|Verona is a city and provincial capital in Veneto, Northern Italy. The ancient town of Verona and the centre of the modern era are in a loop of the Adige River near Lake Garda. Because of this position, the areas saw a regular flow of flooding until 1956, when the Mori-Torbole tunnel was constructed, providing 500 cubic meters of discharge from the Adige river to Lake Garda when there was danger of flooding. The tunnel reduced the risk of flooding from once every seventy years to once every two centuries. Geographic history of Verona is plains and small mountain areas.
Because of the value and importance of its many historical buildings, Verona has been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The Roman military settlement, that means the today’s centre of the city was to expand through the cardi and decumani that intersect at right angles. This structure has been kept to the present day and is clearly visible from the air. Further development has not reshaped the original map. Though the Roman city with its basalt-paved roads is mostly hidden from view it stands virtually intact about 6 m below the surface. Most palaces and houses have cellars built on Roman artifacts that are unfortunately rarely accessible to visitors. Piazza delle Erbe, near the Roman forum was rebuilt by Cangrande I and Cansignorio della Scala I, lords of Verona, using material (such as marble blocks and statues) from Roman spas and villas.
Verona is famous for its Roman amphitheatre, the Arena, completed around 30 AD, which is the third largest in Italy, after Rome’s Colosseum and the arena at Capua. It measures 139 meters long and 110 meters wide, and could seat some 25,000 spectators in its 44 tiers of marble seats. The ludi (shows and gladiator games) performed within its walls were so famous that they attracted spectators from far beyond the city. The current two-story façade is actually the internal support for the tiers; only a fragment of the original outer perimeter wall in white and pink limestone from Valpolicella, with three stories remains. The interior is very impressive and is virtually intact, and has remained in use even today for public events, fairs, theatre and open-aired opera during warm summer nights.
There is also a variety of other Roman monuments to be found in the town, such as the Roman theatre. This theatre was built in the 1st century BC, but through the ages had fallen in disuse and had been built upon to provide housing. In the 18th century Andrea Monga, a wealthy Veronese, bought all the houses that in time had been built over the theatre, demolished them, and saved the monument. Not far from it is the Ponte di Pietra (“Stone Wall Bridge”), another Roman landmark that has survived to this day.
The Arco dei Gavi (Gavi Arch), dedicated to the important Roman family of the Gavii, was built in the 1st century AD, and is famous for having the name of the builder (architect Lucius Vitruvius Cordone) engraved on it, a really rare case in the architecture of that age. It originally straddled the main Roman road into the city, now Corso Cavour. It had been demolished by the French troops in 1805 and was rebuilt in 1932.
Nearby, the Porta Borsari, an archway at the end of Corso Porta Borsari. This is the façade of a 3rd century gate in the original Roman city walls. The inscription is dated 245 AD and gives the city name as Colonia Verona Augusta. Corso Porta Borsari, the road passing through the gate is the original Via Sacra of the Roman city. Today, it is lined with several Renaissance palaces and the ancient Church of SS. Apostoli (left), a few yards from Piazza delle Erbe.
Porta Leoni is the 1st century BC ruin of what was once part of the Roman city gate. A substantial portion is still standing as part of the wall of a medieval building. The same street is an open archaeological site, and the remains of the original Roman street and gateway foundations can be seen a few feet below the present street level. As it can be seen from there, the gate contains a small court guarded by towers. Here, carriages and travellers were inspected before entering or leaving the city.
The Basilica of San Zeno Maggiore is considered one of the great achievements of Romanesque architecture. The present structure is the 3rd on this site, built from 1123-1135, over the 4th century shrine to Verona’s patron saint, St. Zeno (died 380).
Sant’Anastasia is a huge and lofty church built from 1290-1481 by the Dominicans to hold the massive congregations attracted by their rousing fundamentalist sermons. The Gothic portal has faded 15th century frescoes and carved scenes from the life of St Peter Martyr, but the façade is unfinished. Inside is one of the most outstanding examples of Gothic architecture in northern Italy. However, its proportions and various elements of the design are still decidedly Romanesque. The Pellegrini chapel houses the famous fresco “St. George and the Princess of Trebizond” by Pisanello as well as the grave of Wilhem Von Bibra. Verona is the setting of the story of Romeo and Juliet, made famous by William Shakespeare. Although the earliest version of the story is set in Siena, not in Verona – the move was made in Luigi da Porto’s Istoria novellamente ritrovata di due Nobili Amanti – a balcony falsely claiming historical connection to the fictional lovers has become a tourist attraction for lovers; the short passageway leading to the balcony is covered with slips of paper carrying their graffiti, and a bronze statue of Juliet stands under the balcony, one breast polished by those touching it for luck.