Stepping out to sunny skies, we were on a mission to see as much of this stunning city as possible on our only full day in Verona. We made our way straight to Verona Castle, just a short walk from the main square and our hotel. On arrival, I was so glad I’d charged my camera the night before – if everything in this city was going to be as picturesque as the castle I was going to need all the battery I could get.
As the first stop of the day, we bought 24 hour Verona cards, which meant we’d have free entry to a number of the sights, hopefully saving us a tidy sum! First on the list, free entry to the castle. We wandered the grounds and through the museum section, though confusion struck when we walked past paintings of Jesus, Mary, more Jesus, religious scene, yet more Jesus and Mary, bowl of meat, religious scene, more religious scenes… There was a definite theme of the museum, which is only to be expected. However, there were a few…random pieces, which didn’t quite fit. One of these being a painting of a bowl of meat, another a stack of white paper that looked like it had been run over by a motorbike. Not sure what the deal was, but we had to move on as time was not on our side.
After taking just a few photos of the stunning building and even prettier views of the river, we moved on to the Roman theatre on the other side of the river. En route, we spotted a church that we’d seen the evening before – Basilica di Santa Anastasia – and being a lover of churches I had to stop in. Although not much to look at from outside, it was on the list of free entrance places with our card so we really had nothing but time to lose. Stepping inside, I couldn’t believe the contrast to the exterior. I’ve seen a lot of different churches in a number of different cities, but this was definitely up there on the pretty list. Quietly thanking my colleague who suggested Verona as a stop on our trip, we had a look around before moving on to the Roman theatre.
December isn’t a prime time for tourists in Europe, especially when you move away from the Christmas market cities. And as we made our way into the Roman theatre – another free entry with the cards – there was no-one else around but a few kids on a school trip. This place is also the Archaeological Museum, though we only looked around the theatre due to time. Built into a hill, there are great views over the city from higher up, and after accidentally photobombing the school kids’ mannequin challenge we moved on again to the Duomo.
I thought we couldn’t be wowed much more than at Basilica di Santa Anastasia, but after entering through the very modest entrance at the Duomo I couldn’t believe how stunning the cathedral was. And another winter travel perk – we were the only people in the cathedral for the majority of our visit! There is not only the main cathedral in this place, but also two smaller places of worship. One is accessible through a super skinny door that’ll make you wish you hadn’t had that extra croissant for breakfast, and the other has an open floor section giving a view of the foundations of the church. Both are great additions to the main cathedral and really interesting to see too!
By this point in the day, the sun was starting to set and we had just two things left on our must-see list for the day – the Arena and Torre dei Lamberti. As the Arena was closest to our hotel, it made sense to visit Torre dei Lamberti first. Although we had a bit of trouble finding the entrance to the tower, we finally made our way in, paid the €1 for the lift that saved us climbing the 368 steps and made our way to the top for the best views the city could offer.
My love for Verona and Italy in general had already been firmly established by this point, but the views of the city as the sun began to set were just amazing. The only thing which put any kind of dampner on the experience was the sign warning that the bell chimed every half an hour. As it was getting close to chime time, and the bell was very close to us, I started to worry that I was going to either be deafened or it’d make me jump so much I’d fall over. To combat this, I attempted to wrap my scarf around my ears, not giving a care in the world what people thought of me. As the time for chime came, it was much quieter than I’d anticipated. Turns out, the bell that chimes is further up the tower, and was nothing more than a background noise. Felt a bit silly about the scarf now, so quickly readjusted and made a move for the Arena before darkness fell.
The Arena was the one thing I’d wanted to do in Verona, and I was not disappointed. We’d timed it perfectly to see it in the daylight, sunset and night. Climbing all the way to the top and being able to walk around mostly uninterrupted, I was happy to ignore the cold to be able to appreciate the lack of other tourists. As a man began to sing on the other side of the arena, I couldn’t believe how the sound travelled, and can only imagine how amazing it must be when concerts are held there.
After a good look around and learning a bit about the history, it was time for our last Italian dinner before setting off tomorrow for Germany. Off to a nearby restaurant for a delicious plate of spaghetti, before finishing it off with a Fritelle (big, flat doughnut-like dessert) covered in sugar and caramel from the Christmas market. Back to the hotel to pack our bags, try to find a hotel for our time in Iceland a week later and an early night – we were off to Munich tomorrow!