With its wealth of Roman sites and streets of pink-hued medieval buildings, the irresistible city of Verona has more in the way of historic attractions than any other place in the Veneto except Venice itself. Unlike Venice, though, it's not a city overwhelmed by the tourist industry, important though that is to the local economy. Verona is the largest city of the mainland Veneto, and its economic success is largely due to its position at the crossing of the major routes from Germany and Austria to central Italy and from the west to Venice and Trieste.
Set within the low amphitheatre that the wide River Adige has carved out of the hills, Verona conveys a sense of ease that you don't find in the region's other cities. As you walk past the great Roman arena, or along the embankments or over the bridges that span the broad curves of the Adige, you'll be struck by the spaciousness of the city. With cars and buses barred from many of the squares and narrow medieval lanes of the historic centre, this is a city that invites dawdling.
Verona’s initial development as a Roman settlement came about from its geographical position straddling the main lines of communication. A period of decline after the disintegration of the Roman Empire was followed by revival under the Ostrogoths, who in turn were succeeded by the Franks. By the twelfth century Verona had become a city-state, and in the following century it approached the zenith of its independent existence with the rise of the Scaligers. The ruthless Scaligers were at the same time energetic patrons of the arts, and many of Verona’s finest buildings date from their rule.
With the fall of their dynasty a time of upheaval ensued, Gian Galeazzo Visconti of Milan emerging in control of the city. Absorption into the Venetian Empire came in 1405, and Verona was governed from Venice until the arrival of Napoleon. Verona’s history thereafter shadowed that of Venice.
Top image: Juliet's Balcony in Verona, Italy © Manuel Hurtado/Shutterstock