Verona: A romantic city of love, excitement

The Verona arena is the third largest arena in Italy. It measures 139 meters long and 110 meters wide, and could seat some 25,000 spectators in its 44 tiers of marble seats. (U.S. Air Force photo/ Staff Sgt. Taylor L. Marr)

The Verona arena is the third largest arena in Italy. It measures 139 meters long and 110 meters wide, and could seat some 25,000 spectators in its 44 tiers of marble seats. (U.S. Air Force photo/ Staff Sgt. Taylor L. Marr)

One of the main attractions in Verona, Italy, is Juliet’s house that features a balcony, made famous in William Shakespeare’s novel “Romeo and Juliet.” (U.S. Air Force photo/ Staff Sgt. Taylor L. Marr)

One of the main attractions in Verona, Italy, is Juliet’s house that features a balcony, made famous in William Shakespeare’s novel “Romeo and Juliet.” (U.S. Air Force photo/ Staff Sgt. Taylor L. Marr)

Piazza della Erbe, named for the herbs that grow in the region, was originally the Roman forum, now the central marketplace. The piazza is surrounded by shops, cafes and bars, and is Verona's main gathering place. The Tower Lamberti stands over the square. (U.S. Air Force photo/ Staff Sgt. Taylor L. Marr)

Piazza della Erbe, named for the herbs that grow in the region, was originally the Roman forum, now the central marketplace. The piazza is surrounded by shops, cafes and bars, and is Verona's main gathering place. The Tower Lamberti stands over the square. (U.S. Air Force photo/ Staff Sgt. Taylor L. Marr)

AVIANO AIR BASE, Italy -- The town of Verona set the stage for the famous Shakespearian play "Romeo and Juliet" turning the city into one of the most romantic and intriguing destinations in Italy.

It is one of the main tourist destinations in northern Italy, thanks to its artistic heritage, several annual fairs, shows and operas, such as the lyrical season in the Arena, the ancient amphitheatre built by the Romans.

Verona is a tucked away city full of excitement, romance and art. Located two and a half hours west of Aviano, the city mixes new excitement with old time Italy. Most attractions, such as the Arena, Juliet's House, San Zeno Basilica and Piazza delle Erbe, are all walking distance from each other.

Let's travel first to the Verona Arena, a famous Roman amphitheatre that was completed around 30 AD. It is the third largest in Italy after Rome's Colosseum and the arena at Capua. The arena is still used for operas and plays, which is an interesting mixture of old Italy and modern times. June 18 is the premier of the 88th opera festival featuring such operas as "Madame Butterfly" by Giacomo Puccini and "Carmen" by Georges Bizet . For more information and show times for the festival visit http://www.arena.it/en-US/HOMEen.html.
The next stop is to Juliet's house where her famous balcony can be seen. For a price, a traveler can stand on the balcony and declare famous "Romeo and Juliet" quotations if they wish. Of course, the balcony is not a real artifact, but it is an interesting experience. Under the balcony is a statue of Juliet with "the gates of love" behind her. One can bring a pad lock to put on "the gate" to lock love forever in life and in death.

The third stop is the San Zeno Basilica, and like many other Veronese churches, is built with alternating layers of white stone and bricks constructed from 1123 to1135 AD. The vaulted crypt contains the tomb of St. Zeno, the first Bishop of Verona, as well as tombs of several other saints. The church also houses the tomb of King Pippin of Italy from 777 to 810 AD.

The final stop is Piazza delle Erbe, near the arena. It was rebuilt by Cangrande I and Cansignorio Della Scala I, Lords of Verona, using material such as marble blocks and statues from Roman spas and villas after a nearby earthquake. This is a fun place to take in the day, have a café or enjoy the night life.

The city can be experienced in a day or on a short weekend trip. It is a wise idea to plan at least a week or two in advance due to the summer tourist season and all the events that occur. If you would like something a little more modern in this romantic city, you can visit the Verona Zoo right outside the city center or "Gardaland," which is an amusement park near the zoo. Visit www.gardaland.it for more information on the amusement park.

Also, the Medieval Times restaurant and show where one can witness staged medieval-style games, sword fighting and jousting. During the show, a feast of soup, chicken, bread and apple strudel are served with ale, wine or soda. But, in true medieval style, no utensils are given. The show runs from from March through November. For more information, visit http://www.canevaworld.it.  

If you don't have much time to travel, this is the perfect destination for you either to drive to or hop on a train. Go and experience this romantic city of love and excitement.