Verona is a city in Veneto, northern Italy. It is the second largest city municipality in the region and the third of northeast Italy. It is one of the main tourist destinations in northern Italy, owing 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.
The city has been awarded World Heritage Site status by UNESCO because of its urban structure and architecture.
The city became important because it was at the intersection of several roads. Stilicho defeated Alaric and his Visigoths here in 403. But, after Verona was conquered in (489 AD) the Gothic domination of Italy began; Theodoric built his palace there, and according to Irish legends that's what Verona was named after. It remained under the power of the Goths throughout the Gothic War (535–552), except for a single day in 541, when the Armenian officer Artabazes made an entrance. The defections that took place among the Byzantine generals with regard to the booty made it possible for the Goths to regain possession of the city. In 552 Valerian vainly endeavoured to enter it, but only when they were fully overthrown, the Goths surrendered it.
In 569, it was taken by Alboin, King of the Lombards, in whose kingdom it was, in a sense, the second most important city. There, Alboin himself was killed by his own wife in 572. The dukes of Treviso often resided there. At Verona Adalgisus, son of Desiderius, in 774 made his last desperate resistance to Charlemagne, who had destroyed the Lombard kingdom. Verona was then the ordinary residence of the kings of Italy, the government of the city becoming hereditary in the family of Count Milo, progenitor of the counts of San Bonifacio. From 880 to 951 the two Berengarii resided there. Otto I ceded to Verona the marquisate dependent on the Duchy of Bavaria.
Alberto was succeeded by Mastino II (1329–1351) and Alberto, sons of Alboino. Mastino continued his uncle's policy, conquering Brescia in 1332 and carrying his power beyond the Po. He purchased Parma (1335) and Lucca (1339). After the King of France, he was the richest prince of his time. But a powerful league was formed against him in 1337 – Florence, Venice, the Visconti, the Este, and the Gonzaga. After a three years war, the Scaliger dominions were reduced to Verona and Vicenza (Mastino's daughter Regina-Beatrice della Scala married to Barnabò Visconti). Mastino's son Cangrande II (1351–1359) was a cruel, dissolute, and suspicious tyrant; not trusting his own subjects, he surrounded himself with Brandenburg mercenaries. He was killed by his brother Cansignorio (1359–1375), who beautified the city with palaces, provided it with aqueducts and bridges, and founded the state treasury. He also killed his other brother, Paolo Alboino. Fratricide seems to have become a family custom, for Antonio (1375–87), Cansignorio's natural brother, slew his brother Bartolomeo, thereby arousing the indignation of the people, who deserted him when Gian Galeazzo Visconti of Milan made war on him. Having exhausted all his resources, he fled from Verona at midnight (19 October 1387), thus putting an end to the Scaliger domination, which, however, survived in its monuments.
Guglielmo (1404), natural son of Cangrande II, was more fortunate; with the support of the people, he drove out the Milanese, but he died ten days after, and Verona then submitted to Venice (1405). The last representatives of the Scaligeri lived at the imperial court and repeatedly attempted to recover Verona by the aid of popular risings.
From 1508 to 1517, the city was in the power of the Emperor Maximilian I. There were numerous outbreaks of the plague, and in 1629–33 Italy was struck by its worst outbreak in modern times. In Verona an estimated 33,000 people (of a total of 54,000) died in 1630–1631.
The advent of fascism added another dark chapter to the annals of Verona. As throughout Italy, the Jewish population was hit by the anti-Semitic laws (1938), and after the invasion by Nazi Germany in 1943, deportations to Nazi concentration camps. An Austrian Fort (now a church, the Santuario della Madonna di Lourdes), was used to incarcerate and torture allied troops, Jews and anti-fascist suspects especially after 1943, when Verona became part of the Repubblica di Salò or "Social Republic".
As in Austrian times, Verona became of great strategic importance to the regime. Galeazzo Ciano, Benito Mussolini's son in law was accused of plotting against the republic during a mock trial staged by the Nazi and fascist hierarchy in Castelvecchio. Ciano was executed on the banks of the Adige with many other officers on what is today Via Colombo. This marked another turning point in the escalation of violence that would only end with the final liberation by allied troops and partisans in 1945.
After World War II, as Italy entered into NATO, Verona acquired once again its strategic importance, due to its closeness to the Iron Curtain. The city became the seat of SETAF (South European Allied Terrestrial Forces) and had during the whole duration of the Cold War period a strong military presence, especially American, which is decreasing only in these recent years. Now Verona is an important and dynamic city, very active in terms of economy, and also a very important tourist attraction because of its history, where the Roman past lives side by side with the Middle Age Verona, which in some senses brings about its architectural and artistic motifs.
The Veronese are keen eaters of horse-meat (cavallo), a local speciality. Pastisada de caval, is a dish of braised horse meat, as is Picula de Caval. Pizza is not traditionally eaten locally, but pasta dishes feature widely on restaurant menus. Try Pizzocheri (buckwheat pasta with cheese and sage), casoncelli (a type of ravioli) or bigoli (thick spaghetti). Casoela is a pork casserole, and a bollito misto is a mixture of boiled meats, usually served with pearà, a local sauce then you can find only in Veneto.
Via Mazzini is Verona's golden mile of shopping, taking you between Piazza Bra and Piazza delle Erbe. Most of the major Italian labels are represented, and even if you can't afford them it's great to wander and window shop. Corso Porta Borsari is another elegant shopping street in Verona. There are very nice shop, like Lo Scrittorio, an old fashioned shop selling papery and elegant pens and pencils. Corso Santa Anastasia, This street is the centre of antiques shops' zone. Narrow streets where you can find authentic masterpieces.
- The Basilica di San Zeno (also known as San Zeno Maggiore) is a minor basilica of Verona. Its fame rests partly on its architecture and partly upon the tradition that its crypt was the place of the marriage of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. Together with the abbey which forms an annex, it is dedicated to St. Zeno of Verona. St. Zeno died in 380. According to legend, over his tomb, along the Via Gallica, the first small church was erected by Theodoric the Great, king of the Ostrogoths. The history of the present basilican and the associated Benedictine monastery begins in the 9th century,when Bishop Ratoldus and King Pepin of Italy attended the translation of the saint's relics into the new church. This edifice was damaged or destroyed by a Magyar invasion in the early 10th century, at which time Zeno's body was moved to the Cathedral of Santa Maria Matricolare: it was soon moved back to its original site in what is now the crypt of the present church (May 21, 921). In 967, a new Romanesque edifice was built by Bishop Raterius, with the financial assistance of the Holy Roman Emperor, Otto I. On January 3, 1117 the church was damaged by an earthquake, and as a result was restored and enlarged in 1138. The work was completed in 1398 with the reconstruction of the roof and of the Gothic-style apse.
- Castelvecchio. A 14th-century, red brick, fortified castle on the banks of the river Aldige. The main castle buildings house the city art museum which is packed with a rich collection of medieval sculpture and Renaissance paintings. As well as the museum, the extensive castle ramparts are great for exploring - ideal for families with children who enjoy running around castle fortifications. The Castelvecchio has an adjoining bridge over the river which is open all the time - walk over the bridge for some fantastic views of the castle on the river.
- Casa di Giulietta A house claiming to be the Capulets' has been turned into a tourist attraction. It features the balcony, and in the small courtyard, a bronze statue of Juliet. It is one of the most visited sites in the town. The metal of its chest is worn bare due to a legend that if a person strokes the right breast of the statue, that person will have good fortune. Many people write their names and the names of their beloved ones on the walls of the entrance, known as Juliet's wall. Many believe that writing on that place will make their love everlasting. After a restoration and cleaning of the building, it was intended that further writing should be on replaceable panels or white sheets placed outside the wall. It is also a tradition to put small love letters on the walls (which is done by the thousands each year), which are regularly taken down by employees to keep the courtyard clean.
- Porta Borsari is an ancient Roman gate in Verona. It dates to the 1st century AD, though it was most likely built over a pre-existing gate from the 1st century BC. An inscription dating from emperor Gallienus' reign reports another reconstruction in 265 AD. The Via Postumia (which here became the decumanus maximus) passed through the gate, which was the city's main entrance and was therefore richly decorated. It also originally had an inner court, now disappeared. The gate's Roman name was Porta Iovia, as it was located near a small temple dedicated to Jupiter lustralis. In the Middle Ages it was called Porta di San Zeno, while the current name derives from the guard soldiers which were paid the dazio (Latin bursarii). The façade, in local white limestone, has two arches flanked by semi-columns with Corinthian capitals which supports entablature and pediment. In the upper part is a two-floor wall with twelve arched windows, some of which are included in small niches with triangular pediment.
- The Verona Arena (Arena di Verona) is a Roman amphitheatre in Piazza Bra, which is internationally famous for the large-scale opera performances given there. It is one of the best preserved ancient structures of its kind. The building itself was built in AD 30 on a site which was then beyond the city walls. The ludi (shows and games) staged there were so famous that spectators came from many other places, often far away, to witness them. The amphitheatre could host more than 30,000 spectators in ancient times. The round façade of the building was originally composed of white and pink limestone from Valpolicella, but after a major earthquake in 1117, which almost completely destroyed the structure's outer ring, except for the so-called "ala", the stone was quarried for re-use in other buildings. Nevertheless it impressed medieval visitors to the city, one of whom considered it to have been a labyrinth, without ingress or egress. Ciriaco d'Ancona was filled with admiration for the way it had been built and Giovanni Antonio Panteo's civic panegyric De laudibus veronae, 1483, remarked that it struck the viewer as a construction that was more than human.