I was lucky enough to spend Valentine’s Day in Verona for their annual Verona in Love Festival. Let me tell you, Verona gets love and all things adorable. The city itself is incredibly charming, but on February 14th, they really play up their romanticized past. The city was adorned with hearts (everywhere), restaurants served special couples menus, chocolate sellers filled the streets, couples strolled hand-in-hand, and at 6 pm the entire city stopped for a one minute kiss.
I am sure most of you associate Verona with the story of Romeo and Juliet. Shakespeare set his most famous work in this enchanting city. Of course, Shakespeare’s story is completely made up, and he never went to Verona, but that doesn’t stop the city from embracing the story of Romeo and Juliet.
Many contend that Shakespeare based his story on two earlier Italian versions of the story. In both Italian versions a young couple fell in love despite their feuding Veronese families. Whatever the truth maybe, today the city has artfully combined myth and memory to provide tourists with ample “historical” sites dedicated to Romeo and Juliet.
The more recent film, Letters to Juliet, popularized the tradition of leaving letters to Juliet. Yes, you can write a letter to Juliet (although you send it through the Italian mail addressed to Juliet, Verona, Italy, you don’t leave them in/on a wall if you want an answer) and the secretaries of Juliet will answer. They have been answering love letters for the last 70 years! Seriously, this city gets love… and tourism!
But Verona is more than the love story of Romeo and Juliet. In fact the city has a long and rich history. The city dates from Etruscan times and became a key point in Roman trade. In fact Verona boasts the third largest and best preserved Roman amphitheater in existence (it is so well preserved it still functions as a venue for concerts, operas, and various events). After a period of decline following the fall of the Roman Empire, the city reemerged as an important commercial and cultural center in the 12th-14th centuries. The city continued to flourish until it was occupied by Napoleon in 1797. Because Verona has always prided itself on its architecture and ancient foundations, the city has taken great care throughout the centuries to preserve its beauty. This attention to detail gives Verona a clean and elegant feel and makes each little street positively enchanting!
Personally, if I had realized how charming and historical this city was sooner, I would have made a point to visit before now! Fortunately, it is a relatively-short train ride away and I am sure I will be returning soon.