di Verona Foundation was founded in 1996. This foundation now organises the festival every summer.
Giuseppe Di Stefano, Mara Callas, Tito Gobbi, Caruso, and Renata Tebaldi were among the many opera singers who performed in it, not to mention the "three tenors," the late Luciano Pavarotti, Placido Domingo, and José Carreras, who did so much to popularize the "bel canto."
Currently, at least four different productions are held between June and August, with over 500,000 people attending the shows. This venue has a capacity of 15,000 people and is greeted with a candle that they light after sunset, marking an unforgettable moment for those who are fortunate enough to attend such a fantastic show.
Seeing a show on the majestic stage of the Verona Arena is undoubtedly a once-in-a-lifetime experience; if you get the chance, take advantage of it!!!
The Arena of Verona is the first thing that you will find in the well-known Piazza Bra.
ADIGE, A RIVER FULL OF HISTORY
The Basilica of San Zeno in Verona is one of Italy´s Romanesque wonders and is unquestionably a must-see during our stay here.
Walking through the small alleyways of Verona is an art and history-filled excursion, and if the goal is to visit the church devoted to the city´s patron saint, this is a trek worth taking.
We start our walk from the well-known Piazza Bra and leaving behind the Palazzo Della Gran Guardia on our right and the Porta Nuova on our left. We will stroll down Via Roma, an arcaded beginning lined with magnificent columns dating from the early 20th century. Shops, restaurants, cafes, and the Arena de Verona Foundation, which manages the Opera Festival, can be found on both sides of the street.
A few meters further on, we´ll come across a little square of significant symbolic value for Verona, as it commemorates the citizens´ gallantry during the insurgency against Napoleon´s occupancy, which began on April 17, 1797. From there, we can see the Castelvecchio´s walls at the end of the street. Originally known as the Castle of San Martino in Aquaro, this medieval fortress in the historic centre of Verona was built in the middle of the 14th century and is now used as the headquarters of the Civic Museum after Las Arenas, the city´s most imposing monument.
We will reach the banks of the river Adige by turning left along Corso Castelvecchio and continuing the line of walls towards the right along with Largo Don Bosco. From there, among the trees, we will have a great view of the Ponte Scaligero or Ponte Castelvecchio.
With its 48 meters high central arch and two side arches of 29 and 24 meters, this beautiful bridge was erected as a castle in the mid-fourteenth century, a masterpiece of engineering for its day. It was meant to be an escape route to the north in case of having to flee the city.
It was destroyed, along with all the other bridges in the city, by the Germans during a bombing on April 24, 1944, but rebuilt in 1951 and reconnected the two banks of the river.
We´ll continue along the Adige´s banks, turning left on Via Barbarini Berto and Via Corrubio, and shortly arrive at Piazza San Zeno and its lovely basilica.
The Minor Basilica of San Zeno is without a doubt one of Italy´s most important Romanesque structures; the current structure dates from the early 12th century and houses the remains of the patron of Verona, who was born in Africa, in what is now Morocco, and died in Verona in 380; they have been kept in an underground crypt since May 21, 921.
He was the bishop of Verona from the year 362 A.C until his death, according to the history of the church of Verona. The legend has it that in the year 589 A.C, following a disastrous flood, the river´s waters rose, overwhelming the city but stopped at the edge of the current church and the cemetery along the Via Gallica, near the church where the saint was initially buried.
Its main façade, bounded by the 72-metre-high abbey tower, is divided into three sections. A baldachin precedes the central section held up by columns resting on lions. Above the door is a relief showing Saint Zeno defeating the devil. On either side are eighteen 12th-century marble bas-reliefs depicting scenes from the Old and New Testaments.
The basilica entrance is a side door leading to an abbey that invites us to enjoy a calm stroll among its pillars before proceeding to the church, which is divided into three naves and has treasures that we must not miss.
You will be struck by the intensity of the colours of the frescoes, which date from the 13th and 14th centuries, especially the one depicting the enthroned Virgin and a large St. Christopher. As you move closer to the presbytery, St. George and the dragon and the death and resurrection of Lazarus are displayed. But the masterpiece of this church is a triptych by Andrea Mantegna representing the Virgin and Child surrounded by saints. Unfortunately, only the upper part is original; the rest are copies as the French Napoleonic troops took the rest with them when they abandoned the city, and they are still in France.
We only need to descend to the forest of 49 pillars, each with a different capital located in the crypt where the San Zeno´s body is kept and provides a unique backdrop for such a mysterious location.
Before exiting the crypt and allowing our imaginations to run wild once more, we will see the lovers of Verona, Romeo and Juliet, at the time of their marriage, as Shakespeare depicts them in his novel.
A route that does not exceed 3 kilometres when returning along the same way we took and that we will never forget.
Opening hours of the Basilica of San Zeno, a small entrance fee is paid.
Winter from November to February
Sunday from 12:30 to 17:00.
Rest of the days from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and from 1:30 p.m. to 5 p.m.
Summer from March to October
Sunday from 12.30 to 18.00.
Rest of the days from 8.30 to 18.00 hrs.
A COFFEE AND A TREAT FOR THE EYES
This fabulous square, known as Piazza Bra, is undoubtedly the most famous in Verona and the largest in Italy for many.
Situated in front of the famous Roman Arena is the city´s hub. The square is delimited on the south side, and the one which leads to the Corso di Porta Nuova through two large arches that were part of the fourteenth-century walls and were known as Portoni della Brà, "the gates of Bra". Next to them is the Pentagona Tower, a 13th-century tower that stood inside the destroyed Cittadella. To the right of the arches is Palazzo Barbieri, called the Gran Guardia Nuova, a building built in the 17th century that housed the guards that guarded the city and are now the seat of the municipality of Verona.
We shall see a fountain known as the Fountain of the Alps, which was presented by the city of Munich, with whom Verona is twinned. Next to it is a colossal equestrian statue of Victor Manuel II, the first king of Italy, while going down the pink marble promenade that runs through the square´s centre.
But what interests us now is the west side of the square. The long Liston with its arcades becomes a perfect place between the sightseeing tour to relax a little and sit on one of the terraces of the cafés and restaurants crowded with passers-by throughout the day.
Suppose we choose to take a break at the pizzeria El Olivo located in the Palazzo Malfatti Guastaverza, at number 18 in the square. In that case, we will be seated under the panel and the balcony from where on March 8 1867, Giuseppe Garibaldi addressed the inhabitants of Verona with his famous phrase "Roma o Morte", referring to his departure for the capital of Italy to recover the power of the state.
This historic square will serve as an authentic introduction to the city for us; there is no better place to get a general impression of Verona and orient ourselves before exploring its various sites, as it is the city´s gateway; from there, we will have easy access to the city´s most important monuments and will witness the city´s constant movement of inhabitants.
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