THE CITY OF VERONA - A TRESUREHOUSE OF ART
Verona is one of the most fascinating cities in Italy, and it always provides a pleasant surprise to those who come here from other countries. Known abroad as the city of Romeo and Juliet and of the Arena, it reveals itself to be, on the other hand, a city full of hidden nooks and crannies that are just waiting to be discovered: a unique gem encompassing centuries of art history.
"Beautiful Verona" is also known as “the marble city", after the virtually indestructible material from which it was constructed; this has guaranteed the extraordinary conservation of its fine buildings, which date from periods ranging from the Pre-Roman era to Art Nouveau and Art Deco townhouses.
The streets and marble of Verona make the city a real open-air museum, offering a whole host of historical and artistic itineraries. The first of these leads us through Roman Verona, with the Ponte Pietra (“Stone Bridge”), which connected the residential area with the splendid Roman Theatre; the Borsari and Leona Gates; the Gavi Arch and the Arena, famous all over the world thanks to the millions of opera fans who have attended performances there. The mediaeval Verona of the Scaligers can be seen, on the other hand, in the streets, piazzas, aristocratic dwellings and Romanesque/Gothic churches (Sant’Anastasia, San Fermo, San Lorenzo, San Zeno, San Giorgio in Braida, Santo Stefano and Santa Maria in Organo), but also in the frescoes of Altichiero da Verona, Pisanello and Turone and in the works of the Lombard Masters invited to the courts of Mastino and Cangrande. Then there is also the Castelvecchio, the Scaligers’ imposing fortress-cum-residence, which still preserves all of its majesty thanks to Carlo Scarpa’s skilled restoration project. The itinerary of Venetian Verona leads us through spectacularly atmospheric and fascinating Italian formal gardens (Giardino Giusti), situated within the grounds of aristocratic townhouses.
Verona has a special relationship with culture: it enchanted illustrious Latin authors such as Catullus and Pliny, and played host to poets like Dante Alighieri, who lived for several years at the court of the Scaligers during his exile and here wrote the finest passages of the Divine Comedy’s “Paradiso”.
The city welcomed artists such as Mantegna, Pisanello, Titian and Paolo Veronese, as well as other famous visitors who were inspired by it, such as Goethe, Kafka, Ruskin, Dickens, Madame de Staël, Heinrich Heine and Paul Valéry.
Shakespeare, inspired by earlier traditions and tales, bestowed eternal fame on the city by making it the scene of the tragic love story of Romeo and Juliet.
Both visitors and its foreign inhabitants – as well as the Veronese themselves – are held in thrall by a city whose very atmosphere is romantic and which also possesses a particularly appealing natural landscape. Situated in the shelter of the Alps and lying partly on hillsides covered in olive groves, vineyards and cherry orchards, its oldest section is contained within a double bend in the Adige, the river that has given the city a very distinctive topographical plan, gently embracing it as if it were an island.
In Verona, a city which constitutes in its entirety a UNESCO World Heritage Site, one can be in close contact with the worlds of art, music, opera and theatre. Giorgio Vasari, in his “Lives of the Painters”, refers to it as being as beautiful as his home town of Florence.
Verona has very ancient origins. There are records of settlements from the Neolithic period onwards and the city’s foundation dates back to the Roman era. Its ideal position has made it since antiquity into a fundamental junction within north-eastern Italy and indeed the whole of Europe as well. Its glories spread throughout the whole of the Middle Ages and carried on doing so through the following centuries. Having first become a commune and then, during the Renaissance, one of the most refined seigneurial courts in Italy, it was subsequently taken over by the “Serenissima”, the Republic of Venice. Verona also enjoyed great lustre during the Hapsburg period, becoming the most southerly point of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in Italy. Verona also has a late nineteenth-century and modern history: its Province, from Villafranca to Custoza and Peschiera, was one of the major strongholds during the Italian Risorgimento.
One only needs to glance at its architecture to re-evoke all of Verona’s glorious past, or to visit one of its piazzas to admire all the traces of its history in one fell swoop.