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15 Facts about the Historic City of Verona

Updated on April 11, 2014
Gates of Verona
Gates of Verona | Source

Verona is the capital of Verona Province and the second most important center (after Venice) of the Veneto Region. It lies 90 miles east of Milan, on both banks of the Adige River, between the foothills of the Monti Lessini and the Po Valley plain. The city has a population of 264,220 (2010).

1. Rich in monuments and art treasures, Verona is also a thriving commercial and industrial center, the site of one of Europe's most important agricultural fairs, and a vital communications hub.

2. Because of its position at the junction of the Milan-Venice and Rome-Brenner Pass railroad lines and highways, it was the target of destructive Allied air raids during World War II; further damage was caused by the retreating Germans, who blew up the nine bridges spanning the Adige. Many of Verona's monuments suffered, and 44% of its homes were destroyed, but reconstruction has since been completed.

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3. Food processing, printing, and the manufacture of agricultural and industrial machinery, leather products, pharmaceuticals, plastics, and paper are Verona’s chief activities.

4. There are four major Roman remains in Verona: the amphitheater, or Arena, the third largest extant of its kind, a great ellipse where 22,000 people can now be seated on the 44 tiers of steps and where an opera season is held each year; the Arco dei Gavi, dating from the age of Augustus; the Porta dei Borsari, a gate of the old Roman walls; and the theater on the left bank of the Adige, whose remains, buried until 1830, have been restored so that dramatic performances may now be presented there.

5. The busiest and most picturesque square of the city is the Piazza delle Erbe, on the site of the Roman forum, where the daily vegetable and fruit market is held; it is surrounded by picturesque old houses and has a 14th-century fountain.

Piazza dei Signori
Piazza dei Signori | Source

6. Piazza dei Signori has a noble appearance; among the beautiful buildings that enclose it are the Loggia del Consiglio, a masterpiece of the Renaissance (late 15th century), attributed to Fra Giocondo; the town hall (1193) with the Lamberti tower; and the Palazzo del Governo, originally the residence of the della Scala family, where Dante and Giotto stayed during their sojourn in Verona. Nearby in a small square are the Arche Scaligere, the monumental Gothic tombs of several members of the della Scala family.

7. The most imposing building of the city is the Castelvecchio, a fortress built by Cangrande II della Scala in 1354–1357, and completed in 1375; the adjoining Ponte Scaligero has been rebuilt as it was before World War II.

8. The most notable churches in Verona are the cathedral (12th–16th centuries), housing Titian's Assumption; San Zeno Maggiore, a beautiful Romanesque church of large proportions; the Gothic Sant'Anastasia; the Renaissance Church of San Giorgio; the Benedictine abbey of Santa Maria in Organo; and San Bernardino.

9. The Bevilacqua, Pompei, and episcopal palaces are among the finest in the city. Verona's well-preserved walls, originally built by the della Scala family in the 14th century to supersede the Roman walls, were fortified by the Austrians.

10. Nothing definite is known about the founding of Verona; it was inhabited by Rhaetians, Etruscans, and Gauls before its conquest by the Romans in 89 B.C. During the barbarian invasions it was a favorite residence of Theodoric, king of the Ostrogoths (died 526 A.D.), and of the Lombard king Alboin (died 573).

Juliet's balcony
Juliet's balcony | Source

11. In 774 Verona fell to Charlemagne and in the 10th century was given by Emperor Otto I to the dukes of Bavaria. The feudal landowners and rising merchant class cooperated in establishing a free commune in the early 12th century. With other towns of the Veneto, Verona formed (1164) the Veronese League, which developed (1167) into the Lombard League against the German emperors.

12. The city was torn by rivalries among its noble families, an episode of which is depicted by Shakespeare in Romeo and Juliet.

13. From 1226 Ezzelino III da Romano, a partisan of Emperor Frederick II, played a leading role in the struggle between Guelphs and Ghibellines and virtually ruled Verona from 1236 until his death in 1259. Then came the rule of the della Scala family, which lasted from 1260 to 1387 and marked the beginning of the most glorious period of the city's political and artistic history. Cangrande I della Scala (reigned 1311–1329) was its most prominent and successful member, but his successors were weak, and the Visconti lords of Milan finally caused the family's downfall.

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14. In 1405 Verona voluntarily accepted Venetian rule and enjoyed a long period of peace and prosperity until 1796. First occupied by the French, against whom an unsuccessful uprising was attempted (called the Pasque Veronesi, Verona's Easter), it was ceded to Austria in 1797. Except for the years 1801–1814, Verona remained under Austrian rule until its incorporation into the Kingdom of Italy in 1866. Austria restored its fortifications and made it the main fortress of the Quadrilateral defense system; it played an important role during the wars of the risorgimento.

15. The architects Fra' Giocondo (died 1515) and Michele Sanmicheli (1484–1559) and the painters Pisanello (Antonio Pisano, c. 1395–c. 1455) and Paolo Veronese (Paolo Cagliari or Caliari, 1528–1588) were the most prominent native artists of Verona.

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