Romeo and Juliet Got It Wrong: Why Verona Is Actually Happy

“But, soft, what light through yonder window breaks? It is the east, and Juliet is the sun”(Romeo, Act 2 Scene 1).
We know that Shakespeare made up the plot and the characters, yet there is a tiny house of Juliet in the charming city of Verona, an enchanting place always full of couples and tourists. Even though the famous lovers from this city happened to be highly unfortunate, modern residents of Verona are quite happy. So why?

VIBRANCY
If you live in Verona, you can never get bored. Verona boasts a wide range of outdoor festivals, concerts, and cultural events year round. There’s glorious opera music outside in summer, opportunities to enjoy the bounty of the harvest at fall markets, Nordic Christmas markets and celebrations like the Carnival parade in winter, and trendy wine festivals in spring to name only a few.

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The city looks ‘springish’ pretty much all the time, and as Robin Williams nicely put it: “Spring is nature’s way of saying, ‘Let’s party!'”.

PIAZZAS & CATHEDRALS
Verona is called “little Rome” by no coincidence – it is full of historical piazzas imbued with the spirit of mysterious past.

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By day, Piazza delle Erbe is home to a market (if one that sells mostly souvenirs and trinkets); in the evening, it fills with locals and tourists sipping Campari and enjoying aperitivi at the outdoor cafes. With its Renaissance-era palaces and lovely central fountain, this might just be the prettiest piazza in all of Italy.

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With seven towers, a castle keeps, and four separate buildings, Verona’s 14th-century fortress, Castelvecchio, is the city’s most imposing building. Today, it’s also home to a museum of art, sculpture, coins, and other artifacts, with a collection of paintings that includes pieces by northern Italian masters Mantegna, Bellini and Pisanello.

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Built in the 1st century A.D., Arena di Verona was Verona’s answer to Rome’s Colosseum (although actually, it predates the Colosseum by almost 50 years!). Still remarkably well preserved, today it’s home to Verona’s summer opera festivals. Nobody’s sadness would survive when being surrounded by such beauty!

GELATO
Having studied at a university in Rome, I now know that the question of which city scores the highest on ‘ice-cream’ quality criteria is the most debatable one. However, Verona seems to be ahead even of really strong rivals such as Rome and Milan.

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Verona’s gelato is a perfection in a cone – creamy and full of flavor. All natural ingredients, and a wide variety of choices. English menu exists for standard flavors. Sweet life comes from sweet goodies, the local empirics says.

ACTIVITY
Well, this is fairly difficult not to follow active lifestyle while living in Verona – the city kind of forces you to get up and move. For example, biking is a popular way of watching the figure among the locals.

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The historic center of Verona is almost completely encircled by a sharp curve in the wide Adige River, which makes it easy to pedal around these ancient streets and alleyways without fear of straying too far. Bikes can be rented at stalls on the corner of Piazza Bra and Via Roma, which should serve as the southern border of this free-form trip. Since cars are prohibited in parts of Verona’s city center, rides are typically stress-free.

The locals also like to climb the 238 stairs up to the top of the Lamberti Tower enjoying a great view of the city. Completed in 1463, it’s the highest tower of the Roman relics in Verona.

CARNIVALS
This is literally a piece of light, laugh, and fun that makes life so joyful and colorful an annual basis! Carnival in Verona dates back to 1531 and is one of the oldest in Italy. That year, due to a food shortage grain prices rose, poor people, especially in the old St. Zeno’s area, one of the biggest and more crowded in town, were facing starvation. unnamed-1Tommaso Da Vico, a wealthy noble, decided to donate a huge sum for poor people to buy flour to make gnocchi, small dumplings that at that time were poor people main sustenance. In his will, Da Vico ordered to distribute every year, on carnival last Friday, gnocchi, and wine to people of St Zeno’s area.

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That’s how Veronese Carnival had its origin. Nowadays, on carnival, last Friday, called Gnocchi’s Friday, a big parade ending in front of St. Zeno church rides the streets of Verona. The parade is led by Papa’ de’ gnocco, gnocchi’s dad, a mask representing an old king holding, instead of a scepter, a huge fork topped by a big gnocchi. The man who wears the costume is publicly elected in St. Zeno square a month before carnival. Candidates try to buy people’s vote offering gnocchi and wine – the happiest contest ever!

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Verona feels like a poem. Verona sounds like kisses. Verona calls for love. This is what locals’ brand of happiness is all about.

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