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Close to Garda Lake, Verona is a city of rare beauty, set back against the hills to the north and laid out harmoniously along the smooth curves of the Adige river. Founded as a commercial and political town in Roman times, traces of this period remain with the massive Arena, the Roman theatre, the Gavi Arch and the Borsari gate, as well as the archaeological area of Porta Leoni and that of the Scaligeri excavations. Large sections of the ancient walls are still standing and they bear witness – along with the monumental gates and other fortifications – to the strategic importance of the city. Verona is also full of prestigious cultural institutions, from the ancient Civic Capitolare Library to the university and the oldest Music academy in the world. The Fondazione Arena has been producing stunning opera productions for its 15.000 capacity audience for over a hundred years, and every summer an international crowd packs the open-air theatre to cheer each performance.
The whole centre of Verona is well worth visiting, and brimming with its rich collections of churches and palaces. Crowds flock to the house and tomb of Juliet, whose tragic love-story with Romeo was immortalised by William Shakespeare.
Veronese cuisine is extremely tasty. Many dishes are meat-based and you should, at the very least, try the pastissada de caval—a horse-meat stew cooked in red wine with polenta (a sort of thick porridge made with maize flour). There are many different kinds of risotto available, such as risi e bisi—with peas, or coi bruscandoli—with herbs, and rich homemade pasta, especially gnocchi. Don’t miss the soppressa all’aglio (salami with garlic).
Coffee is as important as pasta for the Italians. If you want to act like a local, there are some unwritten rules you should keep in mind when ordering your coffee. - Capuccino, Caffe latte or any other kind of coffee based on milk should only be drunk in the morning. - When you order an espresso, don't use the word espresso which actually just is a technical phrase. Ask the barista for simply "un caffe". - And last but not least, when ordering "un caffe" you don't sit down. Stand at the bar and drink your coffee on foot. Either you feel like blending in or acting like a true tourist, sitting down at a table, there are plenty of cafes to choose from in Verona.
People in Verona—and in the northeast of Italy in general—like to meet in osterias (canteen) during the day and drink wine, white from midday till late afternoon and red in the evening. Hence the (false) myth that people in this area are often drunk—in fact, they usually limit themselves to just a glass or two all day and always combine their wine with canapés, salami and other snacks. In the winter and spring, Verona’s night life is rather quiet, and if you want to meet people you will need to visit an osteria or try the clubs and discos. In summer though, things brighten as many people choose to sit outside or walk through the streets of the city centre.
People fond of antiques or paintings should visit corso Sant’Anastasia and the area next to it where there are a number of antique shops Antichità Due Torri, Antichità Sottoriva, and art galleries (Boxart, Arts Noveaux). On the third Saturday of every month, there is also an antique market in piazza San Zeno with furniture, jewellery, stamps and even old cars and motorcycles. If you want to learn cooking the Italian way, there is a market in piazza Erbe where you can buy food products. Around the city centre there are many wine shops, such as the Istituto Enologico Italiano (via Sottoriva, 7), that have a rich selection of international and Italian wines and is located in a lovely old basement with arches. Shops in Verona are usually open from on Monday afternoons and Tuesday to Saturday from 9am to 7.30pm, and they tend to keep close during the lunch hours. Sunday is not a good day to plan for shopping, since most shops are closed then. Markets are open from the early morning until lunch.
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