I recently went to Verona to help out my best friend, who works in the arts and curated an exhibition at one of Italy’s most important contemporary art fairs, ArtVerona. ArtVerona allows only Italian galleries to exhibit, galleries that represent both national and international artists. The works on display consist mainly of contemporary art, with a bit of modern art thrown in for good measure. In addition to today’s rising contemporary artists, I also caught a few works by heavy hitters like de Chirico, Picasso, Klee, and Botero.
I spent the first three days of my trip running around the fair, helping out where I could. Finally, on the fourth day, I got to see Verona, which is a small but charming city. It almost feels like an island at times, thanks to the Adige river that snakes around it. Verona’s biggest claim to fame is being the setting of Shakespeare’s classic play, Romeo and Juliet. Several of the city’s top attractions have to do with the characters of the play, such as Juliet’s house and her alleged tomb. Locals have assured me that these sights are nothing more than tourist traps (Romeo and Juliet were fictional characters, after all), but I suppose they’re worth visiting if you have a lot of time in Verona or want to be able to say you saw everything. Something else one must not leave Verona before trying is the city’s signature dish, polenta. I tried it with rabbit at the Osteria Ai Osei in the trendy Veronetta neighbourhood where we stayed, and I must admit that it was delicious.
If you want to explore outside the box on your trip to Verona, consider staying in the Veronetta neighbourhood. Located just east of the river that cuts it off from the centre of Verona, it has a healthy student population and is generally free of tourists. Yet it is an easy walk to the city centre and the streets are lined with picturesque Italian architecture. Plus, there are great little bars and restaurants waiting to be discovered (see below), and unlike those in the small city centre of Verona, these will be more or less free of tourists. Perfetto for practising your Italian!
Verona is a lovely city that should definitely be seen once, but to be frank, if you don’t have much time in Italy you could probably make it a day trip, as all of the major sights can easily be seen in a day.
My trip to Verona in pictures:
WHEN: ArtVerona takes place in mid-October every year. Next year, 2014, will mark the fair’s tenth anniversary.
WHERE: At the sprawling Veronafiere exhibition and conference space, southwest of the city center, not far from the train station.
HOT TIP: Make sure to go up the Torre dei Lamberti off of the Piazza dei Signori for fabulous views of the city.
HOT TIP: For a very reasonably priced, no-nonsense dinner of well-prepared Veronese specialities, try Osteria Ai Osei on Via Ettore Arduino in the Veronetta neighbourhood, just east of the city centre.
HOT TIP: A great place to get a drink is at the kitschy bar and social club Malacarne, in student-filled Veronetta. The decor is colourful, artistic, and eclectic and quite memorable, drinks are reasonable, and the staff and patrons are friendly.