Juliet's balcony
11th February 2015

A Local’s Guide to Verona with Giovanna Tamassia

Not only is Giovanna Tamassia a life-long local of Verona, she’s also president of Verona’s Juliet Club, the real-life team of agony aunts depicted in the 2010 chick flick Letters to Juliet.  Every year, the club receives thousands of letters from people all over the world seeking advice on their love lives.  Some even catch flights to Verona to post their letter personally to the office. Most of the letters are simply addressed to ‘Juliet’, a reference to Shakespeare’s tragic heroine, who lived and died in medieval Verona. Along with her crew of Juliet secretaries, Giovanna responds to every single letter. It’s a tradition the city has kept alive since 1937. She may be used to advising on matters of the heart, but when it comes to tips for a city break in Verona, what does Giovanna recommend visitors do in her hometown? Let’s find out…

 

giovanna house

 

A local’s guide to Verona with Giovanna Tamassia

 

San Zeno: A local guide to verona

Image credit: flickr

 

“When a friend visits me in Verona , the first place I take them to is the suburb of San Zeno because I live there. It’s one of the oldest areas of Verona and San Zeno is also the patron saint of the city. There’s a beautiful abbey which is famous for its works of art and bronze portal.  There are also many bars and Osteria. Although the suburb belongs to the city centre, it has its own unique traditions. Many old people still live here and proudly call themselves “sanzenati”. Spring and autumn are the best times of year to visit Verona because  summer in Verona is very hot and winter is quite cold, even though we rarely have snow.  In summer though, there are many events which means lots of excuses to stay outdoors.

 Castel San Pietro

view of verona city: a local guide to Verona

Image credit: flickr

 

You get the best view of Verona from Castel San Pietro – a wonderful panorama through the cypresses. You can see the river, the Roman bridge (Ponte Pietra) and all of the ancient city with its many towers. You can reach Castel San Pietro by foot from the Roman Theatre (which is also beautiful to visit) where you can find a nice walk with stairs (10 minutes by foot). Walking is the best way to get around Verona because the city centre is very small and you can easily reach all destinations by foot. I’d avoid obvious tourist attractions such as the main shopping street (Via Mazzini) and instead take a walk around the narrow, older streets: Via Sottoriva, which is the oldest street in Verona, the Cathedral area, Ponte Pietra (the Roman bridge), and the many hidden streets in the pedestrian zone.

 Antiche Case Mazzanti in Piazza Erbe

piazza erbe a local guide to Verona

Image credit: flickr

 

 

All the ancient houses in Verona are so beautiful. When you walk through the streets I suggest you look up and really take in the buildings. My favourite building in Verona is the Antiche Case Mazzanti in Piazza Erbe. The walls are still decorated as they were in the past. Verona was called Urbe Picta as all buildings were painted with decorations. Also, remember to take a look at the other side of these buildings too – some of the artwork is very suggestive…

Pasticceria Flego

Flego pastry local tips for Verona

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My favourite breakfast in Verona is a cappuccino and croissant from one of the many pasticceria because I like starting my day in a sweet way. I’d recommend pasticceria Flego in Via Stella, pasticceria Cordioli in Via Cappello and pasticceria San Zeno in Piazza Corrubio. I always have a croissant with marmalade and “cappuccino tiepido” (not too hot). The best place to enjoy a coffee is Caffè Tubino in Corso Portoni Borsari because they offer a good variety.  But it is very little. If you want to sit down, it’s better to choose a bar , like Bacarin in Vicolo Fogge, close to Piazza Erbe, where you can also sit outdoors. Caffè Monte Baldo in Via Rosa is my favorite place for lunch in Verona. It’s a typical Osteria with good food and wine. I always order Tartine (tapas) which includes bread, local ingredients and Risotto all’Amarone.

 Lake Garda

lake garda, a local guide to Verona

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If I want to get out of Verona for a while, I go to Lake Garda where I can take the sun and swim in summer. One of the most beautiful beaches is La Cavalla in Garda and Punta San Vigilio. On Lake Garda there are many nice old villages: Garda, Bardolino, Lazise – all very near to the town. Not only is there sun and water but also nice places to walk, go shopping, eat and have fun. Children who come to Verona will love the theme park attractions in Gardaland. In the summer months they won’t want to leave Parco delle Sirene. It’s in San Vigilio on Lake Garda. Grown-ups can swim and dive from the platforms into the lake or lay in the sun in the beautiful gardens. There’s also a playground for children inside the park.

Ponte Scaligero

scagliero, a local guide to verona

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People think the most romantic place for couples in Verona is the Juliet House but it is actually the Ponte Scaligero (The bridge of Castelvecchio). It’s a beautiful bridge which belongs to the Medieval Castle.

Gelateria Savoia

savoia: a local guide to Verona

Image credit: Gelateria Savoia

 

 

Via Fama 4B in Via Fama is my favorite place for dinner in Verona. It has just opened and the chef serves up some nice local dishes, for example Tartar of gambas with white cabbage. When the weather’s good, you can sit outdoors on  Corte Sgarzerie square. Zoe in Vicolo Crocioni is a good place to have a drink in the evening. It’s in the city centre and you can drink inside or outside on the street. If you go downstairs you’ll find a large room with  arched stone ceilings that was once a medieval cellar. Try the Lugana wine by Cesari, a wine from Verona. Later, Gelateria Savoia in Via Roma is the best place for ice-cream in Verona. My favourite flavour there is Stracciatella – they make it with real vanilla and big pieces of dark chocolate.

Romeo and Juliet

Read Letters to Juliet by Lise and Ceil Friedman before you come to Verona – it tells you everything about the traditions and places tied with Romeo and Juliet in Verona. For a Verona-themed movie, watch Romeo and Juliet.  I prefer the one by Baz Luhrman but I also like the older one by Franco Zeffirelli, which is more traditional.

The Juliet Club

juliet club: a local guide to verona

If you have time, come to the Juliet Club and answer a letter. The entrance is free and you’ll have the chance to read love stories  from all over the world. The Juliet Club pendant is the best souvenir you can take home from Verona. People say that it brings luck – on it there’s the symbol of our club, the kiss of Romeo and Juliet. Everyone who works at the Juliet Club is a volunteer, so this souvenir also helps to fund the tradition of letter writing.

Three Verona Essentials

Don’t forget to pack a camera, a bikini for Lake Garda and, if you like walking, also sneakers because Verona is surrounded by many beautiful mountains and hills!”

These are Giovanna’s tips for Verona – do you have any advice of your own to add ?  Let’s hear it, leave a comment below!

Fiona Hilliard

Fiona Hilliard

A love of new cultures is what drives Dublin travel writer Fiona Hilliard to explore the cities of Europe and beyond.

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