Verona in Love
For a romantic Valentine’s Day voyage it is difficult to find a more seductive destination than the Italian city of Verona. Famous for inspiring William Shakespeare to write Romeo and Juliet, there is a lot more to discover here than that world-famous balcony.
Each year around February 14, the city organizes a series of romantic events entitled “Verona in Love.” Not surprisingly, “Romeo and Juliet” are the highlight of the event, with guided tours following in the footsteps of the star-crossed lovers, culminating with an award for the best love-letter sent to Juliet. There are also restaurants offering candle-lit dinners, art exhibitions and poetry readings, plus a series of free, early evening concerts.
The Verona Arena dates back to the year 30 A.D. and dominates the center of the city. The sheer size and grandeur of the ancient Roman amphitheater is breathtaking. It is the perfect destination for a midnight kiss under a starlit sky.
The Relais il Sogno di Giulietta is a luxury boutique hotel right inside the courtyard of the palace where lovers come to marvel at Juliet’s mythical balcony. It is the ultimate place for someone looking to pop the question or celebrate an anniversary. Naturally, it is not cheap staying in what is billed as “the most romantic relais in the world,” with prices on Valentine’s Day starting at $400 and going up to a staggering $2,000 for an opulent suite. Fortunately, Verona has far more affordable accommodations for a romantic weekend, such as B&B Casa Coloniale.
The Giardino Giusti are one of Italy’s most romantic Renaissance gardens. Hidden away on the other side of the Adige River, it was designed in 1570 by Agostino Giusti, a Knight of the Venetian Republic. Spreading over a series of terraces ending at a high belvedere with a panoramic vista, the garden features avenues planted with tall cypresses, fountains and mythological statues, a small maze, pergolas and grottoes.
Tucked away in the narrow backstreets of Verona are a host of traditional osterie, perfect for a romantic lunch. Among those not to be missed are Osteria la Vecchia Fontanina, Osteria al Carro Armato and Hostaria dell’Orso.
Treat your sweetie to a shopping spree on the pedestrian-only Via Mazzini, which runs from the Roman arena to the frescoed-palaces of Piazza delle Erbe. Apart from the likes of Gucci and Roberto Cavalli, you’ll also find elegant shoes at Fratelli Rossetti and several jewelry boutiques specializing in engagement rings. For vintage dresses and accessories, check out Cecile on via Salvatore Corte Reggia 9.
The vineyards that cling to the rolling hills around Verona produce some of Italy’s finest wines, from the well-known Valpolicella and Soave, to Recioto, a luscious dessert wine, or bubbly Prosecco and Franciacorta. The best enoteca to pass a leisurely afternoon of degustazione is the historic Bottega del Vino.
The historic center of Verona is beautifully preserved and as the sun sets there are a number of romantic walks with spectacular views. Across the water from the town center, follow a footpath down from the Teatro Romano through a grove of cypress trees that eventually comes out in front of Castel San Pietro which has panoramic views of the city. Alternatively, follow the Lungadige Panvinio, an embankment walk that follows the Adige River from the Garibaldi Bridge right up to the medieval Castel Vecchio.
For dinner, Verona has a host of gourmet restaurants to choose from, such as the Michelin-starred Il Desco or the funky decor and fusion cuisine of Al Cristo. But the most romantic address, and more reasonably-priced, is the 150-year-old Locanda Castelvecchio, just opposite the city’s castle. Reserve a table in a cozy wood-paneled alcove and begin with a traditional Veneto “pasta e fagioli” soup; order a bottle of Amarone wine, then feast off the specialty roast meats served from a carvery trolley.
A romantic night out doesn’t have to mean a quiet dinner and Verona has a lively nightlife scene for those who want to party. Start the evening with a glass of sparkling Prosecco at Osteria Verona, a corner of the Piazza delle Erbe that has been reclaimed from touristy cafes as the hip rendezvous for the town’s beautiful people. Move on to the cool Art & Chocolate Gallery Bar, a designer lounge bar that doubles as an exhibition space and chocolatier. Finish the night at Studio 90, a cocktail bar with a dance club downstairs.