“Romeo, Romeo where for art thou Romeo?” we wondered as we gazed up at Juliet’s balcony in the historic centre of Verona
. Alas, no Romeo, just Will, our fellow colleague.
, one of the most fascinating cities of Italy
, is rich in Roman, Medieval and Renaissance buildings. Juliet’s balcony is located less than a 5 minute walk from Piazza dell’Erbe, a delightful square dominated by the beautiful Torre dei Lamberti and lined with restaurants and cafes. The piazza also hosts a daily market.
We would recommend that visitors take a lift to the top of the Torre dei Lamberti, and then climb the remaining 125 steps to the bell tower. Once at the summit the view across Verona, the city walls, Ponte Scaligero and the surrounding countryside is without doubt worth the climb.
Another fascinating square is the Piazza Bra, where the Roman amphitheatre (Arena of Verona) can be found. Walking around this enchanting square with its imposing historical buildings it is easy to understand why the city has been a popular destination with travellers and monarchs for centuries. It offers history and culture as well as ample shopping and gastronomic experiences.
During the day it is possible to step back in time and explore the interior of the amphitheatre. For a view over the city, ascend to the top row of seats.
In the summer months (22 June – 02 September 2012) the Verona Opera festival is performed in the Arena. Tickets to the Opera can be pre-booked by Sunvil Discovery as part of a holiday package.
1 hour and 10 minutes by rail from Verona is Venice, the most romantic of cities.
With its narrow network of canals and spectacular architecture Venice is truly breathtaking. It is however, easy to get stuck on the typical ‘tourist trail’. Our advice is to leave the map behind, forget the signage to St Mark’s square, and just wander. You will not be disappointed; finding captivating palaces and architecture not listed in the guidebook and discovering picturesque narrow passages and atmospheric squares. The beauty of exploring in this way is that you will often meet local Venetians and you will avoid the hefty restaurant prices paid close to the key sites.
Start your tour of Venice
early in the morning in order to take advantage of shorter queues into the main attractions in St Marks Square. A popular and low cost activity is to take a lift to the top of the Campanile (6 Euros per person) from where a marvellous view across the city and its lagoon unfolds – Remember to take your camera!
From St Marks Square, take a vaporetto to Guidecca Island with its green spaces and exquisite museums and galleries. The Galleria S. Eufemia is an excellent place to spend an afternoon. For that special occasion we would recommend a stay at the Hotel Cipriani, a member of Orient-Express Hotels and boasting uninterrupted views over the lagoon.
The Rialto Bridge, built in the 15th century, was once the only way across the Grand Canal and offers a wonderful panorama along the waterway. Located in the same area is the Rialto Market where fresh local produce can be purchased.
Venice consists of six districts. One of our favourites is Cannaregio on the north bank of the Grand Canal, where the streets feel wider and less congested. The Cannaregio district (as with all districts in Venice), although not central, is still only a 15 minute walk or short Vaporetto journey from St Marks Square.
When to stay:
The weekend sees an influx in the number of visitors to Venice. If possible, we would recommend a stay in the city from Sunday to Thursday; not only do you benefit from fewer tourists but also from reduced hotel prices.
, of equal splendour and history dominate the north west of Italy. But, which city is our favourite? We could not, and still cannot, agree. We would therefore highly recommend an itinerary which incorporates the two; either as a multi-centre holiday or using one city as a base and exploring the other on a day excursion.
Emily Green, Yasmin Zaidi and Will Rist