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The city of Verona

 

Have you ever thought about studying Italian in Italy?

Verona is the perfect place to learn Italian language while simultaneously immersing yourself in the art, culture, style and culinary traditions of Italian life.

Walking through the streets of the city is a rich sensory experience as you pass by the palaces, churches, bridges and ancient stones that speak of an extraordinary history. Picture a great piazza with a Roman Amphitheatre at its centre. This is Piazza Bra, the heart of Verona. Here, between the porticoes and the ribbon of outdoor cafés, the Arena stands testament to the city's ancient past. On summer nights, the magical sounds of the open-air Opera performed here infuse the city with life and a sense of spectacle that is unique and unforgettable.

Surrounded by green hills and the meandering Adige River, Verona has a special relationship with nature. Only a short distance from Lake Garda with its fjord-like landscape and Mediterranean vegetation, the lake influences not only the climate of Verona but also the lifestyle of its people. Nestled in the rolling hills of Valpolicella (a region famed for its production of quality wines), Verona is perfumed by the surrounding countryside and the nearby alpine mountains - both of which, as they change through the seasons, affect a change upon the city centre.

The romance of Verona is palpable. The unexpected surprises found around each corner and at the end of every cobbled street; the beautiful vistas of the surrounding landscape that can be glimpsed between the ancient buildings; and the warm amber glow of lights in the evenings, instantly remind all who visit here of the magical love story Romeo and Juliet, set in Verona by Shakespeare in his famous 16th century play.

Verona's geographic position makes it the perfect departure point (by rail, road or air) from which to explore the rest of Italy. Excursions to other cities of art and culture can easily be arranged during your stay: you can reach Venice and Milan in one-and-a-half hours by train; TrentoPadovaMantova and Ferrara in one hour; Vicenza and Brescia in half-an-hour. A fast train will get you to Florence in three hours and Rome in five. Verona's airport, just a few kilometres from the centre of town, provides quick and easy access to the rest of Italy and Europe.

The social life of the city

Verona is an elegant city of Italian art and history in which it is near impossible to get bored. Always rich in cultural festivals and social events, the city offers innumerable activities to fill your free time. The Veronese love to get together in the piazzas, unwind in the cafés and walk through the streets of the city. The evenings are always lively and animated and you will find numerous, wine bars, cafés and pubs to explore. Also, there is an endless array of osterias, trattorias and pizzerias offering traditional local fare where visitors can listen to live music or simply spend a relaxing evening with friends.

A melting pot of modern life and ancient culture, Verona is a tranquil city on a human scale, liveable in every season of the year. Year-round, the city offers its inhabitants infinite cultural delights to feast their senses, ranging from small film festivals to grand-scale operas.

On summer nights, the stage of the Roman Arena comes alive with the annual open-air opera festival (FESTIVAL DELL'OPERA LIRICA) while across the river, at the Roman Theatre, the SHAKESPEARE and VERONA JAZZ FESTIVALS fill the summer nights with poetic words and sounds. In spring and autumn, the amphitheatre hosts a variety of rock concerts. In September important exhibitions of international pop acts is held at the Arena. During the winter months, the Teatro Filarmonico and Teatro Nuovo complete the playbill of concerts, performances and spectacles.

For shopping lovers, there are endless boutiques famed for their prestige and elegance (GUCCI, PRADA, ETRO, VERSACE) while for those with a discerning palette, there are myriad world-class restaurants in which to savour the specialities of the Italian cuisine.

For those with an athletic bent, the city offers a variety of different sporting pursuits: canoeing on the river; skiing and rock climbing in the nearby Dolomites; sailing, swimming and windsurfing on Lake Garda; and mountain bike and horseback riding in the mountains of Lessinia. Verona is also equipped with many sporting facilities: tennis, volleyball and basketball courts, indoor and outdoor swimming pools, soccer fields, cycling tracks, gymnasiums, dance schools and more. With two squads in the 1st Division, (Hellas Verona and Chievo Verona), the kick-off at a soccer match at the stadium is an occasion not to be missed for those who want a glimpse of the real Italy.

Although a player on the international stage with its many trade fairs such as VINITALY of VERONAFIERE (the most prestigious exhibition in the world for wine producers), the region has jealously guarded its traditions and natural products through the ages.

First and foremost, the wine of the Veneto (some of the best in Italy such as Soave, Bardolino, Amarone, Valpolicella, Custoza) as well as its simple and genuine cooking, which preserves the integrity and knowledge of the past. To all traditional dishes is added the region's characteristic (and sumptuous) olive oil, produced in the hills surrounding Verona and on the banks of Lake Garda.

Verona and its surrounding territory

Verona boasts an enviable geographic position at the crossroads between Northern Europe and the Mediterranean countries of the south. Located in the Veneto, a region equally rich in beautiful landscapes (the Dolomite Mountains, Lake Garda, the Lombardy Plain countryside, the Venice Lagoon, the Po Delta, the Adratic Sea), as it is in great cities of art and culture (Vicenza, Padua, Bologna, Trento and, of course, the magical Venice). Add to the mix, the countless charming ancient towns that dot the region (Asolo, Castelfranco, Marostica, Bassano del Grappa, Este) and the Veneto is a place not to be missed by any visitor to Italy.

The territory surrounding Verona is dominated by the River Adige that gracefully braids its way through the city with gentle curves) and the low, undulating foothills of the Dolomites that ramble off into the horizon. To the north of the city, the sweep of the river valley and the pre-Alpine climate combine to create an impressive mountainous landscape that continues all the way to the spectacular Dolomite mountains. To the south, by contrast, extends the great Lombardy Plain, a flat expanse as far as the eye can see, repeatedly cut by the massive sway of the River Po (Italy's longest and most famous river). A few kilometres from Verona sits Lake Garda, Italy's largest and deepest lake. Lake Garda's wonderfully temperate climate and typically Mediterranean flora have long made it the preferred playground of locals and the savoured summer destination of tourists from around the world.

 

Art in Verona

The best way to discover the beauty of Verona's art is to take a stroll through its wonderful streets and inhale simultaneously the beautiful remnants of the city's ancient Roman past and the elegantly stylish aspects of its modern Italian culture.

The oldest Roman construction in Verona is Ponte Pietra, the stone bridge whose arcs have joined the two banks of the city for nearly two thousands years, standing as a timepiece to the birth of Verona. The Roman Theatre and the Arena (the third largest and best-preserved Roman amphitheatre in the world) testify to a glorious ancient past. The Medieval Basilica di San Zeno is truly the jewel of Italian Romanesque art with its pinstripes of pink and white stone, while the high towers and fortified bridge of Castelvecchio show the flair and artistic integrity of the Medieval Scaligere court. Thanks to the attentive and inspired work of architect Carlo Scarpa, Castelvecchio was transformed into a beautiful art gallery in the 1960s which now showcases masterpieces by such Renaissance greats as Pisanello, Mantegna, Bellini as well as many other beautiful artefacts from across the ages. A short walk from Castelvecchio, sits the exquisite Arche Scaligere where the tombs of the famous family are crowned with knights on horseback, seemingly ready, in all their stony glory, to charge in a Medieval joust. In the sixteenth century, beautifully detailed artwork began spreading across the facades of the buildings. Frescoes of great mythological scenes (many of which still exist today) transformed Verona into a magical painted city. The ancient Roman Forum (in the Medieval market square) with its Renaissance frescoes and cloud-scraping clock tower, is today the heart of the Verona. Here, in Piazza Erbe, between the fruit stalls and outdoor cafés, foreigners and Veronese mix in a magical symphony of sounds and colours. Many travellers of the past, from Goethe to Ruskin, have visited and fallen in love with the city, passionately filling endless pages with descriptions of the charms and beauty of Verona. Saint George and the DragonThe travellers of today are equally in awe. An overwhelming and precious centre of art and history, Verona is a city of infinite surprises and curious discoveries: the glorious statues, the delicate friezes that ornament the buildings, the frescoes that constantly change with the varying light, the ancient Roman inscriptions carved in stone, the medieval windows nestled in bright ochre walls, the brimming fountains and opulent gardens... all make an unforgettable impression on the hearts and minds of visitors to the city.

The history of Verona

Verona's history dates back to ancient times when the Indo-European population (the Euganei and Reti and possibly also the Etruscans) settled at the place where the course of the clear river slowed, caressing the fertile hills that surrounded it. The natural resources of the area made it an ideal location for a new city, the nucleus of which was built atop the hill where San Pietro castle now stands. Verona's first significant contact with ancient Rome was in 216 BC, when the city allied itself with the Romans at the Battle of Canne. However, it did not officially become a Roman city until 49 BC after which time, because of its political importance and magnificent monuments (second only to Rome), Verona became known as Piccola Roma (Little Rome).

After the fall of the Roman Empire, Verona's history is confused with legend. What is known is that the Ostrogothian King Teodorico brought his people to the region, choosing Verona to house his court where he ruled from a regal palace he built in the hills. His successor, King Alboino, ruled Verona during the period that the city was the capital of the Longobards of Italy. When Desiderio (the last of the Longobards) was defeated by the powerful Carlo Magno, Magno's son Pipino elected the beautiful Verona as his place of residence.

During Medieval times, the bitter fight for dominance of Verona between the leading families of the area, ended with the Scaligeri family taking control in 1277 and maintaining rule for the next 110 years. The Scaligeri transformed the city both physically, with the erection of countless magnificent buildings, and culturally, through a strong patronage of the arts. They supported painters and poets such as Giotto, Altichiero, Dante Alighieri (who dedicated the final part of his Divine Comedy to his benefactor) and Petrarch. It was in this period, according to legend, that the tragic lovers Romeo and Juliet were said to have lived, immortalised in the work of William Shakespeare.

The Lion of VeniceThroughout the Renaissance, Verona was a part of the Republic of Venice and it zealously soaked up the splendour of the period's art, culture and society. The nobility and new middle class of wealthy merchants enriched the city and its populace, constructing sumptuous gardens, ornate palaces, grand houses and magnificent churches that transformed the city into the romantic utopia it still is today. The Verona of this era was at once a social, cultural and economic fortress. In 1796 Napoleon arrived in Verona (then a city of strategic military importance and consequently the site of many fierce battles). While initially Napoleon inspired hope in the Veronese with promises of liberation and independence, he eventually passed control of Verona to the Austrians in exchange for territories closer to France. Consequently, in the first half of the nineteenth century Verona was an important Austrian stronghold, until it was united with Italy in 1866. The many great powers that have ruled Verona during its long history have all left their mark on the city and today, evidence of their presence and influence can be seen in the architecture, art, cuisine and attitude of the community.

Verona: World Heritage site by the UNESCO Committee

In 2000 Verona was listed as a World Heritage site by the UNESCO Committee, being an example of an Italian city that in its urban structure and architecture is an outstanding example of a town that has developed progressively and uninterruptedly over two thousand years, incorporating artistic elements of the highest quality from each succeeding period.

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