After catching the train from Venice we arrived mid-afternoon finding ourselves at a busy Verona train station. Using a printed map we found our helpfully central hotel after a 20 minute walk dragging our cases over the uneven marbled pavements. The receptionist was incredibly bubbly and pointed us to our first floor room. The twin room was above the hotel entrance but despite this and the central location is was quiet and provided everything you would expect; toiletries, mini-bar, an underpowered hairdryer and a spare pillow-just the one!
We left our heavy bags behind and headed out for some hearty Italian food. Piazza Bra is the main square in Verona housing restaurants, shops and the arena (a Roman amphitheatre, the 3rd largest in the world). All the food on show in the outdoor eating areas of the restaurants looked delicious. Finding it hard to pick somewhere to eat I was swayed by a restaurant named ‘hippopotamus’ that had a TV at the back providing updates of the Chelsea-Man Utd. match (4-0 if you’re wondering..). The menu was literally the biggest I’ve ever encountered and was much cheaper than we expected considering its location. After consuming Pizza, salad and a giant Fanta, a food coma ensued so we headed back to the hotel.
According to legend this whale bone hanging underneath the arch will fall on the first truthful person to walk under. Needless to say it’s still there, despite both me and previous Popes having walked below..
For our first full day in Verona we decided to see as much of the very walkable city as possible. We decided to follow a route mapped out by our bubbly receptionist which takes in all the main tourists sites and some magnificent architecture off the beaten track. The route followed the river and led us to a church, a Basilica, over a bridge dating back to 1354 and to an Amsterdam inspired chip shop with a choice of 12 Mayonnaise based sauces..
The walk led us to San Zeno square around 2 miles out of town with empty cafes and shops surrounding it. It seems not many people veer out of the centre and choose to stay with the shops and restaurants in the Piazza Bra area. But boy are they are missing out, for at this square I had the best/most sickly hot chocolate I’ve ever tasted.
Heading back to the buzz of the Piazzas we stumbled upon the entrance to the courtyard below ‘Juliet’s balcony’ which it has been said inspired Shakespeare. As it was a weekday evening the square was relatively quiet and we got a good view of both the balcony and statue. Unless you are a huge Romeo & Juliet/Shakespeare fan I would suggest just a couple of minutes is enough to take in the square and balcony especially during the day when it’s extremely busy. After walking all day and taking in the impressive and photogenic architecture we had an early night in preparation of our early start to see Lake Garda the next morning.
Verona is 40km bus or train ride away from Sirmione, a lakeside town on Garda. As we arrived fog covered the towns pastel colours, bridges and mountains surrounding the lake. But this didn’t prevent the beauty from seeping through. The water was clear and calm and the people were bright and happy. The town is located on a peninsula so it’s surrounded on both sides by water. The streets themselves are a maze and only just wide enough for a car. Among the weaving streets and lanes there’s hundreds of independent shops and restaurants with every one seemingly serving local ice-cream (not complaining).
Even without any sign of the sun it was a brilliant day wondering around the foggy shoreline and looking (and buying) the local goods. After a good couple of hours of walking around the town, taking in all the views, photographing the best bits and consuming yes, more pizza we jumped on the hour long bus back to Verona.
Planning on having a last wander before leaving the next day we were greeted with the biggest rainfall I’ve ever experienced. So drenched were we by the time we got from the bus to our hotel a pair of shoes were unsaveable and ended up in the bin!
Despite the loss of shoes I loved my time in Verona, although a whole day is enough to see the main sights you still want to go back to experience the buzz of the Piazzas, the pastry shops and the charming customer service in the restaurants.