Verona

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A sixteenth century scholar once wrote that to know Verona is to love her. In fact, there are many reasons to fall in love with this city once you have got to know her. Her links with Shakespeare's timeless love story of Romeo and Juliet is the prime reason to admire her. As you walk through the streets or underneath the balconies of the houses of the two ill-fated lovers, you can't help feeling passionate emotions yourself. However, Verona is also the city of the Arena (one of the largest opera houses), nature parks and the Adige river that encircles it; not only that, but the city's gastronomic delights are world renowned.

The historic centre of Verona is surrounded by walls (around 10km in length) which were erected on the orders of the Scaligeri family. The city is divided into four different zones: the ancient city, with its Roman remains, the Cittadella zone which stretches southwards, San Zeno where you can see the splendid cathedral, and finally the Veronetta a with origins in the Early Middle Ages.

Centro storico: - Every tourist winds up in Piazza Bra. Trains terminate here and cars tend to park around here. Piazza Bra is dominated by the Arena, where it is possible to enjoy opera productions during the summer. It is impossible not to be charmed by the majesty of the Arena, the third-largest remaining Roman amphitheatre. It is also worth noting that in Via Pallone (just outside Piazza Bra), you will find Museo degli affreschi and Juliet's tomb.

The piazza is also home to the Palazzo della Gran Guardia, and the Gran Guardia Nuova, from there you can head towards the embankment of the Adige and reach Corso Cavour. Two of the most important Veronese monuments are located here: Sanmicheli's Palazzo Canossa, and the Romanesque church of S. Lorenzo and the Palazzo Bevilacqua, (an unfinished masterpiece by Sanmicheliano). From here, you can cross the Porta Borsari, the main entrance to the Roman city and continue along the road of the same name until you reach Piazza delle Erbe. Via Cappello leads out from the piazza and at no. 23 you will find casa di Giulietta (the house of Juliet Capulet. A walk along the prestigious Via Mazzini is a must, it is home to the chicest shops: from the elegant Gucci to the leather goods of the magnificent Furla.

Cittadella: - The economic centre of the city lies in Piazza delle Erbe. It is crowded with multi-coloured stalls; this is also quite a prestigious area, with its famous shops that face the square (Boutique Lacoste, Valextra and Swatch, to name but a few)

The piazza is filled with buildings of historical interest, such as Palazzo Maffei and the Case Mazzanti. Piazza dei Signori is the political and administrative heart of Verona, the Palazzo del Comune, the Capitanio, the Prefettura and also the Loggia del Consiglio. The Arche Scaligere, in the Sotto Riva alley, these face the magnificent church of S. Anastasia and further on you will see the city's, Duomo or Cathedral. The main road Arcidiacono Pacifico leads to the late neoclassical Palazzo Miniscalchi, headquarters of the foundation of the same name.

San Zeno: - This area is home to the world famous S. Zeno church, you definitely need to visit this quartiere, if only to see the church with its famous porch and triptych by Mantegna.

Returning towards the centre, following the Adige river, the Ponte Scaligero, faces Castelvecchio, the headquarters of the Civic art museum.

Veronetta: - This zone faces the left bank of the river; it is here that you will see the Ponte Pietra (stone bridge) and the Teatro romano where you can enjoy the summer season of prose.

Finding yourself once again along the city's embankments, you can drink in the sights of S. Giorgio in Braida built for the Benedictines and finished by Sanmicheli. Or if you follow the road that leads to Porta Vescovo, you'll behold the splendid Giardini Giusti. Verona is definitely a city of beauty and culture.

History of Verona

This wonderful city along the Adige river, at the foot of the Lessini Mountains (today a National Park) has been the site of various human settlements for the past 300,000 years. Stone was used as one of the principle natural resources by these early settlers, who began working with materials other than flint. They fashioned numerous objects ' from instruments for use in daily life to religious artefacts.

At the time when the region was first touched by Roman civilisation, it was probably inhabited by Celts. The Emperor reinforced the city's defences with strong city walls. Extraordinary monuments were built and the urban structure began to take shape ' it was an interesting mix of the Medieval and the modern.

Over the years, Verona became a very important city due to its geographical location (even today, it is an important industrial and commercial gateway to the north and the centre of Italy) and its port provided access to northern Europe. For this reason, it became one of the most highly developed urban centres in Italy.

After the succesive barbarian invasions between the fifth and the tenth century, Veron was finally made a Free City at the beginning of the thirteenth century - after a long struggle against Frederico Barbarossa, it came under the rule of the Scala family in 1260. It was the Scala family who transformed it into one of the most important kingdoms of the time. It took in most of the Veneto, as well as the large regions of Emilia and Tuscany and was dotted with magnificent buildings and works of art.

In 1405, it became part of the Venetian Republic. In 1796, it was occupied for six months by Napoleonic troops. By 1801, it had been successfully divided up by the French and the Austrians, and it was definitively annexed by the Hapsburg Empire in 1814.

During the nineteenth century, Verona took on an important administrative and military role. The city's defences were reorganised and strengthened: Verona became the principle stronghold of the 'Quadrilateral' (the other three being Mantua, Peschiera and Legnano) which became the pivotal point of the Lombardy-Veneto defence structure during the War of Independence. The province of Verona officially became part of the Kingdom of Italy in 1866.

There are several artistic spots to visit around the city ' the following are a few which are not to be missed: the Piazza dei Signori, which is a truly beautiful sight, flanked by the Palazzo del Comune with its neo-classical façade; the imposing Medieval Torre dei Lamberti (83 metres high); the Palazzo Tribunale, or Palazzo del Capitanio, a Scaligieri palace with a characteristically angular tower (the Scaligeri ruled Verona from 1260 to 1387); the Loggia del Consiglio (a splendid example of Veronese Renaissance architecture) and the 'Duomo' (cathedral). This was built in the twelfth century, on the site of an early-Medieval church. It underwent many renovations between the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. The façade successfully blends Roman and Gothic architectural elements. Its gateway and Roman entrance hall are beautiful. The interior is Gothic and houses many priceless artistic treasures including an altar-piece by Tiziano depicting The Assumption (1535), which is in the first chapel on the left.

The Palazzo Pompeii (now home to a museum of natural history) was designed by the architect Sammicheli. In fact, Sammicheli's work is also visible throughout the city as, he was respnsible for its complete restructuring.

The Piazza delle Erbe (once the site of an ancient Roman forum) is characterised by monuments dating back to various periods which stand opposite the market. It is also home to the Arena - one of Verona's most famous monuments. It was built in the first century A.D. and has been expertly preserved, thus making it one of the world's most evocative and important operatic theatres. The interior is elliptical and measures 44.43m X 73.58.

The Castelvecchio is a splendid example of military architecture. It was built towards the end of the fourteenth century, when the nobility began to doubt the allegiance of the city.

Last but not least, is Juliet's House,- where Shakespeare's heroine was said to have lived. It is now a place of pilgrimage for many star-crossed lovers.

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