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14th century Castelvecchio was severely damaged during WWII, but its museum now houses a remarkably diverse collection of items from the Renaissance.

Falling in Love with the Province of Verona

The Province of Verona is located in the southwestern Veneto region of Italy and is most famous for its namesake capital. The city of Verona is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and retains a sophisticated atmosphere coupled with a strong bond to its glorious past. It is often thought of as the city of love, based on Shakespeare’s play “Romeo and Juliet,” but the Bard must have liked what he heard about the city because he also set scenes from the play “The Two Gentlemen of Verona” there.

Due to its important role in history, the province boasts of a large number of castles, towers, hermitages, monasteries, sanctuaries and old Romanesque parishes. The area of Valpolicella is world famous for its outstanding wines and Europe’s biggest natural bridge, Ponte di Veja, with a span of 164 feet, is located in the province.

One of the oldest structures in the city of Verona is the Roman amphitheater in Piazza Bra. Built in the first century, it is still in use today and is internationally famous for the large-scale opera performances and concerts by popular entertainers. It is one of the best preserved ancient structures of its kind and the third largest Roman amphitheater in Italy. In ancient times, nearly 30,000 people might be crowded into the venue. Today the maximum attendance is 15,000 people.

In the center of the city and originally a Roman forum, Piazza delle Erbe is ringed with buzzing cafes and some of Verona’s most sumptuous buildings, including the elegantly Baroque Palazzo Maffei, which now houses several shops at its northern end. If you lived in Verona during the Middle Ages, you would have seen the city dotted with tall towers which were residences of the wealthy and powerful noble families; today, only a few remain. Piazza delle Erbe is dominated by the tallest of Verona’s towers, the Torre dei Lamberti, built by the powerful Veronese family in 1172. The tower houses two famous bells, the Rengo and the Marangona. Where the latter was rung to mark the end of the workday, Rengo was usually only rung for emergencies and during funerals for important citizens of town. Today visitors are only permitted to scale two-thirds its height, but still, the view of the city from the tower is spectacular.

Near the Adige River, remarkable buildings from the Roman and Scaliger periods mark the most influential historical eras for the city: the fortress of Castelvecchio, now site of the Modern Art Museum; the Scaliger Bridge, an outstanding example of medieval architecture and the Scaliger Arches, superb tombs built for the Lords of Verona.

Castelvecchio was built in the 1350s by Cangrande II of the ruling Scala family. Severely damaged over the centuries, most recently by bombings during WWII, Castelvecchio has seen its own renaissance. Today the entire complex is home to a diverse collection of statuary, frescoes, jewelry, medieval artifacts and paintings. Once done viewing the art work, including the original statue for the tomb of Cangrande I, venture out onto the ramparts for views of the river and old city defenses.

For anyone in love, it is obligatory to visit Casa di Giulietta. As testified by the coat of arms on the archway of the court-yard, the house belonged to the Cappelletti family. The building dates back to the 13th century, but was extensively renovated in the last century and features the balcony where Romeo promised his beloved Juliet eternal love in Shakespeare’s famous tragedy. Young couples are still moved by the sight of this house and unmarried girls touch Juliet’s statue in the hopes of finding the love of their life. The interior of the house can be visited and you can stand on Juliet’s balcony and admire the furniture and the beautiful velvet costumes worn by the actors in the Zeffirelli’s “Romeo and Juliet.”

Piazza dei Signori called “the living room of Verona,” is also known as Piazza Dante. From this square you can admire many of the beautiful city’s palaces: the Palazzo della Ragione, Cortile Mercato Vecchio, Palazzo del Capitano, Palazzo del Governo, the Loggia del Consiglio and the Domus Nova. Right next to the piazza are the Scaliger Tombs, built by the Della Scala family, who ruled over the city between the 13th and the 14th centuries.

The artistic treasures of Verona are not limited to just the city; sumptuous villas and imposing castles line the banks of Lake Garda and the plains of the Verona area are dotted with buildings from the Scaliger era, such as the Bevilacqua and Villafranca Castles. The Valpolicella area is known for its Palladian villas – many of which are now important wine-producing establishments.

In the town of Soave, a few miles east of Verona, sits Soave Castle, built in the 10th century to protect the area against the Huns. In 1365, town walls were erected and in 1830, the entire structure was restored. The castle, with its 24 towers, battlements and living quarters now serves as a back-drop for medieval pageants and cultural events, as well as wine tastings and tours of the surrounding vineyards.

At the edge of the province sits Lake Garda, the largest lake in Italy. Situated roughly halfway between Verona and Brescia, on the edge of the Dolomites, glaciers formed the lake at the end of the last Ice Age. The ancient fortified town of Sirmione, located on the south of the lake, is a popular destination for tourists, particularly for thermal spas that have been used since the time of the Romans. It is also home to the picturesque Scaliger castle that dates from the 13th century.

On the northern bank of the lake lies the astonishing landscape of Mount Baldo, accessible by a unique funicular. It has a rotating car that makes it possible to admire 360 degrees of breathtaking scenery. Built into the vertical cliff face of Mount Baldo sits the Santuario Madonna della Corona (Sanctuary of the Lady of the Crown). The church, completed in 1530, sits on a thin rock shelf that can only be reached by a narrow path. Originally home to a hermitage where holy men came for silent reflection, it is a popular pilgrimage site for visitors who come see its many sculptures in white Carrara marble and the Scala Santa, a replica of the scale that was used to weigh Jesus before he was crucified. One can only marvel at the skill and ingenuity that it took for the church to be constructed, but when it comes to Verona, nothing should come as a surprise for visitors to this remarkable province.