My favourite site in Verona is Juliet’s tomb (Via del Pontiere 9, 00 39 045 800 03 61). It’s in a 13th-century Franciscan convent, where Juliet died in the play – the only one outside the city walls at the time when the events were supposed to have taken place. People go there to pay tribute to Juliet and Shakespeare – even Dickens visited. It really does have a very special atmosphere. It feels like one of the saddest places in the world.’
Piazza delle Erbe The finest square in the city, ringed with cafés and full of locals catching up on the gossip. The Piazza is also home to some of Verona’s finest architecture, including the Baroque Palazzo Maffei, and the frescoes of Casa Mazzanti.
Basilica di San Zeno Maggiore Said to contain the crypt where Romeo and Juliet were married, this is an archetypal example of Romanesque architecture, with a ‘wheel of fortune’ rose window and 12thcentury bronze doors on its façade (admission £2; Piazza San Zeno; 00 39 045 800 61 20).
Al Pompiere means ‘the firefighter’, and this tavern still has the original owner’s fire helmet on the wall. It’s famous for its salami platters and Italian favourites such as braised beef ravioli (mains from £7).
A spectacular wine list is reason enough to stop off here, not to mention a menu of Venetian liver and suckling pig. Some wines have been bottled exclusively for the Bottega del Vino (from £16).
Situated close to the arena, the Anfitheatro B&B attracts a thespian and operatic clientele with high-ceilinged rooms and antique furniture (from £85).
Cool hoops of colour ring the modern rooms of Casa Coloniale like a billiard ball – it’s a great location, too, just off the Piazza delle Erbe (from £65).
‘I come to wive it wealthily in Padua’- The Taming of the Shrew
Shakespeare’s early comedy The Taming of the Shrew, written around 1590, was one of his first plays set in Italy. He owed part of this story, about a man who attempts to ‘train’ his new wife into a submissive spouse, to a comedic play called I Suppositi by the poet Ludovico Ariosto. Shakespeare chose to set his play in Padua, a city that lies between Verona and Venice.
The University of Padua was one of the first in the world, and in Shakespeare’s time, the city was very well known as a centre of learning throughout Europe – Galileo [of telescope fame] and Casanova [of sexual conquest fame] are both alumni (Via 8 Febbraio No2, 00 39 049 827 8511).
He wanted to turn this city of learning and science into a city of love and political incorrectness. He used its reputation, rather than actual locations, as a backdrop – apart from the University, he rarely mentions specific sites. The best way to experience Shakespeare’s Padua is by having a stroll around the university. There is a marvellous wooden anatomical amphitheatre in the Medical School that was built in the 16th century, where they dissected humans and animals for the students. It is still a leading medical university today.
The life of the university runs thorough the city. It’s lovely to walk through the portico walkways that run under the houses, and into the Prato della Valle, one of the main city squares. It is laid out like a formal Italian garden, ringed by a canal. It feels like a little world to itself, detached from the rest of the city (Via Michele Sanmicheli 49, 00 39 049 875 7367).
Giotto’s frescoes in Cappella Degli Scrovegni revolutionised the role of art in religious venues by giving biblical figures more humanistic features and characteristics, inspiring none other than Leonardo da Vinci (admission from £10).
The reason why Shakespeare used Padua as a location, the University lies in the Palazzo del Bò – take a tour of Galileo’s lecture hall and see the world’s first anatomy theatre (guided tours £4).