Verona is most well known for Shakespeare’s romantic play: Romeo and Juliet. Whether Shakespeare ever actually visited Verona or not remains a mystery. Regardless, the famous balcony of the star-crossed lovers and the nude statue of Juliet is not the only reason you should visit. This medieval town’s historic, artistic, gastronomic and cultural charm will leave anyone who claims not to be a “romantic”, still leaving hopeless. Through the stunning visual of the Adige River running under the beautiful bridges, to its culinary delights, Verona is not to be missed while visiting northern Italy. Compared to its busy neighbor, Venice, the old-town charm remains despite the influx of tourists. As with visiting any other city for the first time, I recommend hiring a local to see it best through their eyes. For the best Verona Walking Tour, I highly recommend Romeo and Juliet Guide.
The Birth of Romeo and Juliet Guide
Sara and Virginia are the vivacious boss ladies who started Romeo and Juliet Guide, a Verona Walking tour focused on wine and culinary arts. They began tours for fun in May 2017 and officially launched the business in January 2018. Most Verona Tours are either heavily focused on Frescos and Church Architecture, or catered to Wine-Experts of Italy. Why not bridge them all together? Now, guests from all over the world are able to visit old Wine cellars, eat at the best eateries, taste olive oil and enjoy recipes from multi-generational families that have been making it in Verona. In between filling up bellies, tourists also learn about Sant’Anastasia and San Zeno Abbey, some of the highlights to see.
These tours are a bridge between tourists and local vendors who wouldn’t have otherwise had exposure to one another. Tours to surrounding regions are also available. Since Romeo and Juliet Guide is a two-women business, you’ll feel like you’re visiting Verona with a buddy.
Just to give you an idea of who your tour guide is, Sara is licensed through the Associazione Italiana Sommelier, with over a decade of expertise in wine. She began her career in 2009 for the Vinitaly International Fair. And her knowledge spans through 3 Professional Sommelier Courses. Sara has also worked:
- As an Export Manager Assistant for a large Wine Company in Verona
- Completed the WSET Global Level 2 and Level 3 in Milan
- In 2015, Sara passed the Masters of Wine Institute in London
- Hospitality manager in 3 different wineries in Valpolicella, Soave and in Lazise (in Lake Garda)
Verona Walking Tours Offered
Verona was once a military stronghold of the Roman Empire. Stroll through Verona and it’ll take you back hundreds of years through a history of northern Italy. From the Roman monuments of antiquity through the Medieval and Renaissance period. The artistic and musical heritage includes the famous Opera performed in the ancient Arena which was built by the Romans.
Verona Tour: Food, Wine and History
The most popular food and wine tour that Romeo and Juliet Guide offers are the “Verona Tour: Food, Wine, History“. A leisurely 4-hours takes you on a cultural and gluttonous Verona walking tour through the historic center. This makes the perfect combination of a historical exploration while stopping along the way to try local gourmet specialties in ancient food shops, Veronese wine bars, a full lunch in a traditional restaurant, and cafés. Some of the culinary highlights include classic cheese, cold cuts, and fresh Bigoli Pasta.
One of the highlights of Verona is tasting wine from the Valpolicella region, most famous for its Amarone wine. The Veneto region has over 200,000 acres of cultivated vineyards, with Verona alone having 70,000 acres. This makes the wine in this region particularly special.
In addition to all the savory food and wine you’ll taste, you’ll also get to indulge in some organic artisan Gelato or the famous Veronese Christmas Pudding, the epitome of traditional Veronese treat! The climax (literally) of the tour is also the final stop: the funicular railway which takes you on a cable car to the top for a spectacular view of Verona.
The tours run year-round and are tailored according to seasons and festivals happening in Verona. The tour was a freakin’ blast. Sara not only filled us with knowledge of Verona and it’s wine, but her energy and bluntness made sure the whole group laughed off all the carbs and wine that was inhaled in.
Traditional Foods to Try in Veronese Cuisine
In case the tour doesn’t cover it, there are some other food items you should try. Similarly to the Florentines, you can still easily find in every menu:
- Horse meat sauce, Donkey meat sauce:
- Pastissada de Caval (Horsemeat stew with polenta)
- Bigoli with Horsemeat sauce, Beefmeat sauce or Sardines Sauce
- Pearà, a pepper sauce served on Gnocchi only in Verona, with “Bollito” and “Arrosto”, a 5 centuries-old tradition that was typically served during carnival season.
- “Amarone Risotto”, Grocchi and Tortellini
Touristic Sites of Verona & Landmarks
Next to Rome, Verona has the most Roman Ruins. Some are still actively in use today such as the Arena and Roman theatre. Verona and Veronese people, in general, are very passionate and proud of their old traditions, both in life and food.
Top 5 Must-Do and Taste in Verona:
- Romeo and Juliet Shakespeare’s Masterpiece
- The Arena, one of the best-preserved Roman Amphitheater in the world
- Amarone wine
- Vinitaly: The Wine Trade Fair, largest wine fair in the world
- “Pandoro”, the traditional Christmas Cake invented in Verona. Some brands you may have tasted: https://www.melegatti.it/prodotti/pandoro-originale/; https://www.bauli.it/it
Wonderfully Curated Food & Wine Tours Available
The Verona: Food, Wine, History tour starts at 10 am. Meeting point at Piazza Bra Square. The cost is 85 euros which include food, wine, and the whole experience! Other Verona tours available through Romeo and Juliet Guide:
- Highlights and Hidden Gems of Verona
- Traditional Verona Cooking Class
- Valpolicella Wine Tour
- 3 Wineries and Lunch
- Regional Wine Exploration
- From Verona: Amarone Wine Experience
- Sunset Verona Wine and Food Walking Tour
- Personal Chef in your Villa
- Verona Wine School with a Sommelier
- Winter Edition: Afternoon Verona Food Tour
- Outside of Verona:
- Lake Garda Wine Tasting: Pinot Noir and Tortellini
- Soave Bongo Wine Tour
Here's a list of all their experiences: https://www.romeoandjulietguide.com/food-wine-tours
Or customize your own for a private party!
Italian Wine Baskets
There are 6 different wine areas in and around Verona. Amarone was invented back in 1938, one of the most appreciated full-body reds in the world. The unique drying process of Amarone, “Appassimento”, is worth a tour in itself.
In addition to fun, informative Verona walking tours, Romeo and Juliet also sell Wine and Food Baskets. These are great for souvenirs and gifts to bring home. Prices range from 95 to 395 euros. Customizable baskets are available too according to your taste.
What the Italians Say about “Romeo and Juliet”
Shakespeare’s version of “Romeo and Juliet” in the 16th century is an adaptation of the Italian novel “Giulietta e Romeo”, which translates to “Ladies first” in Italian. This book was written by a famous European author during the Renaissance named Matteo Bandello. Bandello was inspired by Luigi da Porto’s novel, “La Giulietta”, published in 1524. And prior to that, there was also a similar book of Boccaccio’s work, “Filocolo”, published in 1336. Therefore, the writings of Shakespeare was an inspiration from several authors and books written before.
To read more about the inspirations of Shakespeare, I’d highly recommend the book, “Letters to Juliet”, written by Ceil Friedman. She conducted extensive, historical research about this. As far as the two families in Romeo and Juliet go, the MonteMontecchi and Cappelletti (or Montague and Capulet), who competed for power, did exist in Verona in the 14th Century. Two of their houses still exist today. And you can visit Giulietta Cappelletti’s tomb in Verona, right outside of the medieval walls.
Read more on Verona's Most Romantic Love Stories.
How to Get to Verona:
- By Plane: Fly into Verona Villafranca (VRN) or Venice Marcopolo “Venezia” (VCE) International Airport.
- By Train or Car: Verona is less than 1.5 hours away from other main cities in Italy: Venice, Milan, Bologna, Florence, Parma, Modena, Padova, Vicenza. And less than 2 hours from the Dolomites. Just 30 minutes from Lake Garda, the largest Italian lake.
Verona is a central location to be based out of, while traveling throughout northern Italy. It’s less crowded and less expensive. The weather is also a lot cooler than Milan in the summertime!
Where to Stay in Verona:
- A private apartment I stayed at, perfect for 1-2 people – $40/night: https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/8682304
- If you’re new to Airbnb, use my referral link to get $55 off your first visit!
- Bed and Breakfast near the Arena: http://www.casavittoriabb.it
- Apartments for rent: https://www.domusrental.com
Safety for Women: Italy is generally safe for women minus some potential pickpocketing and catcalls. But Verona, compared to the rest, is one of the safest cities in Italy. Even walking home in the middle of the night is fine. But of course, always watch your surroundings regardless.
I interviewed Sara during the Covid19 pandemic and asked what lesson she learned:
“We should always preserve ourself, especially when we grow old. Enjoy the small things in life as much as possible. The flowers in your balcony, food in the fridge, your beloved ones, talking with neighbors, eating pizza with a friend, walking along the river, sociality in general. Don’t ever take anything for granted, ’cause it’s not. So try to be grateful.” – Sara Valitutto, co-founder of Romeo and Juliet Guide
For more information on Romeo and Juliet Guides:
Read more on Wine in the Veneto Region of Italy:
- Weekly Italian Wine Courier: https://corrierevinicolo.unioneitalianavini.it
- “I Grandi Vini”: https://www.igrandivini.com
“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. Act 3, scene 3.