Our favourite things to do in Verona on a day trip from Venice. From the Roman Arena to Juliet’s balcony there’s plenty to see on a walk around this beautiful medieval city in northern Italy. It’s easy to reach by train and was a great add-on to a city break to Venice with teens
Who went, where and when: My sons Nicholas 16 and Edward 14, and I flew Easyjet from London Gatwick to Venice Marco Polo in Italy, October 2013. Post updated April 2018
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Things to do in Verona
After two full days of walking and sightseeing in Venice we woke to rainy-looking clouds and decided to go out of town. So we caught a train to Verona and spent a blue-sky day in the sun just an hour away.
Verona is a small city and very walkable. We caught a bus from the railway station to the Arena which took just five minutes. The Arena is a Roman amphitheatre nearly 2,000 years old right in the middle of Verona.
We jumped off the bus by the Arena which overlooks buzzy and colourful Piazza Bra. It’s a great spot to linger with an ice-cream and admire the amphitheatre.
From Piazza Bra we set off up ancient Via Mazzini with its incredibly tempting designer stores (the boys weren’t interested, I’d have loved to spend longer) to Piazza delle Erbe, the ‘square of herbs’. This has been a market almost since Roman times but disappointingly the stalls were full of touristy bits and pieces on the day we visited. We stopped to admire the wonderful painted frescoes on the walls of the houses around the square then kept on walking in search of lunch.
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We bypassed several touristy options until, in a quiet street, we found a lovely old-established joint with dark wood panelling and a glass case full of tramezzini. We ate lasagna with artichokes, Bolognese and tiramisu, sitting alongside dapper local businessmen and couples. I’ve checked online recently and it still get great reviews. Osteria Caffe Monte Baldo, Via Rosa 12. (The loo was the first hole in the ground we’d encountered that week – but that may have changed by now!)
Walk the historic centre of Verona
After lunch we rambled on and paused for thought with Dante. The poet arrived in Verona in 1312 and stayed for a few years. You’ll find him in Piazza dei Signori just a few steps from Piazza delle Erbe.
Hotels in Verona
Thinking of spending a night or two in Verona? Here’s a selection of hotels and apartments from Booking.com You can set the filters you prefer then scroll through images, descriptions and reviews to find the accommodation that suits you best.
But we completely missed a trick here. Visitors can go to the top via a lift and stairs for spectacular views of the Alps. The tower is at the corner of the courtyard of Palazzo della Ragione which was once a law court and has a beautiful Renaissance external staircase. This is well worth doing but we missed it. Walked right past. Oh well, next time.
But we did come across an archeological excavation in the middle of the road.
Apparently it’s an on-going investigation of the remains of a Roman gateway to the city. You can see it on Via Cappello on the way to a famous celebrity home….
Juliet’s balcony Verona
According to legend and Shakespeare this is where Romeo wooed Juliet. Sadly it’s doubtful whether Romeo, Juliet or Shakespeare ever set foot in Verona but the eponymous balcony draws crowds from all over the world. It’s all a bit of a fudge: in the original play Juliet appears at a window – the balcony was decorative license added by later directors and artists. The building itself is an old inn that once belonged to the Capello family (Capello/ Capulet – sounds similar). The pretty little marble balcony was added in the early 1900s to satisfy all the tourists who flocked there. Never mind – it doesn’t stop thousands of people visiting and even leaving messages to Juliet. The courtyard is free to enter and always busy.
For Part 1 of our top ten tips for a family trip to Venice: where to go, what to do and best buys click here
From here we headed back to Piazza Erbe for hot chocolates and iced tea in the sun outside the stylish Filippini.
Visit Verona Arena
Then we walked back through the winding old streets to the Arena. It’s open to visitors during the day, 10 euros entrance, though reduced for children up to 14 years old.
We clambered right up to the top of the amphitheatre. It’s built of marble and it is vertiginous.
This amphitheatre was built to seat pretty much the whole population of Verona when gladiators and Christians were the main attraction. Nowadays the audience arrives in evening dress, well the ones in the posh seats do, for a night at the opera.
It is not a place for vertigo sufferers. I don’t – but I still found walking around the terraces (steep, very narrow) a bit daunting. The boys loved it! (Don’t think I’d take young children..)
After cooling off in the breeze at the top of the amphitheatre, taking in the mountain view and watching the skies cloud over we headed down to Piazza Bra. To Emanuel’s in fact, for the best ice-cream of the trip.
We didn’t have time for…..
Castelvecchio and Ponte Scaligero – the 14th century fortress overlooking the River Adige that is now an art gallery. The castle and bridge have wonderful fishtail castellations.
Teatro Romano – older even than the Arena, the remains of a Roman theatre built on a hillside overlooking Verona. There’s an archeological museum here too.
Venice to Verona by train
We organised our day trip to Verona on the spur of the moment. We simply hopped on the vaporetto to Venice’s Santa Lucia station. The train station overlooks the Grand Canal and the vaporetto stop is outside. There are plenty of direct trains to Verona throughout the day, some faster than others and the journey took a little over an hour. Some connections require changes so do check that you’re choosing a direct journey. NB we were travelling out of season but the trains were still quite busy. There’s lots more info about Italian trains, including how to buy tickets and make reservations here.
It took us a while to work out how to buy a bus ticket and where to catch the bus from Verona station to Piazza Bra. For future reference the bus terminal is right outside Verona’s Porta Nuova station. It’s quite large but there’s more info here about bus routes and times. Buy the bus tickets in the station before you get onboard.
It’s possible to get a guided day trip from Venice, travelling by road. We haven’t done this but there’s more info on one option here. The journey by road – autostrada in fact – takes about the same amount of time as by train.
By the time we got back to Venice it was dark. The ride home along the Grand Canal by night was magical – definitely a Must Do in Venice.
I’d stayed in Verona a couple of times b.c. (before children) so had a rough idea of where to go (although I couldn’t find an old favourite restaurant). If you’re more organised than us you might be interested in getting a guided tour of Verona. There’s certainly lots of history, mystery and fascinating stories about this ancient and beautiful city and its Roman and Shakespearean connections. We haven’t tried these tours but I’m including them for inspiration.
Venice with teens
To read our top ten tips for a family trip to Venice click here. It’s the lowdown on where to go, what to do and best buys
For Books and DVDs set in Venice click here
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Harmony, Momma To Go says
I went to Italy last year, to visit my cousin. She lives in Lecco, near Milan. We drove over to Verona for the day – it was so great! Perfect for a day trip because you could really get through a lot in a short time. We had a guide for the first part of our day. Whcih was nice she gave us lots of history and anecdotes about Romeo and Juliet. We saw the balcony, shopped in erbe, and then we had lunch at piazza bra. We did not go inside the arena, maybe next time!
a speck in time says
This is such a timely read for me. We are planning Venice side of Italy for our next trip to the country and this seems to be a perfect getaway from the big cities.
I have only heard of Verona from Romeo & Juliette, but had no idea there was so many things to do there and that it is so easy to get to from Venice. And must be nice to visit somewhere less touristy as well.
I spent about 3 days in Venice, so wish I would’ve taken one of those days to visit Verona.
Jody Robbins says
I used to work in Verona! I just spent half an hour on the phone with a friend yesterday, giving her all my best tips. Now I’ll just flip her your post.