My Kind of Place: Verona, Italy
One look at a map, and Verona’s romantic reputation makes instant sense. The city walls and the looping River Adige surround the old part of the town in a rough heart shape.
Shakespeare probably never visited, but that didn’t stop him from setting three of his plays there. And the most famous of the trio – Romeo and Juliet – is arguably what started Verona’s image as a city of love.
Neither of these factors explain the city’s true appeal, though. It’s a very atmospheric place, where buildings all seem to adhere to a warm colour scheme, and remarkable set pieces emerge when narrow streets spread into open squares. And strong heritage, from Roman and Medieval times, proves to have a much longer-lasting impact than fruitlessly chasing clichés.
A comfortable bed
The Palazzo Victoria is a staggeringly impressive conversion of an old palace. Walls are decorated with stones from the river, there’s an unexpected billiards room and glass flooring reveals the remains of an ancient Roman villa underneath. Wooden floors, padded fabric walls and TVs in showy golden frames help make the rooms, which cost from €213 (Dh872) per night, memorable, too.
The Opera Relais de Charme is hard to find on a little alleyway in the heart of the old town, but the modern, feminine-looking, design-conscious apartments are spacious and come with kitchenettes. Studios cost from €127 (Dh520) per night.
The Gallery Room has a whiff of chlorine as you walk in – coming from the spa downstairs – but delightfully calming, cream and white tones in the rooms. Proper super-king mattresses (rare in Italy) on rather glam-looking beds help make it a steal, with rooms costing from €71 (Dh291) per night.
Find your feet
Kick off with a view out across the city from the Torre dei Lamberti, the 84-metre-tall tower of the Palazzo della Ragione. There are 368 steps, but you can cheat by getting a lift most of the way. From the top, the views are fabulous, across the orange-tiled rooftops, squares, other towers and the river bends.
Head south to the Arena, a staggering ancient Roman amphitheatre that’s still in remarkable condition. There’s not much information inside, but there doesn’t need to be. The stone arches and passages underneath provide the dark atmospherics, and wandering out into the centre to see the 30,000-capacity venue is breathtaking.
Keep on going into the newer part of town to Juliet’s Tomb, which looks like a water trough, partly because that’s what it was used as for quite some time. The tomb itself isn’t much to get excited about, but the attached Frescos Museum has some great pieces rescued from old churches and palaces.
Meet the locals
During the summer, the Arena is turned into a giant open-air opera venue, with the performances becoming a major social event. Just be prepared to huddle up on the stone seats.
Book a table
The city’s new in-the-know hot spot is Casa Perbellini, which has hoovered up two Michelin stars within a year of opening. It’s a small, open-kitchen joint on Piazza San Zeno – about a kilometre west of the city’s centuries-old heart. Degustation menus cost from €110 (Dh450).
Locando 4 Cuochi also has an open kitchen, and boasts a modern vibe for an old town location. It puts a few twists into the menu, such as the marinated chicken leg with curry and spinach for €14 (Dh57).
The pedestrianised Via Mazzini has a nice mix of the high-street and the designer, with Fratelli Rossetti’s high-end shoe shop being the highlight for fashion lovers.
Corso Sant’Anastasia, meanwhile, has a wonderful array of antiques shops and galleries. The likes of Valbusa do glorious old maps, tables, chests and vases, while Saccomani Antichita is a weird jumble of porcelain-animals, Roman-style busts and dazzlingly intricate precious-metal clocks.
What to avoid
The Casa di Giulietta is an unadulterated waste of money, with chewing gum and graffiti covering the courtyard outside and a half-hearted attempt at a museum inside. But lovers of Romeo and Juliet still come to see the balcony immortalised by Shakespeare – even though it was only added as a tourist trap in 1920.
If a romantic vibe is what you’re after, forget the Shakespearean connections and head to the Giardino Giusti. This beautifully terraced private garden has a maze, a glorious, cypress-lined central path and plenty of little grottoes and hidey-holes that seem specifically designed for proposals.
Etihad and Emirates fly from Abu Dhabi and Dubai respectively to Venice from Dh2,600 return. The flight time is six hours. ATVO runs €8 (Dh33) buses to Mestre train station from Venice airport, taking about 20 minutes. From Mestre, trains to Verona cost from €9 (Dh37) and take one to two hours.
Published: September 15, 2016 04:00 AM