We start our journey to get to know Verona from Piazza Brà, embraced on the south side by the medieval walls and the Portoni della Brà from the Visconti era. Our eyes can roam between the Roman Arena and the Hapsburg Palace of the Gran Guardia that is right in front of us, browsing over the Liston, a long and colorful succession of palaces and noble residences, and following perspective toward Castelvecchio. It is a journey through millennia of history and cultures overlapped in a harmonious contrast of styles, architectures and colours.
Walking along the medieval walls toward the east, we get to the beginning of Stradone Maffei and its continuation, Stradone San Fermo. It is a wide and majestic street, lined with buildings that, while maintaining an understated elegance, give a cheerful and colorful feeling.
Walking along we cannot help but notice the Church of San Fermo: an imposing building whose façade, completed in 1350, is a wonderful example of the Romanesque that blends into the Gothic. It is actually two churches built in layers: the upper basilica with a single and magnificent nave with a splendid polychrome wooden ceiling in the shape of an overturned ship’s hull, and the small lower church, with low ceilings supported by columns, whose construction began in 1065. It is a very marked contrast of styles and emotions which will stay with you for a long time…
Before leaving, turn your gaze to the cloister beside the churchyard, the headquarters of the Superintendent of Fine Arts.
In the location where in Roman times we could find the Cardo, one of the two main streets that characterized all Roman settlements, today we find, in succession, Via Leoni and Via Cappello.
Near Corticella Leoni we can see the remains of the Porta dei Leoni, which was one of the access gates to the city, clinging to a building from a later era. A few decades ago, during road works, the foundations of the main body of the door was unearthed together with the base of one of the two circular towers that protected it from the outside; those remains and other contemporary ruins are visible right in the middle of the street, since then closed to vehicle traffic.
Further on, at number 23 of Via Cappello, which takes its name from the Capulet family, there are Juliet’s house and the famous Balcony.
Feel like shopping? On the left we can find Via Mazzini, the first pedestrian-only street in Verona, which has been dedicated exclusively to fashion and shopping for nearly a century.
If we keep moving straight we find ourselves in front of the cheerful and festive grandeur of Piazza Erbe, home to the market since ancient times. In the background stands the lavish Palazzo Maffei and in the centre we find the fountain of Madonna Verona; the Domus Mercatorum and the sumptuously frescoed Mazzanti houses that stand at its sides.
From here, by walking under the arch of the Costa – which takes its name from the bone thought to be of a whale or perhaps an ichthyosaur, that has been hanging there for at least four centuries – we enter the Piazza dei Signori complex. The Domus Nova, the Palazzo Scaligeri, the Palazzo della Ragione, the Loggia del Consiglio, the Palazzo del Capitano buildings follow one another and surround the squares and courtyards in a harmonious alternation of periods and styles, in the shadow of the Torre dei Lamberti tower. The complex of Scaliger buildings is completed by the Arche Scaligere, a very delicate testimony of the purest Italian Gothic style. The Tombs are in turn joined to the church of Santa Maria Antica with an admirable contrast of style and volumes, which enhances the proportions and purity of both.
A few steps away we can find what tradition says was the House of Romeo Montague.
Heading towards Piazza Viviani and Piazza Independenza we encounter a green space which is what remains of the gardens of the Scaliger palaces and the two centenary ginkgo biloba (maiden hair) trees that dominate it become a breathtaking spectacle in the Fall.
Crossing Piazzetta Pescheria, full of sunshine and colour, we get to Via Sottoriva with its low and shady porticoes, and reach the basilica of Sant’Anastasia: the largest church in Verona and a fine example of Gothic. A visit to its interior cannot be missed.
A very short and pleasant walk leads to Piazzetta Brà Molinari; until the turn of the 19th century, on this part of the Adige river there were many mills on barges mainly for grinding cereals, a thriving business which ceased with the construction of the embankments following the tremendous flood of the Adige in 1882. From here we can admire the Ponte Pietra (1st century BC), the Roman Theatre and the church of Santi Siro and Libera, dominated by the coarse brick Castel San Pietro Hapsburg castle.
From Castel San Pietro we can enjoy one of the most beautiful views of Verona; you may get there by car, or by climbing a flight of steps suitable only to the most athletic but which gives you picturesque views that cannot be reached by any other means.
After crossing the Ponte Pietra and Piazza Broilo with its elegant buildings, we arrive next to the Duomo: it is another excellent architectural complex that should not be missed and which includes, in addition to the Cathedral itself, the paleo-Christian churches that had previously been constructed there, the pleasant and green cloister, and the Museo Canonicale museum.
Retracing our steps towards Piazza Erbe, it is pleasant to wander aimlessly through the narrow streets of this ancient and picturesque neighbourhood, lined with mansions, modest houses, high walls behind which we can see leafy canopies, balconies and terraces, courtyards and Roman remains (Via Pigna).
After returning to Piazza Erbe take Corso Porta Borsari; you cannot miss it: its backdrop is the silhouette of the most impressive and best preserved Roman Arch of Verona. Corso Porta Borsari is outlined by stores, shops, boutiques, patisseries but also beautiful buildings and unique views. If you have time, always try to explore the side streets… you will not regret it!
Corso Porta Borsari continues along Corso Cavour, flanked by sumptuous aristocratic residences. About halfway down, a little hidden and basically right across from one other, we can find the church of Sante Teuteria e Tosca, one of the oldest sacred buildings of Verona that was built in the 5th century, and the Romanesque church of San Lorenzo. If you are in a romantic mood, take a walk down the short but fascinating detour that will take you to the banks of the Adige, right on the other side of the church of San Lorenzo, (Riva San Lorenzo).
Corso Cavour ends by becoming wider and giving us a beautiful view over the Adige, right behind the Arco dei Gavi arch.
A few steps from the latter, Castelvecchio is an imposing medieval castle built by the Scaliger family at the end of their rule. Severely damaged during World War II, between 1958 and 1974 it underwent a careful and modern renovation by the famous architect Carlo Scarpa, and it is one of his greatest and best preserved works. The homonymous crenellated bridge is also part of the architectural complex.
The church of San Zeno can be reached by a striking walk along a raised walkway along the Adige (Regaste San Zeno) and it is the last on the list, but certainly not in importance or value. A Romanesque Basilica with the purest lines and an unsurpassable elegance, it contains artistic and architectural gems of rare grace and beauty. Enjoy it at sunset, when the sun gives a rosy glow to the white façade, and preserve this wonderful view… until your next visit to Verona.