Verona - Italian city (262,000 inhabitants)
There is no world without Verona walls
but purgatory, torture, hell itself
hence banished is banished from the world
and world's exile is death
William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet
Verona is the most diverse city in Northern Italy. Almost all architectural periods are present: from Roman times onwards via gothic and renaissance, to baroque and present-day architecture. Verona is the city of the Scaligeri. Ruthless but art loving, they ruled the city as true tyrants.
Under the Romans, Verona was a rich city. Thanks to its good location on the river Adige, the city had a strategic role during the Roman Empire. Witnesses of that period are the Arena and the ruins of the Roman theatre. The Barbarians, the Ostrogoths, the Longobards and the Carolingians were rulers in later periods. Ostrogoth king Theorodic the Great chose the hill of San Pietro just outside Verona as his residence and reinstated the city's glory by erecting all kinds of civic buildings.
In 951, the German king (later emperor) Otto I travelled over the Alps to enhance Bavaria with Verona and other Northern Italian cities. After the German imperial regime, Verona was free for a period, then member of the Longobard Union against Frederick Barbarossa, and then prey of feudal rulers such as the ferocious tyrant Ezzelino da Romano.
The Scaligeri family got into power in 1260. This brought peace and the city developed into a rich trade centre. In an urge for grandeur, the Scaligeri protected and supported art in various ways. Dante Aleghieri came to Verona after being banned from Florence.
After the fall of the Scaligeri dynasty, Verona was heading for dark ages. But thankfully the Republic was there and Verona joined in 1405, bringing peace and prosperity for four centuries to come. Italy was shortly occupied by Napoleon Bonaparte from 1797, but after the Vienna Congress in 1815, the Austrians ruled the city. Verona entered the new Kingdom of Italy under Victor Emanuel II in 1866.
Since then, Verona has developed into an industrial city, especially the printing industry has international reputation. But the historical city centre brings everyone back to centuries ago.
The most important buildings in Verona are the Arena, the welcoming Piazza dell'Erbe, the Piazza dei Signori with the tombs of the Scaligeri nearby, and in the western outskirts of the city, the San Zeno church:
Apart from the well-known Colosseum in Rome, this is the largest amphitheatre in the world. The Verona Arena is 152 by 128 meters with a height of 30 meters. There's room for about 22,000 spectators and it is still in perfect condition, staging opera concerts in the summertime. The acoustics are said to be perfect. The Arena is located on the Piazza Brà. (Piazza being the Italian word for square).
- Piazza dell'Erbe
In Roman times, this used to be the forum where the span and horse races were held. Now it's a vegetable and fruit market, which gives it a colourful and cosy atmosphere. The Capitello in the middle of the square used to be the place where verdicts and proclamations were read out loud to the public. The square also has a fountain with a marble statue of the Madonna of Verona, dating from 1368. Nice buildings include the brick merchant's office Casa dei Mercanti, the baroque Palazzo Maffei (1668) and the Case dei Mazzanti with 16th century frescos on the outside walls.
- Piazza dei Signori
This is a rectilinear square, surrounded by monumental buildings. The Loggia del Consiglio (1493) is one of the most beautiful renaissance buildings in Italy. In the middle of Piazza dei Signore is a statue of Dante. In the Arche Scaligere in the small church Santa Maria Antica lie the remains of the greats of the Scaligeri family: Cangrande I, Mastino II and Cansignorio.
- San Zeno Maggiore
Outside the city centre, but one of the most striking examples of roman architecture in Italy is the church of San Zeno Maggiore. It was built in the 5th century, but entirely rebuilt six to seven centuries later. The 12th century bronze representations on the church doors portray stories from the Old and New Testament.