One of the many perks of living in Trieste, Italy - outside of the Italian coffee, cuisine, and aperitivos at my doorstep - is the easy ability to explore Northern Italy with short weekend getaways. My latest? 3 days in Verona (and 3 more on Lake Garda, but more on that later).
Verona is most famous for Romeo and Juliet, their Roman amphitheatre, and being in the foothills of one of the world's most stunning lakes, Lake Garda. Many articles I read kept referring to Verona as the "City of Romance," most likely conjured while looking up at Juliet's balcony and imaging those famous star-crossed lovers standing right where you are today. But fear not, I traveled to Verona solo and didn't cry myself to sleep each night.
So, whether you're traveling by yourself, are in love or not in love, brought your partner along, left them at home, or don't have/want one, you'll still enjoy your 3 days in Verona.
Let's dive right into your weekend trip itinerary to Verona and make sure you see the highlights.
(It's helpful to note that I'm going to assume you either arrived to Verona the night before or early in the morning and have a full day 1 ahead of you. If that doesn't fit your schedule, move around the itinerary to better fit when you actually arrive and depart this stunning city).
Day 1 in Verona
Personally, I like starting my trips off with a bang. I'm usually eager on the first day of the trip and want to see and do a lot. If you're living in Northern Italy like I am, it's helpful that you don't have to deal with jetlag or the tiredness from travel, meaning you can hop right into the fun.
Take the Verona Food & Wine Walking Tour
I've done more tours in Italy than I probably have in my entire life. Usually, I'm pretty self-sufficient and feel as though I can navigate around pretty well on my own. With Italy's food and wine scene though, I become quickly overwhelmed but all while still wanting to try absolutely everything the country has to offer.
That's where the Verona Food & Wine Walking Tour shines. On my own, I wouldn't have known about half of the things we tried on this tour or would have had to have spent hours on my own to get there. I'd rather have an expert show me the way.
This tour starts at 10am a quick walk from the train station and guides you throughout the city center while stopping 5 times for food, wine, or both. While you could wait and do this on Day 2 or Day 3, I recommend doing it from the start. The tour finishes up around 1:30pm still giving you plenty of time in the day to explore on your own.
You'll try local delicacies and can be as adventurous or as cautious as you'd like. For example, Verona is known for their horse meat and as a stop on the tour, we were given the option if we wanted to try that or something else. 2 of us said yes, 1 said no thank you. This is something I might not have had the confidence to order on my own or wouldn't have known that I could get a small meatball of it and didn't have to commit to a full plate. Don't worry, the rest of the food isn't nearly as daring as that one but is all incredibly tasty.
Since it's a walking tour, it gave me the ability to sightsee and save places on my map that I wanted to go back and revisit later. With our guide Isabella's knowledge, you can ask questions and get some insider tips on other things you might want to see and do later on in your stay. There's nothing worse than finding out right at the end of your trip that you missed out on some pretty fantastic things.
The company that hosted the tour, Tourist Italy, has plenty of other tours to choose from in Verona and the entire country if food and wine aren't your thing.
Rest & Check-In
If you arrived in Verona today, you most likely could only drop your bag at your hotel before the tour started. Now, it's time to go and check-in and rest a little bit from the tour.
Need a hotel? I stayed in Verona House and loved it. For a mid-tier stay, it's hard to beat this location and at this price point.
If you've already checked-in, dealer's choice if you want to stay out now or go in for a quick rest before popping back out later.
Hit the Town
Remember all those pins you dropped during the tour? It's time to go back to them. For me, this mostly ended up being a wide variety of shops but for you it could be historical sites, bars, restaurants, or museums.
Keep in mind that many shops are closed around lunchtime and open back up usually at 3pm. And many restaurants close around that time until 5pm or 6pm. This is common all throughout Italy so you might already be used to this but if you've just arrived it's helpful to know!
I don't know about you but after a morning of drinking wine, I really just wanted to shop. Luckily, Verona has a lot of fantastic walking streets that are full to the brim of common international brands and locally owned ones. I recommend starting on these main streets but veering off through the many alleyways from time to time.
A few of my favorite walking streets in Verona are:
- Via Mazzini: This is the main walking and shopping street that starts behind the Roman amphitheatre in Piazza Bra and ends at Juliet's house.
- Corso Porta Borsari/Corso Sant'Anastasia: These streets are the same when walking on them but change names when they cross over Piazza delle Erbe. It runs parallel to the street mentioned above so I recommend walking down one and back up the other.
- Via XX Settembre: This street is across the Adige River in the Veronetta District. It leads to the university area so it is young, vibrant, and full of unique shops.
From these walking streets, or not, I'd also recommend you spend some time in each of these stunning squares, or piazzas. Each piazza also has plenty of shops, cafes, and restaurants to keep you entertained for longer than just a picture:
- Piazza Bra: This is the main piazza right at the Roman amphitheatre. It's more than just your typical piazza, too, since much of it is a green park area. If you went on the tour mentioned above, you enjoyed a coffee and risino to start your day.
- Piazza delle Erbe: This is another large square but here they host an open-air market. The market is open year-round but what they offer might change seasonally.
- Piazza dei Signori: I was here in November and that meant that this piazza had converted into a Christmas market. If you're here for the holidays, try some tasty (mainly German) treats here.
Day 2 in Verona
While you could easily spend the day in Verona, if you only have a weekend here, it's worth taking a day trip. Although there are a lot of stunning places to visit near Verona (more options are outlined below), the can't-miss thing to do is to visit Lake Garda.
Spend the Day at the Lake
If you go to the closest possible point on Lake Garda, you'll be there in just 20 minutes. That closest point is Peschiera del Garda. For many, that's enough just to see the lake and spend as little time as possible on transport (you can arrive there by train or by bus).
Willing to go a little farther? Sirmione is the gem of southern Lake Garda. The trip there from the city center takes about 1 hour on a direct bus or by train to Peschiera del Garda then a bus the rest of the way. There are plenty of other stunning places on the lake to visit (I'm writing this article from picturesque Malcesine) but for only a day trip, I'd recommend sticking to the south of the lake to give you less time traveling and more time enjoying the area.
What you do at the lake will vary greatly from season to season. But, luckily, whether you visit Sirmione or Peschiera del Garda, walking through the town is always a must. Both are resort towns with beautiful architecture, stunning views, and plenty of small alleyways to get lost in.
It's important to note that in the summer, both of these towns (and Verona) are teaming with tourists and can get very hot. Luckily, the lake waters are always cool so you'll be able to get refreshed with a quick dip. On the flipside, in the winter, many of these restaurants, shops, and activities will be closed.
I recommend staying the entire day at Lake Garda and would even suggest you spend a few hours in both towns if you're up for it since you have to go through Peschiera del Garda anyways to get to Sirmione.
While you can stay the night at the lake, personally, I wouldn't deal with checking in/out and lugging bags just for 1 night. I'd get back to my hotel in Verona to have a full day 3 there.
Day 3 in Verona
After a good night's sleep, get ready for a full last day in Verona. Today, if the weather is good, we're going to do some sightseeing.
Take in the Views from Castel San Pietro
Let's start the day with an eagle's eye view of Verona. I actually went up here around sunset and while the panoramic view was really nice, with the sun behind the city, it means you're staring right into it which affects visibility. You get a really great silhouette of Verona but if you want to see more details and colors, the morning is best. This really is a personal opinion so if you'd prefer the sunset, go at the end of Day 1.
Otherwise, let's start the day here. You can stop just short of the castle and go to Parco Giochi Antonio Avena or walk a few more steps to make it to Castel San Pietro. Both are easily accessible from Ponte Pietra. You can then take a quick walk up to the park or opt to take the funicular just a bit higher for a vaster view. Don't rush, stay for a bit and enjoy the views. On the other side, you can still see the remains of the old Roman walls of the city.
Head to Romeo and Juliet's House
From this look out point, walk your way to Romeo's house, just a quick 8 minute walk from Ponte Pietra. Do your best to take some back streets and roads you hadn't walked on Day 1 to see more of Verona's stunning architecture. The narrow streets of Old Town never cease to amaze me.
It's not that I think you need to go to Romeo's house because it holds as much significance as his partner's but more because it's on the way to Juliet's house and gives the full picture behind the story. So why not?
From Romeo's, you'll need just 4 minutes walking to get to Juliet's famous balcony. You can either stand below and look up, pretending to be Romeo standing in the courtyard below or you can enter her house and look down, yelling your best, "Romeo o Romeo." If you need a little luck in love, rub Juliet's statue in the courtyard, but hoping that your love story ends a little better than hers.
Visit Castelvecchio Museum
Ok, full transparency, I didn't go into the museum. But, I did walk through the parts of the castle that are open to the public and onto its incredible bridge, Ponte Scaligero. If you have the time to (unlike I did), the museum I've heard it's really impressive with plenty of medieval, renaissance, and modern art collections.
Other than this museum, this castle is important due to the family that built it, the Scaligero's or della Scala (which translates to ladder). This was the ruling family of Verona and the surrounding area from 1262 to 1387 and surprisingly enough, even after all this time, ladders are everywhere in Verona to commemorate this family. You'll see them in architecture and in the logo of the local football (soccer) and rugby teams. I found it impressive how much Verona has held onto this ancient past, even the family member's tombs are still intact for all to see.
Say "Ciao" to Verona
By this point, it's probably time to say ciao and either head back home or to your next stop in Northern Italy. With so much to see and do (and plenty more day trip ideas), you could easily extend your 3 days in Verona to a much longer trip but at the least, with this, you've been able to scratch your Verona itch.
Verona Travel Tips
Before you buy your train tickets or book your flight, there are a few more things you might want to know before you visit Verona.
Best Time to Visit
The time of the year you visit Verona will greatly change your experience. This charming city has 4 true seasons so from November to June, for example, is a big difference. The time of the year you choose to plan your 3 days in Verona will depend on what you're hoping to do.
Winter will vary from month to month. In December, you can enjoy Christmas markets and seeing the festive lights brightening all of the streets. It's not too cold here at this time so it makes for a nice time to visit. January and February can be a bit more bleak.
You can expect things in small towns outside of the city center to be closed (unless you're in a ski town). But, if you're OK with that, there will be the least amount of people visiting Verona during this time.
In my opinion, May is one of the best months to travel in Europe (although if you've read my other articles, you know I'm a sucker for September). You can still expect lower prices and less crowds but the weather has started to heat up making outdoor adventures more pleasant.
This is peak season in Verona so expect more crowds and higher prices on accommodation. But, this is also when the opera festival and other concerts in the Verona arena take place. You can also swim in Lake Garda in the summer months and enjoy watersports.
Fall is when I visited Verona so from experience I can say it was a fantastic time to be here. I did get really lucky with the weather though and enjoyed blue skies and not so cold day time temperatures. Just 2 weeks before though, Adige River flooded though so fall can be a hit or miss.
The accommodation prices are lower and you can expect far less people, but on the lake, starting usually in November you can expect many things to be closed.
Public Transportation in Verona
Public transportation in Verona, just like in much of Italy, is fantastic. You can really get anywhere you need to go without the need of a car. The only exception is some of the wineries or really small towns that might be harder to reach.
Within the city, between cities, or tourist hot spots, you'll easily be able to rely on public transportation.
The difference with the buses here than in Trieste is that you can buy bus tickets on the bus and don't have to have them in advance. I didn't take all of the lines but the ones to and around the lake worked like this which was really nice. Just be sure to validate your ticket once you get on board with the machine right at the bus doors.
Tickets are rarely checked on public transportation but since they're so affordable, I'd rather not risk being unlucky.
Tipping in Italy
If you're from the US like I am, every new country comes with the questions of how much to tip. In Italy, the answer is it's not expected. Of course the more touristic the place, the more accustomed they are to the practice but it's still not expected like it is in the US.
Many places automatically put in a table or service charge of about 10% of your meal which acts as a mandatory tip. You can rest easy knowing that servers here are also paid a real wage.
If the service was excellent though, leave a tip. Just know it has to be in cash. In my 5 months so far living in Italy, I've only seen the option to leave it on your card when paying at 1 restaurant. Most don't allow this so you have to leave it in cash.
Best Places to Visit Near Verona
Verona is located in the Veneto region. This region is home to more than you could image - Venice, Lake Garda, Padua, and part of the Dolomites. By just sticking to this region alone you can soak up ancient Roman architecture, rich history, winding alleyways, delicious food, world-class wines, and stunning views.
These are a few of the best places to visit nearby if you have a few more than 3 days in Verona:
2 hours by public transportation from Verona or 1 hour by car.
Since you've already visited southern Lake Garda, head to the north. Here, you'll enjoy a view like none other (pictured above), great hiking trails, historic buildings, and you can quickly get to the western side of the lake with the ferry going to Limone Sul Garda (just note this ferry is closed in winter).
45 minutes by public transportation from Verona or 1 hour by car.
Mantua is a bit of an Italian secret. Although not in the Veneto region, it's too close to Verona not to be included on the list. Mantua is surrounded by 3 lakes, not nearly as large as Lake Garda but still adding to the ambiance of the city. Mantua has always been known as a city of artists and musicians and to this day it still has this vibe to it.
As close as a few minutes, upwards of an hour based on the vineyard (always by car).
Although there are a lot of varieties of wine produced around Verona, Valpolicella, or Amarone della Valpolicella in particular, is the most famous. This is a world-class wine that can be pretty expensive to drink outside of visiting the region itself. Although on the wine tour we've started our trip off with, you’ll sample this wine and its varieties, if you're craving more, go directly to the source.
2 hours by public transportation from Verona or 1 hour 45 minutes by car.
Bolzano is a stunning alpine town in South Tyrol. This semi-autonomous region of Italy is most well-known thanks to their Dolomites scraping the sky. This is a farther trip from Verona but well worth it if you want to see a completely different side of Italy. Here, it has a strong Austrian influence and German is widely spoken. If you're anything like us, you'll get the impression you accidentally crossed the border!
45 minutes by public transportation from Verona or 1 hour 15 minutes by car.
Padua is nestled right in between Verona and Venice and a city I had never heard of until a local friend recommended it. Padua is a UNESCO world heritage site thanks to the frescos from the 14th century still visible today. Outside of this, from here, you can reach Venice by boat, passing luxurious villas along the way.
1 hour 15 minutes by public transportation or by car from Verona.
Venice is by far the most well-known destination in the Veneto region. And if you've never been, it really is worth the visit. Verona actually reminded me a lot of Venice in its architecture, just exchanging the network of canals or narrow cobblestone alleyways. Allow yourself time to wander aimlessly away from the popular attractions of Piazza San Marco and Ponte di Rialto.
How Will You Spend Your 3 Days in Verona?
I have no doubt you'll love your time visiting Verona. It's a city that's hard not to fall in love with. With this Verona itinerary, I'm sure you'll see the city's main attractions and sneak in a few hidden gems, especially with the help of the Food and Wine Walking Tour taking you off the grid. Just be sure to give yourself some time in your schedule to sit back and slowly enjoy a coffee with a view, trust me, it's the Italian way.