Verona is a historic city in the Veneto region of north-eastern Italy with a population of roughly a quarter of a million people. It is well known as the location for Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, and it is on the UNESCO World Heritage list.
Despite its proximity to the more famous tourist attraction of Venice, many people believe Verona to be a more easygoing and enjoyable location to visit.
Verona has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site due to the richness and significance of its numerous historical structures. In the early Middle Ages, Verona kept numerous old Roman structures that were no longer in use, but most of these, as well as much of its early medieval edifices, were destroyed or severely damaged by the earthquake of 3 January 1117, which resulted in a huge Romanesque reconstruction. Versus de Verona, written during the Carolingian period, is a significant account of Verona in the early medieval age.
The Roman military encampment in what is now the city center intended to grow via the cardines and decumani, which cross at right angles. This construction has been preserved to the current day and may be seen from the air. The initial map has not been altered as a result of further development. Though the Roman city, with its basalt-paved roadways, is largely concealed from view, it still remains almost whole approximately 6 m below the surface. The basements of most palazzi and buildings are constructed on Roman relics and are seldom accessible to tourists. Cangrande I and Cansignorio della Scala I, lords of Verona, recreated Piazza delle Erbe, near the Roman forum, utilizing material (such as marble blocks and sculptures) from Roman baths and palaces.
Verona is well-known for its Roman amphitheatre, the Arena, which is located on the city’s main square, Piazza Bra. It was built about 30 AD and is the third biggest in Italy after Rome’s Colosseum and Capua’s arena. It is 139 metres long and 110 metres broad, with 44 levels of marble seats that can accommodate 25,000 spectators. The ludi (shows and gladiator games) staged inside its walls were so well-known that they drew people from far beyond the city’s borders. The present two-story façade is really the internal support for the tiers; just a sliver of the original three-story outer perimeter wall in white and pink Valpolicella limestone survives. The inside is quite spectacular and almost intact, and it is still used for public events, fairs, theater, and open-air opera during beautiful summer evenings.
There are also a number of other Roman remains in the town, such as the Verona Roman Theatre. This theatre was erected in the first century BC, but it fell into usage over time and was eventually demolished to make way for dwellings. Andrea Monga, a rich Veronese, acquired all the homes that had been erected above the theatre over time in the 18th century, dismantled them, and rescued the monument. The Ponte di Pietra (“Stone Wall Bridge”), another Roman structure that has survived to the present day, is not far away.
The Arco dei Gavi (Gavi Arch) was erected in the first century AD and is notable for having the name of the builder (architect Lucius Vitruvius Cordone) etched on it, which is unusual in Belle Epoque architecture. It previously straddled the city’s principal Roman route, today known as the Corso Cavour. It was destroyed in 1805 by French forces and reconstructed in 1932.
The Porta Borsari, an archway at the end of Corso Porta Borsari, is nearby. The facade of a 3rd-century gate in the old Roman city fortifications. The inscription dates from 245 AD and shows the name of the city as Colonia Verona Augusta. Corso Porta Borsari, the route that runs through the gate, is the Roman city’s original Via Sacra. It is now flanked by many Renaissance palazzi and the historic Church of Santi Apostoli, only a few metres from Piazza delle Erbe.
Porta Leoni is a 1st century BC remnant of what was once a Roman city gate. A considerable section of it is still surviving as part of a medieval building’s wall. The street itself is an open archaeological site, with the old Roman roadway and entrance foundations visible a few feet below the current street level. The gate, as viewed from there, comprises a tiny court defended by towers. Before entering or leaving the city, carriages and passengers were examined here.
- The Basilica of San Zeno Maggiore is a Romanesque style church, the third on the site, erected between 1123 and 1135 on top of a 4th-century shrine to Verona’s patron saint, St. Zeno (died 380). The façade dominates the wide plaza and is flanked by a majestic 72-meter-tall bell tower, which Dante mentions in Canto 18 of the Divine Comedy’s Purgatory. The worn Veronese stone casts a warm golden light, and the restrained lines of the pillars, columns, and cornices, as well as the gallery with its twin windows, provide a harmonic beauty to the façade. The massive rose window is adorned with a Wheel of Fortune. The months of the year are carved into the lintels above the doorway. Each side of the entryway has 18 bas-relief panels depicting biblical events, while the inner bronze door panels include 48 rudimentary but powerful images of Biblical scenes and stories from St Zeno’s life. The significance of some of the scenes is unclear, but the figures’ exceptionally vivid, barbarian vitality is a brilliant combination of conventional and Ottonian elements. The interior of the church is split into two sections: the Lower Church, which occupies roughly a third of the edifice, and the Upper Church, which occupies the rest. The walls are frescoed in the 12th and 14th centuries, and the nave ceiling is a remarkable example of a ship’s keel ceiling. The arched crypt houses St. Zeno’s, the first Bishop of Verona, as well as the graves of numerous other saints. A lovely cloister is located to the north of the cathedral. The church also holds King Pippin of Italy’s (777–810) grave.
- The Basilica of San Lorenzo is a tiny Romanesque church. It was erected in 1177 on the site of a Paleochristian church, remnants of which still exist. The church is made of alternating brick and stone tracks, and it features two cylindrical towers with spiral stairs leading to the women’s galleries. The decor is somber, but not deafeningly so. The striped bands of stone and brick, as well as the beautiful arches, add to the scene.
- Santa Maria Antica is a massive Romanesque church that functioned as the Scaligeri clan’s parish church and is noted for the Gothic Scaliger Tombs. The Duomo is also a significant Romanesque church.
- Sant’Anastasia is a vast and high church erected by the Dominicans between 1290 and 1481 to accommodate the enormous throngs drawn by their preaching. The Pellegrini chapel holds Pisanello’s renowned painting St. George and the Princess of Trebizond, as well as Wilhelm von Bibra’s burial. Every May, an art festival is held in the plaza.