Just the mention of Verona
made me break out in a sweat. I’m a die-hard Italy fan, but I had never visited. And I never really wanted to. Why? Well I don’t like all that clichéd romantic stuff. Red roses, serenades, hand in hand street strolling? I’d rather hold an ice cream thanks.
But as the old saying goes, you often find love when you least expect it. And Verona soon wooed me. This northern Italian city is sublime – crammed with history, surprisingly inexpensive bars and restaurants, and so accessible and easy that even the most useless holidayer couldn’t mess up a weekend here. Sure, there’s some of that cheesy couple stuff, but if you want to avoid it, you definitely can – and it’s a hell of a lot cooler than neighbouring tourist-packed Venice. Verona, my friends, is surprisingly local.
Two things in Verona cost €2.50. The first thing is entry into one of the churches (and there are very many). The second thing is a large glass of Aperol Spritz
And so for two nights this Summer (as I warmed up for Billy Idol in Padova
) I Aperol Spritzed my way around the baking hot city. Eating, drinking, eating, drinking, admiring frescoes in churches (basically cooling off), followed by more eating and drinking. So here are a few of the places I liked.
Gelaterio Bar San Zeno
For those who asked, an Aperol Spritz is a refreshing combination of Aperol (a bright orange but bitter alcohol), topped with Prosecco, soda water and ice. This little cafe is a 15 minute walk from the main part of town, but you’ll be rewarded with a peaceful non-touristy square and fuss free outdoor seating, with locals enjoying an ice cream, aperitivo, and a natter. Buckets of Aperol Spritz (OK not buckets, the Italians are far more sophisticated) cost €2.50.
|Six Aperol Spritz will make you look a bit dozy too
Terrazza Bar “Al Ponte”
Stop here for a street-side spritz, or head through the bar to the riverside terrace at the back.
There aren’t many tables outside here, but if you see one, grab it for prime early evening people watching by Porta Borsari.
Pizzeria Du De Cope
This is a great little local place devoid of tourists, and churning out deliciously doughy, mozzarella smothered pizzas with a lively indoor or outdoor setting.
Run by a smiley little Italian couple who serve hearty Veronese cuisine and a mind-boggling selection of wine. At the end of the meal the husband might make you stand for 15 minutes admiring his truffles.
Head here after Juliet’s Balcony for hearty portions of pasta and parmigana.
I think all of the tourists who visit Verona are packed into this tiny courtyard, which might explain why the rest of the city is relatively peaceful in comparison. You’ll see the graffiti-scrawled wall as you enter, then the balcony, then loads of spotty teenagers groping Juliet’s breast (rubbing the bronze statue brings you luck in love, apparently). We reversed out pretty pronto and headed to Greppia (above) for some lunchtime vino.
This would be a peachy Springsteen concert venue. I think I’d opt for an acoustic set (as if I’m in the position to choose). Even without the concert this ancient marvel is staggering, although I’ve always had a thing for the Romans and their architecture. When opera season isn’t on, it stills demands a visit.
There’s gazillions. I think I managed to go in 90% (my favourite was San Zeno, pictured below). Buy one of the tickets allowing you entry into several of the main ones. The others are a couple of euros a time (the same price as an Aperol Spritz, remember).
|San Zeno Church
A converted Roman villa, Palazzo Victoria is a peaceful boutique option in the town centre. 13th century frescoes, bathtubs with vicious jets and hearty Italian breakfasts combine to create a lux but relaxed vibe.
It’s so easy to get to the city from the airport – I’m talking 15 minutes on a bus and you’re right there in the thick of it all.
In fact, the whole city is easy. And brilliant. So what’s stopping you?!