Verona, Italia.

My 2012 European travels began in northern Italy, with a short visit to the cities of Verona and Venice. When initially planning my trip, I didn’t intend to visit northern Italy, as I had previously visited Venice and the lakes district with my parents in 2004. But I found a ridiculously cheap flight from Sydney to Milan, so I decided to spend a few days travelling overland through northern Italy towards Slovenia and Croatia (stay tuned for some of these photos – Slovenia & Croatia have to be one of the most beautiful placed in the world).

I arrived in Verona by train from Milan (trains to Verona Porta Nuova station depart Milano Centrale station every half hour and the trip takes approximately 1.5 hours). Don’t expect the trains to always arrive on time – Italy is notorious for its unreliable train network. But once you arrive at Verona Porta Nuova station, there are good bus connections to most parts of the city. Make sure you purchase your bus tickets at the newspaper kiosk inside the station, as tickets cannot be bought on the bus. I stayed at Ostello della Gioventu ‘Villa Franscescatti’  http://www.ostelloverona.it/ , a beautiful sixteenth century villa located on a hill overlooking the old town of Verona. To get there, take bus number 91 from platform D to Piazzo Isolo and then follow the signs to the hostel. At 18 euros per night, it’s probably the cheapest accommodation in Verona, and also perhaps the most basic. But the old villa, with its large and spacious dormitories is quaint and usually full of travellers, and being only a 10-15 minute walk from the historical centre, it’s difficult to fault this budget hostel.

Ok, so everyone should know Verona as the home of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. But there is a lot more to this small medieval city than a love story between two fictional characters. The majority of Verona’s attractions can be found in the historical centre, all within an easy walking distance of each other. If you’re strapped for time on your travels, spending a day or two in Verona is quite sufficient. I only spent a day in Verona and managed to see the major sights, as follow:

The Roman Arena: Built in the 1st century, this is the third largest arena in Italy. If you’re lucky enough to visit Verona in the summer, you can watch the Opera with up to 25,000 other people. To see what’s playing when, visit the Arena di Verona website: http://www.arena.it/

Juliet’s Balcony: Probably the biggest tourist attraction in Verona, this house was named Casa di Giulietta, ‘Juliet’s House’, by the Verona tourist board in a clever money-making and tourism boosting scheme. Beside admiring the beautiful Gothic architecture of this 13th century house, you can rub Juliet’s breast for good luck and write your name on the wall like thousands of others before you.

Basilica di San Zeno Maggiore: A beautiful Romanesque church, with a magnificent cloistered courtyard (have a squiz at some of the photos below). It’s a short walk out of the centre, and a little difficult to find without a map, so ask some of the locals to point you in the right direction.

Piazza delle Erbe: One of the many piazzas in Verona, this is perhaps the largest and most well-known (and most full of tourists). It has daily market stalls, where you can buy some fruit and vegetables, if you’re lucky to spot them between the mountains of souvenirs. If you love northern Italian architecture, this piazza is not to be missed. Those quaint little balconies and bottle green shutters – it’s picture-perfect and quintessentially Italian.

Lamberti Tower: You can climb this medieval bell tower, to what I’ve heard, is a spectacular view over Verona. I was sort of time, so I unfortunately, I didn’t climb to the top.

Castelvecchio: Don’t forget to spend a bit of time walking around and exploring this 14th century medieval complex. See the old castle, fortress and ramparts, not forgetting to walk across the bridge to the other side of the river.

Essentials:

Getting there:

The train system, although not always the most reliable, has good connections between cities in northern Italy. The Milan-Verona-Venice line is well-connected, with trains running frequently. Get off at Verona Porta Nuova station, then walk or catch a bus depending on how far your accommodation is, or how tired you are of carrying a backpack or dragging a suitcase.

Stay:

Budget – Ostello della Gioventu ‘Villa Franscescatti’  http://www.ostelloverona.it/ – a beautiful 16th century villa overlooking the historic centre. Eighteen euros for a dorm bed, and they don’t take bookings, however they promise to have a bed for everyone. There are a countless number of dorm rooms, so I suppose their promise is always kept. But I’m not too sure where they’d put you if they happen to be full…?

Splurge: There are countless hotels and bed & breakfasts in Verona, if dorms aren’t exactly your thing. And fair enough, a little pampering never goes astray.

Eat:

Pizza, pasta, gelato. You’re in Italia! Verona has a never-ending list of restaurants and gelaterias. But for the more authentic experience, try to stay away from some of the main piazzas and near the arena, where prices are high and tourists abound.

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