I knew Verona was going to be rather special. After all, it’s the setting for two of Shakespeare’s plays. And then there was my hotel, situated yards from the Adige river and bang opposite Sant’Anastasia, one of Verona’s larger churches, as well as being minutes away from all the local attractions.
Originally a 14th century antique inn, Hotel Due Torri has a large castle-like interior with frescoed ceilings. Its fifth floor panoramic terrace looks down on the uniform brown-tiled rooftops of the city centre and there’s a rooftop bar. The latter is where everyone wants an Aperol Spritz, a bright orange combination of sweet liqueur and fizzy Prosecco which is truly refreshing with its bitter-sweet aftertaste.
The mezzanine breakfast area seemed to take more dogs than owners thanks to the leniency of the epauletted staff. Meanwhile, the primrose walls in my room were covered in framed gold and mint damask silk and fabric, and the parquet floors, Murano chandeliers and traditional wooden furniture, as well as the pale salmon pink marble bathroom with gold fittings, all made for a stylish stay.
I went to the Roman Arena. Built of rosy marble in the 1st century, it survived the earthquake in the 12th and is now a performance venue seating up to 30,000, ranging from the expensive inner ring to the ‘gradinate’, the seating on the sloped stone steps. Though it’s obviously more exciting to see a performance, you can visit it anytime, but I’d advise to get there early (by 8.30am) to beat the queues. The other great tourist attraction is Juliet’s Balcony. Sadly, this is not factually accurate as Shakespeare only mentioned a window not a balcony, and this romantic pilgrimage is now an unedifying scrum of selfie sticks and Instagram hunters.
However, the city centre is mercifully unspoilt, not in a theme park way, just respectfully preserved with no rubbish or adverts. It’s all highly walkable, its maze of streets bordered by preserved crenellated buildings with colourful frescoes acting as a status symbol, as do the raised outdoor tombs of the great and the good who, in this way, believed themselves to be buried closer to heaven.
When I visited it was Easter Day and so I sat in the sun in the Piazza dei Signori, under the stunning Loggia del Consiglio and in front of the brooding statue of Dante, with his finger upon his cheek and sporting A linen cap with lappets over his ears while children played football and rode miniature scooters beneath.
There was also the striking, striped Duomo, with its two-storied main porch. It was built in the 12th century and contains Sansovino’s chapel which houses Titian’s Assumption. It’s one of the four main churches along with Sant’Anastasia, San Zeno and San Fermo, whose long rows of images of saints adorns the extraordinary wooden ceiling high above in the upper church.
I crossed the Ponte Pietra, the Roman bridge, with two of the arches made from massive marble blocks, to walk round the Adige, meandering in massive and sudden loops, and came to the Castelvecchio Gallery, home to some charming Tintorettos and many a ‘madonna con il bambino’.
Then it was time to wander down via Filippini, part of a picturesque, quiet and unspoilt neighbourhood with colourful houses and laundry-drying balconies. This was the setting for my lunch at the charming Osteria Dogana Vecia, full of locals, with all the cooking and serving done by the two owners. I marvelled at how the Italians make such delicious meals out of the most basic ingredients as I savoured the peas in my pappardelle coi bisi.
Verona is the perfect destination for a long weekend – dreamy and exquisitely Italian.
Classic Collection Holidays (0800 047 1064), classic-collection.co.uk) offers three nights at Due Torri Hotel, Verona from £912 per person. Price based on two adults sharing a classic room on a bed & breakfast basis and includes return flights from London Gatwick to Verona and private transfers.