Verona: A World Heritage City

Home to many sites of historical interest, I recently had the opportunity to spend a day visiting Verona, Italy. A UNESCO World Heritage site, Verona offers a modern interpretation of the ancient traditions that formed the cornerstone of Italian culture. For example, I loved watching the crowds gather around the restaurants and vendors of the Piazza delle Erbe. As they stood waiting, visitors had the chance to take in the remains of the ornate frescoes that lined the walls of the ruling Scaligeri family’s houses during the Middle Ages.

Since the time of Ancient Rome, the Piazza has been used as a marketspace, and it’s the continuation of these traditions that makes Verona so unique today. Even corporate entities respect the city’s heritage--case in point, I found a roped-off area protecting ancient ruins in between aisles of clothing racks. Patrizia Marani, the Italian director for the Department of Community and Economic Development in Pennsylvania, elaborates that the heritage and historical importance of Verona also expands to another nearby World Heritage City. “We are celebrating another Italian site recognized as a World Heritage by UNESCO: the last arrived is the Hills of Prosecco di Conegliano Veneto and Valdobbiadene, a renowned viticulture landscape, that together with the closest city of Verona, is now reaching the number of 55 sites in Italy.”

Meticulously restored after World War II, the bridges of Verona led me to a beautiful view of the Scaligeri family’s Castelvecchio Palace. And at the very heart of the city, I stumbled upon the enormous amphitheater, which is the third largest in the world as well as the best preserved in Italy. Although it held up to 20,000 spectators in its day, the amphitheater these days has traded in its legacy of gladiator and animal fights for elaborate opera performances, which was made obvious by the enormous props on the stage.

Verona is also dotted with monuments to figures of worldwide fame. Walking under an archway, I entered the Piazza dei Signori and was met by a prominent statue of Dante Alighieri, who did much of his writing in Verona after the Scaligeri family granted him refuge when he was exiled from Florence in 1302. The Piazza was the center of Verona’s government, complete with buildings like Loggia del Consiglio, the place of town council meetings. It also boasts the Palazzo del Governo, the home of Cangrande della Scala, the public figure of Verona who welcomed Dante to the city. 

Of course, in the United States, one of the first things that comes to mind when people think of Verona is Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. It was only fitting that tourists congregated at the site of the Cappelletti house, featuring “Juliet’s balcony” and a brass statue of Juliet herself. Lining the walls of the building was an installation (as opposed to the original historic walls) on which visitors could write their names as well as those of loved ones, or stick a note to the wall with chewing gum. Although Juliet herself may only be a fictional character, the Cappelletti and the Montecci (similar to Shakespeare’s Capulet and Montague families) were real families who had an ongoing feud for power in Verona that Dante referenced in his written works. Although fictional, Romeo and Juliet’s strong roots in Verona’s history made the story feel real as I walked the streets of the city.

Another highlight of Verona was the Basilica di Sant’ Anastasia, which to this day is an active church with breathtaking frescoes and paintings traditional to Italian cathedrals of the Renaissance. In every direction I turned, I was blown away by everything from the frescoes on the ceilings to the ornately patterned floor tiles. And those intricate spectacles became even more breathtaking when I remembered that they were built by hand. Those interested in Renaissance artists will also enjoy the church’s collection of works of famous painters of the era, including Titian’s “Assumption of the Virgin.”

With such a wealth of history and culture, it only makes sense that Verona received a World Heritage City designation; no matter where I went, there were numerous sites within walking distance that were of importance to both Verona and the world. The most amazing part of all was the value and care that residents treat the city with. By innovatively repurposing modern spaces from historic treasures, Verona proved its worth to me as a city of World Heritage.


Article written by Sophia Becker on behalf of Global Philadelphia Association

Cover image: Loggia del Consiglio, the Dante statue, and Palazzo del Governo