After you’ve visited the art cities in Italy, return travelers have a few great options for other areas to explore. One of our favorite areas is the Lakes region, in the northern region of Lombardia, the next region we are highlighting in our “Italy in 5 trips” blog series. Arriving to this area is easy with Milan Malpensa airport being a major gateway with many nonstop flights from the US.
This month, I headed to the Veneto, the region surrounding Venice, for the Buy Venice show, an excellent place to find stunning, artisanally-made Italian products.
While I have certainly found many new items for my “Things I Love” column in the newsletter, especially these Le Furlane hand-made slippers sold under the Rialto, I have to tell you about something even better than a new pair of earrings or gourmet food to tuck in your luggage:
The Real City of Love
Instead of Venice, get away from all the crowds in Verona. It’s only 1:15 away from Venice by train.
Though romantics flock to Venice for its canals, labyrinthine streets, and myths of Casanova, affluent Verona was the backdrop for one of the world’s greatest love stories, Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet.
Try to visit when there is a performance in the Roman Amphitheatre, which was built in 30 AD and remains one of the best preserved Roman structures in the world. All summer, modern renditions of classic operas take place in candlelight in the amphitheater.
What Can You Do in Verona?
During my visit, we rented bicycles through the newly installed bike share program, which allows you to see the whole city, including crossing the Roman bridge on the Adige River many times, for only two euros for two hours.
It’s a great way to get to the cloister and 11th-century church of San Zeno, typically only reachable by car.
The city is predominately flat, so cycling is the perfect way to see it. (Be warned: they’ll put a EU 300 hold on your credit card.)
Beyond Venice, there are many enticing day trips from Verona:
- the Valpolicella wineries, where wine has been produced since Ancient Greeks settled the area
- Lake Garda, Italy’s largest lake
- Bolzano, capital of the German-Italian culture mélange that is the Alto Adige
- the 10th-century Soave Castle
- the UNESCO World Heritage Palladian Villas
To be honest, “Juliet’s balcony,” which is not necessarily the real balcony of the real Juliet (if there was one), was far from the highlight of the trip. If you go, avoid it or go late at night, after the graffiti-writing teens have all gone home, to give the breast of the bronze statue of Giulette the customary good luck rub.
Indulge Yourself in Verona
We spoiled ourselves at Al Desco, one of Italy’s famous top dinning experiences.
If you go, be prepared to pay for that spot on service and millefoglie baccala mantecato. The decor is stylish, as was the clientele. Not an American was in the room.
There are many hotels worth mentioning, and we will do so in a future newsletter, but for now we focus on The Gentlemen of Verona Relais.
This discreet but seductively luxurious boutique hotel on an side street not far from the Arena opened two months ago. The spacious and stylish rooms have all the modern comforts. Contact us for booking details.
Plan a few days in Verona. You’ll be glad you did.