I first left Verona after high school. The city where I was born and raised was stifling me, I found it too provincial and, in any case, I wanted to see the world, discover new places, hear different languages, experience new cultures.
I returned to the city about ten years later. With a wealth of experience and a few more years behind me, I began to look at Verona with new eyes. I rediscovered it, as if I were seeing it for the first time, and I fell in love with it. I never left again.
From my small rented apartment near the cathedral, I walked every street, square, bridge and alley. I understood why the whole city center is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The Roman legacy is everywhere: in the excellently preserved Borsari and Leoni gates, in the open air ruins viewable from Via Cappello, in the Gavi Arch. The noble Della Scala family, which made Verona great in the Middle Ages, left sumptuous palaces, imposing tombs (the “Scaliger Arches”) and a fairytale castle in the heart of the city (Castel Vecchio).
Beyond the monuments, each building has its own unique style, from Gothic to Renaissance, including various combinations of styles, with decorated walls and occasional frescos. There are balconies that look like gardens.
Squares that are like paintings. I do feel a bit sorry for tourists who drop in to see the Arena or Juliet’s house and then leave for Venice or Milan. I’d like to tell them to explore the city and its many treasures because they don’t know what they’re missing!
And Verona is alive, much more than it seemed when I was little more than a teenager. The trendiest establishments sit cheek by jowl with taverns that haven’t so much as replaced a chair in fifty years.
There are streets where you can get lost in the crowd, just yards away from little havens of peace and tranquility. There are avenues lined with the biggest fashion brands, alongside craft shops and quaint little stores where you can saunter for hours.
Crossing the Ponte Pietra (“Stone bridge”) and climbing the steep steps to Castel San Pietro, between cypress trees and oleander bushes, beside the Roman theater, you can admire the city from above: surrounded by the Adige, with its geometric grid of streets, its countless bell towers sprouting like pinnacles, and the soaring Lamberti tower.
How can you fail to fall in love with a place like this? I’m biased, but for me Verona is the most beautiful city in the world.