A 16th-century scholar once wrote that to know Verona is to love her. In fact, there are many reasons to fall in love with this city once you have got to know her. Her links with Shakespeare's timeless love story of Romeo and Juliet is the prime reason to admire her. As you walk through the streets or underneath the balconies of the houses of the two ill-fated lovers, you can't help feeling passionate emotions yourself. However, Verona is also the city of the Arena (one of the largest opera houses), nature parks and the Adige river that encircles it; not only that, but the city's gastronomic delights are world renowned.
The historic center of Verona is surrounded by walls (around 10 kilometers in length) which were erected on the orders of the Scaligeri. The city is divided into four different zones: the ancient city, with its Roman remains, the Cittadella zone which stretches southwards, San Zeno where you can see the splendid cathedral, and finally the Veronetta with origins in the Early Middle Ages.
Centro storico Every tourist winds up in Piazza Bra. Trains terminate here and cars tend to park around here. Piazza Bra is dominated by the Arena, where it is possible to enjoy opera productions during the summer. It is impossible not to be charmed by the majesty of the Arena, the third-largest remaining Roman amphitheatre. It is also worth noting that in Via Pallone (just outside Piazza Bra), you will find the Museo degli affreschi and Juliet's tomb. The piazza is also home to the Palazzo della Gran Guardia, and the Gran Guardia Nuova , from there you can head towards the embankment of the Adige and reach Corso Cavour. Two of the most important Veronese monuments are located here: Sanmichelis Palazzo Canossa , and the Romanesque church of San Lorenzo and the Palazzo Bevilacqua , (an unfinished masterpiece by Sanmicheliano). From here, you can cross the Porta Borsari , the main entrance to the Roman city and continue along the road of the same name until you reach Piazza delle Erbe . Via Cappello leads out from the piazza and at number 23 you will find Casa di Giulietta - the house of Juliet Capulet. A walk along the prestigious Via Mazzini is a must, it is home to the chicest shops: from the elegant Gucci to the leather goods of the magnificent Furla .
Cittadella The economic center of the city lies in Piazza delle Erbe. It is crowded with multi-colored stalls; this is also quite a prestigious area, with its famous shops that face the square ( Lacoste , Valextra and Swatch, to name but a few). The piazza is filled with buildings of historical interest, such as Palazzo Maffei and the Case Mazzanti. Piazza dei Signori is the political and administrative heart of Verona, the Palazzo del Comune , the Capitanio, the Prefettura and also the Loggia del Consiglio. The Arche Scaligere , in the Sotto Riva alley, these face the magnificent church of Sant'Anastasia and further on you will see the citys, Duomo or Cathedral. The main road Arcidiacono Pacifico leads to the late neoclassical Palazzo Miniscalchi, headquarters of the foundation of the same name.
San Zeno This area is home to the world famous church of San Zeno, you definitely need to visit this quartiere, if only to see the church with its famous porch and triptych by Andrea Mantegna. Returning towards the center, following the Adige river, the Ponte Scaligero , faces Castelvecchio, the headquarters of the city's art museum.
Veronetta This zone faces the left bank of the river; it is here that you will see the Ponte Pietra (stone bridge) and the Teatro romano where you can enjoy the summer season of prose. Finding yourself once again along the city's embankments, you can drink in the sights of San Giorgio in Braida built for the Benedictines and finished by Sanmicheli. Or if you follow the road that leads to Porta Vescovo , you'll behold the splendid Giardini Giusti . Verona is definitely a city of beauty and culture.
Depending on your tastes and where you like to go, Verona and its surrounding areas have a lot to offer: there are large establishments who go all out to be worthy of their stars, forks or chefs hats; there are traditional eateries, sometimes located in the heart of the countryside, and finally there are restaurants located in Garda where first-class produce is at hand to make sublime dishes.
Città antica If you are looking for major names and don't mind splashing out then head for Arche in Verona, where the fish dishes on offer are worth dying for! Or you could visit Desco (to try the veal and ginger with leeks and fried sage).
San Michele Extra The Milio which is in Verona and just outside the central section of the city, does wonderful fish dishes and after dinner relax under the beautiful pergola, diners will often come here to smoke after their meal. With this in mind, the restaurant has a Cuban cigar list as well as a list of spirits.
East of Verona Even traditional Veronese cuisine can offer up some interesting surprises, for instance, it is not unusual to see horse meat. If seeing horse on the menu, (maybe in pastissada) is a bit of a "rediscovery" a dish containing donkey will definitely be a new experience both as an ingredient in a first course or as the main ingredient in a stracotto (normally a stewed beef dish). Which restaurants can you go, to try traditional fare? Well, the Gabbia d'Oro on Isola della Scala is famous for its risotti, which Tastasal is used to get the correct level of piquancy in salami before they are ready to go on sale. Alpone , in Montecchia di Crosara, makes dolce di tagliatelle (a sweet pasta dish). Bacco d'Oro in Mezzane di Sotto is known for il brasato all'Amarone (donkey braised in the local Amarone wine).
South of Verona Outside the city on Isola Rizza is the wonderful Perbellini , which does everything well, but is legendary when it comes to desserts, especially when they bring in the offelle (traditional sweet biscuits). Coming here is definitely money well-spent; in fact, it's a real investment, given that: the guest (they are not called customers) is treated like a king, the cuisine and the wine cellar bring tears of emotion to the eye, and service is absolutely first-rate. There are also acclaimed dishes at Capucci in Buttapietra; here you can try a traditional dish known as tastasal (a spiced pork mix). While Castello in Valeggio makes torta di grano saraceno (a buckwheat cake) to tempt everyone. If you like to round off your meal with a great dessert (and who doesn't?), go for one at the Pergola di Trevenzuolo they serve i fogassin (dried focaccia), at the Bottega del Vino di Verona they prepare the Scaligera version of the budino diplomatico.
West & Towards Lake Garda Want to try a recipe using asino? Il Ponte in Brentino Belluno is the place to go for stracotto d'asino, or for those who want to be a little more adventurous should try the filetto di struzzo (ostrich fillet) at Tamburino Sardo in Sommacampagna. If you like to indulge in cheese after your meal then il Vèzzena (stored in an ancient cave in barrels) in Sasso di Bovolone. At Pino Due in Garda (also well known for their fish recipes) they serve the traditional recipe for Sanvigilini with shortcrust pastry and raisins., and at Dalla Rosa Alda they have discovered a traditional recipe pissota con l'oio, focaccia cooked in the oven traditional copper receptacles. The riches of Garda include fish (naturally) and also olive oil; the best restaurants actually have a list of different oils for you to choose from. There are also Malga cheeses and truffles from Monte Baldo. The Porticciolo in Lazise does a fritto misto di lago (the choice of fish used in this dish depends upon what the fishermen have caught that morning). In Peschiera del Garda, the Cantinone specializes in trout. If you have never tried couscous, then the Caval in Torri del Benaco offers an intriguing fish and couscous recipe.
Lessinia could be on another planet. It is so close to Verona, yet so diverse and varied. It has a bit of everything: interesting natural phenomena, museums and a population of German origin, the Cimbri.
There is so much to do in this relatively small region: it is ideal for the tourist who is not in a hurry and would like a detailed knowledge of their surroundings, but it also makes an ideal destination for a day (or even half-day) out. There are three recommended itineraries: the first visits the Alpone Valley, the second goes up to Valpantena and the third explores western Lessinia.
However, for those who have the opportunity to visit Lessinia, the first step should be to visit the Bosco Chiesanuova Tourist Office to pick up some of the abundant literature on Lessinia and its Natural Park. Armed with this material, each visitor can select particular areas of interest and plan their visit accordingly.
For example, if you were interested in natural phenomena, you could visit the Covolo di Camposilvano , the Ponte di Veja and the village of Bolca. These are just a few places linked with the geomorphological history of the region.
Alternatively, you could start by visiting some of Lessinias museums: the Museum of Cimbra Culture in Giazza, the paleological museum in SantAnna dAlfaedo, the ethnographical museum in Bosco Chiesanuova, the geo-paleontological museum in Camposilvano, the fossil museum in Bolca and the trombini museum (of antique rifles) in Selva di Progno.
You could also find out more about the Cimbri population. As well as visiting the museums, you could attend a village festival, such as the one at Camposilvano , where you will be able to look at typical costumes, listen to local dialect and hear the thunderous shots of the trombini.
Talking of festivals, it should be mentioned at this point that many activities are undertaken in Lessinia to promote the conservation of local traditions. Fairs and exhibitions are held throughout the year, such as the >Festival of Mushrooms in Roverè, the Potato Festival in Cologna Veneta, the Monte Veronese doc Cheese Festival in Erbezzo, the Cherry Festival in Monteforte dAlpone (where the Festival of Grapes is always held) and the Montecchia di Crosara Chestnut Festival at San Giovanni Ilarione.
Although they are not exactly festivals, the annual Night Carnival in Monteforte dAlpone, with its allegorical floats and masks which parade past under the stars, and the Midnight Mass which is celebrated at the gigantic natural cathedral that is the Covolo di Camposilvano are both worth a mention.
If you are interested in local culture, there is one aspect which is indispensible—the cuisine. Lessinia is famous for truffles, which you can try at Alla Ruota in Negrar, as well as for mushrooms which you can have at Alpone in Montecchia di Crosara. There are also many regional specialities such as mocetta di capra—a type of sausage which you can try at the Torre in Cologna Veneta.
If you fall for the various culinary delights, you should be prepared to do something about the accumulated calories. In the summer, there are a variety of excursions which can be undertaken through Lessinia, either on foot (contact the Club Alpino Italiano in Verona for details), or by bicycle ( the Amici degli Bicicletta organisation in Verona can advise you on the best routes). Speleology is not for everyone, but anyone who is interested can visit the speleological section of Cai di Verona.
In winter, you will be spoiled with choices: there is alpine skiing, cross-country skiing, snowboarding and ice skating on the rink at Bosco Chiesanuova.
Lessinia is truly a hotbed of cultural activity and beautiful natural phenomena.