Let me start this by saying “Guiletta, if you are reading this, I still haven’t gotten my reply and I am in desperate need of some advice as my love life is a shambles/non existant.”
Now that’s out of the way, I can happily say there is actually so much more to Verona than Juliet’s balcony. Verona is conveniently located from 116km (about an hour) from Venice, from Milan, 163km (about 2hrs), 144km (90 mins) from Bologna and 234km (about 2 1/2 hours) from Florence making it an ideal place to stop for a few days in between the ‘big cities’ or if you’re stretched for time (or meant to be studying for an Italian exam as I was) a day trip. It is easily accessible by train from all the aforementioned cities and depending on your budget you can get a cheap, slow regional train or an expensive but quick intercity express. Being poor students we opted for the slow but cheap option, but this gave us plenty of time to write our letters to Juliet, contemplate our love life and as always stare out the window at the beautiful Italian countryside. Unfortunately the train station is not in the centre but there are plenty of buses right outside the station that will take you into the centre for a few euros. Otherwise it’s about a 20 min minute walk.
Unfortunately the weather was unkind to me on my day trip to Verona; it was freezing cold and bucketed down the entire day. I didn’t get to do everything I wanted to do but nevertheless I still found it a beautiful city.
Although Rome’s Colosseum is bigger and more spectacular, Verona’s does deserve credit. For about €3 you can enter the amphitheatre (when it is not Opera season). We wandered around the underground tunnels pretending to be gladiators and opera singers but despite being undercover, these tunnels still had giant puddles and water dripping down the walls.
Combined with the dim lighting it gave it a really eerie atmosphere. Every few meters, there are steep staircases to get up into the arena itself. Of course, due to the weather, this meant walking under a waterfall, as the water cascaded over the edge, but it was worth it.
Unfortunately you can’t go onto the sand, but you can climb the steep steps to get right up the top to get a great view of the arena and if you turn around and look out the rampants onto the piazza outside.
June – August is opera season and in 2015 there is the Opera Festival. You can view the program here. Going to an opera here is definitely on my bucket list!
Main Street: Via Mazzini
Piazza Bra separates the Arena from the main street. Via Mazzini Is full of beautiful Italian boutiques that are well out of my price range, little cafes and gelatarias. My favourite thing about Italian main streets is their atmosphere. I absolutely love the old facades of the shops, the flowers and washing hanging out the balconies above them, the lively chatter coming from the bars, the gorgeous, chic shop assistants and the lively chatter, hugs, kisses and arguments at lunch time and passiagiata. You can be a tourist at the main attractions but it’s so nice to blend in and soak up the atmosphere whilst pretending to be a local on the main streets.
Yes, finally, the part you’ve all been waiting for. One of the main reasons Verona is on the map is because of Juliet’s balcony. What can I say? In a nutshell it is tacky and the furthest thing from romantic. To start with I don’t think Romeo and Juliet’s story us anything to aspire to. He is flighty and a classical man whore in my opinion and as for her, why do we wish to seek advice from someone who didn’t even get a happy ending with her true love?
The walls in the little tunnel into her courtyard are covered with plaster so you can with scrawl your love messages and engrave you and your lover’s initials in hearts without damaging the actual walls.
Once in the courtyard, you have the statue of Juliet next to a wall with love locks, to the left of this a tacky souvenir shop and embroidery shop and to the right her balcony.
Remember my love for tacky souvenirs? Well, believe me I was so tempted to buy so many tacky souvenirs and I vow to come back with my boyfriend/lover/husband one day and buy this apron.
I lined up with my friends in the pouring rain to touch her boob and got my picture to prove it. You have to be quick here, as there seems to be no regard for waiting patiently, everyone just pounces on poor Juliet the minute someone releases their hand from her breast. I have to admit, whilst I stood here, I did secretly hope this ritual would bring me a spunky Italian man.
Next step was to head up to the famous balcony. Entrance into Casa di Giuletta is €6 or you can buy a combined pass for the casa and tomba (house and tomb). Again, we became extremely snap happy and tried to get as many corny pictures as possible before being hurried away by more star-crossed lovers and hopefuls behind us. The best moment was seeing a stunning couple pose countless times on the balcony; they looked simultaneously so in love and so fake in all of their photos! In the collage below you can see me smiling in joy, posing as I wait for my man to arrive, staring into the distance thinking of my new lover and being proposed to by my housemate (Lucky me! Rubbing the boob does pay off!!)
We explored all the different rooms in the old house before finally getting to the letter room. I was crushed to see I had to put it in a post box instead of sticking it in a hole in the wall (ok, maybe I have watched Letters to Juliet a few times)! Next to the post box there was even a row of computers where you could email her. I’m sorry call me old fashioned but seriously, emails?! No thank you!
Piazza delle Erbe:
All this soul searching, wishful dreaming of our lovers across the sea and longing for them to be in our arms had left us hungry! When you exit the house and courtyard, if you turn right and walk along the street you will get to Piazza delle Erbe . There are lots of cute restaurants here (many offering deals for couples). Eventually we were persuaded into one by an eager, charming waiter (although let’s be honest here, we are in Italy, every waiter is like this!) and we won him over in return by speaking our broken Italian back at him!
After a yummy Italian lunch and a respite from the weather, we headed back onto the piazza. There was a little market that we explored and normally I would have taken more time to appreciate the architecture and the statues and you guessed it, climb the tower, but the weather was simply atrocious.
Tomba di Giulietta:
Instead we decided to slowly make our way back to the train station going past Juliet’s tomb. We got horribly lost on the way here and had to stop for directions countless times. Eventually we followed a Contiki bus in the hope it would lead us there. It did, and luckily, it just stopped outside the museum and no one got of the bus. Yippee! Private tomb viewing for us!
Juliet’s tomb is in a crypt beneath the convent of San Francesco al Corso, which also doubles as a fresco museum.We did have a look around the museum and admire the predominately medieval artwork, before heading down into the crypt. Of course the opportunity was too good to pass up and we did re-enact the final scene from Romeo and Juliet.
Verona is a really beautiful city and I really wished I’d had more time to explore. My advice would be to stay at least 1 night and 2 days here or even more as it is a great place to head off to explore Lake . It is definitely worth a visit and has much more to offer than the lure of Juliet’s balcony.
P.S. Juliet, I’m still waiting.
PPS. Why did you reply to my friend who posted her letter the same day as me and not to me?