The historic core of Verona ♥♥♥, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site, is surprisingly not too small, with major attractions spread around several clusters.
You might start at the central large Piazza delle Erbe ♥♥♥, adorned with a fountain and a couple of monuments and surrounded by beautiful buildings. Nearby Piazza dei Signori ♥♥ is somewhat more “closed up”, but the palaces around it are all worth an exterior look. From this square, you can enter Torre dei Lamberti ♥♥♥ which affords fantastic views of the city from above. Most of the way up can be made by elevator for those in indifferent physical shape.
There are several Romeo and Juliet-inspired sights in Verona, of which the “unmissable one” is Juliet’s House, located a block away from Piazza delle Erbe. The balcony dates from the first half of the 20th century which removes any possibility of it being actually related to the famous play. But it is a very popular sight, with dozens of people occupying the small courtyard in front of it. You can also get a tour of the house to which the balcony belongs, which will allow you to step out on the balcony. Some people may find it romantic regardless of the artificial nature of the experience.
Piazza Bra ♥♥♥ is another major square in town, irregular-shaped, and very open, with the Arena in one “corner”, a small park with a fountain and statuary taking up part of its space, and nice palazzi on the perimeter.
The Arena ♥♥♥ is utterly remarkable, the second largest such structure (after the Coliseum in Rome) to remain from ancient times. Taking in an opera performance ♥♥ at the Arena is a popular highlight of any visit to Verona. If you are a true opera lover, get expensive tickets to the “orchestra”. If you only want to enjoy the atmosphere, get the cheapest tickets, enter the Arena at least an hour before the start of the performance, rent – or buy to keep as souvenirs – seat cushions and commandeer space on the upper stone galleries. You will not hear music all that well from up there and will be struggling to discern the actual words being sung, but you may still be able to enjoy the choreography of the performance. Most importantly, you will have a good perspective of the entire arena, which becomes quite magical with the customary candle lighting at the beginning of the performance. Feel free to leave after the first act; your hand will be stamped for re-entry if you choose so.
Castelvecchio ♥ has some interesting architectural features worth exploring and the museum inside has an ok painting collection, mostly of the religious kind, with a limited selection of Old Masters. The adjoining Ponte Scaligero ♥♥♥ is exquisite.
A few other bridges across River Adige are worth a look, among them Ponte Vittoria ♥ with equine statues and the pedestrian Ponte Pietra ♥.
Four major churches in Verona can be visited on a single access ticket. Duomo ♥♥ is very impressive in an understated way, with lots of frescoes and paintings; Sant’Anastasia ♥♥ does not look anything but austere from the outside, but contains beautifully painted ceilings and partial frescoes; and San Fermo ♥ is slightly less impressive, but has a lower church dating from Roman times. The fourth grand church, San Zeno Maggiore, is a bit out of the way for most walking routes.
Giardino Giusti ♥ is another sight slightly off the beaten path. It is a reasonably sized garden marrying formal with semi-wild, not exactly awesome but serene and pleasant. There is a small labyrinth that takes 10-15 minutes to navigate. The lower part of the garden is mostly flat, and the upper part runs up the steep hill, with partial views over the town.
One place worthy of a recommendation is Osteria da Ugo (on Vicolo Dietro Sant’Andrea a couple of blocks from Casa di Giulietta), an excellent meal all around.
Padua ♥ – or Padova in Italian – is a university town, probably less charming than some other towns in Veneto. It boasts two separate UNESCO World Heritage sites, each of which provided us with a platform for an intraday visit.
The first of these is Orto Botanico ♥♥, the oldest formal botanic garden in the world. It is comparatively small, structured, beautiful, and well worth a visit regardless of whether you are into botany or not.
The other WH site is the collection of 14th-century frescoes, which spans eight different interior spaces in the city center. The most well-known of these is Scrovegni Chapel ♥♥♥, which is definitely worth the extra effort to visit (you have to pre-book for a specific time slot). Palazzo de la Ragione ♥♥♥ is another undoubted highlight with its humongous hall. Cathedral Baptistery ♥♥♥ and Oratory of St. George ♥♥ are also well worth visiting. Basilica di Sant’Anthonio ♥♥♥ is part of the UNESCO inscription, but even aside from that designation, it is one of the most impressive places in town, an incredibly atmospheric grand church. The Chapel of the Cararesi Palace ♥ has the least-preserved frescoes of the bunch, not without interest for the connoisseurs. The other two locations on the WH list, Chiesa degli Eremitani and Oratory of St Michael, enjoy a slightly lower billing. You can visit all eight on the Urbs Picta combined ticket (cost €28 in 2022), with only the Scrovegni Chapel requiring timed entry.
By comparison with St. Anthony or even with its own Baptistery, the Duomo is fairly muted in its interior decoration, but can certainly be visited along the way.
As you walk between the UNESCO sites, you will see other occasional highlights. Several public places are given to market stalls on a seemingly permanent basis. We normally enjoy the market atmosphere, but they also somewhat deface what are certainly lovely squares, such as Piazza dei Signori and Piazza delle Erbe.
The Courtyard of Palazzo Bo is among the most impressive of Padua University’s buildings and allows free access.
Vicenza ♥♥ in large part owes its beauty to Andrea Palladio, who in the 16th century built a few dozen palaces all over the city. They now form a serial World Heritage property. Any visitor to Vicenza can hardly do worse than follow the sign-posted Palladian itinerary around town.
You are likely to admire most of the masterpieces from the outside, starting with the grandiose Basilica Palladiana and impressive Loggia del Capitaniato, both located on the main beautiful Piazza dei Signori ♥♥. Step into the courtyards of Teatro Olimpico ♥ and of small Casa Cologga even if you do not go inside the buildings.
Palazzo Barbaran houses the Palladio Museum ♥♥♥, which takes up just a few rooms, each boasting a marvelous ceiling. There is tons of information about the architect, his works, and their influence on architectural leanings worldwide, with a number of short video lectures projected on the walls in every room. A great place for any student of architecture.
The most famous Vicenza building by Palladio, Villa la Rotonda is located some distance from the city center, walkable for most with time and desire to see it. We ended up driving by, but you cannot really see the mansion from the narrow street which allows access to it. Instead, if you drive on Viale Riviera Berica (SP 247), you will have an excellent view of the villa; there is even a large pocket on the road to pull in and get out of the car for an unhurried view ♥.
For non-Palladian interests, there is a separate Roman itinerary, also well-signposted, that takes the visitor around ancient remnants and locations. There are also a couple of churches worth a look. We stepped into Santa Corona ♥ which has a great altarpiece, and into Duomo ♥ which has a surprisingly attractive interior with red-brick restored decorations.