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Destinations · Europe · italy · Verona · Things to do ·

Things to do

Author: Anothertravelguide.com0 COMMENTS

Things to do

Visit the Castelvecchio Museum! Housed in the medieval castle (or rather, the grandiose fortress) built for the Scaliger dynasty, this is one of the most impressive of Verona's museums. The structure includes a connecting bridge made of stone and red brick that crosses the Adige River, and the panoramic views from the castle's towers are breathtaking. An additional layer of interest lies in the fact that the latest restoration of the castle, undertaken from 1959 to 1973, was headed by the renown Italian architect and modernist Carlo Scarpa.

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Castelvecchio is one of Scarpa's master works, and a reflection of his own signature style – as seen in the obvious references to the painter Piet Mondrian (who was a source of inspiration to Scarpa), in the visible allusions to Japanese architecture, and by Scarpa's own scrupulous attention to detail; and of course, the architect's love of the city is illustrated through through the use of stone and his choice of colour palette. Interestingly enough, Scarpa never acquired a professional license to practice architecture, and he also worked for many years as a designer for Murano glass factories, an experience which gave rise to his amazing abilities in working with light and form. The first floor of the Museum is reminiscent of a Gothic cathedral, thereby echoing the history of the sculptural exhibits on view, most of which are sourced from churches ruined by earthquakes, floods and the destructive hand of man. Scarpa consciously avoided the use of artificial light sources, leading to the space being illuminated only by the daylight coming in from one side – and an atmosphere directly dependent on the weather outdoors.

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The Museum's exhibits consist of rich collections of ancient ceramics, weapons, statues, paintings, 14th-century frescoes and sculptures. Represented artists include the likes of Tintoretto, Veronese, Andrea Mantegna and Pisanello. (Corso Castelvecchio, 2)

A visit to Arena di Verona is mandatory! When there, it's also worth remembering that the white and pink limestone-clad Verona Arena, one of the world's most exciting outdoor opera venues, is actually a place with a horrifying history. The arena was not originally built for opera performances; of course, having been built in 30 AD, this Roman amphitheatre predates the genre of opera by many centuries.

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The “performances” that were held there involved such ghastly things as deathly gladiator fights. In 1278, Arena di Verona was used to punish and execute the condemned. It was only during the Renaissance that the arena was gradually taken over by the theatre; Arena di Verona became a truly permanent theatrical venue only in 1913, when it was chosen as the stage for a grand performance of Giuseppe Verdi's Aida to mark the composer's centenary. The structure's outstanding acoustics did not go unnoticed during the performance of the opera, and it was almost overnight that Arena di Verona transformed into a popular venue of gala concerts and grand performances. And since then it has lost none of its appeal and popularity. For the whole of each summer, Arena di Verona is taken over by an annual summer opera festival – the Arena di Verona Festival, which focuses on the quality of music and the exciting acoustic experience of listening to an opera performance in an ancient amphitheatre. After Rome's Colosseum and Arena di Capua, Arena di Verona is the third largest ancient amphitheatre still extant. Its 45-step/seat rows can seat 22 000 spectators. (www.arena.it)

Drive to Vicenza! Located just 58 km from Verona, it is a city that boasts a dense concentration of masterpieces by the famous High Renaissance-era architect Palladio. In his architectural works (of which there are six in Vicenza), the master continued to develop the classical language of architecture. With his incredible talent, Palladio left behind buildings that are so serene and majestic in their form and proportions that they are still studied and admired today; in fact, structures built in this style are now commonly referred to as “Palladian”.

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Palladio's pièce de résistance lies on the outskirts of Vicenza – the completely symmetrical Villa Capra La Rotonda, an edict of ideal harmony. Conceived initially as an entertainment house for its former owner, and enclosed by a beautiful garden, La Rotonda has remained a pilgrimage destination for architects to this very day.

Other must-see spots are also nearby, such as the Palazzo Chiericati and the Teatro Olimpico. Do not pass by the opportunity to go inside the theatre – its unique wooden stage construction featuring several little dummy streets is rather fascinating. Vicenza Basilica, designed by Palladio, is situated in the very centre of the city. It houses a marble statue of the genius himself, who was born in this very town. Detailed information and “Palladio tours” are available on almost every corner, but the area is so pleasant and relaxing that it's actually quite nice to just idly wander around.

Aficionados of contemporary art are encouraged to visit the Fondazione Bisazza – the private art foundation of the Bisazza family – located in a former manufacturing plant of the family's business and not far from Verona. The 1000 km2 of territory have been completely given over to exhibiting the contemporary art, design and architectural pieces of the Bisazza family's collection, with special attention given to works created with mosaic tile – the specialty of the Bisazza Company. Artists represented include Marcel Wanders, Patricia Urquiola, and Arik Levy, among many others. (Viale Milano, 56, Montecchio Maggiore VI)

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Explore the villages around Lake Garda! Garda is the largest lake in Italy, and its surrounds make for wonderful walks and hikes whatever the season. One of the most charming spots is Torri del Benaco, a small municipality right on the shores of the lake and whose origins stretch back to the 2nd century BCE. The town is famous for its historic harbour and picture-postcard-worthy 13th-century Scaliger Castle, a fortification with such romantic features that it is a popular place for weddings, with couples coming from both near and far.

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Torri del Benaco was also a admired by the French poet Andrè Gide (1869-1951), who spent the summer of 1948 there. Definitely drive out to Bardolino as well; even though the city is small, it is associated with the wine of the same name, the grapes for which are grown in the surrounding hills. The town is worth visiting also for its historical architecture and all-around charm. In addition, the place also hosts several wine festivals every year, including Bardolino Novello (this year held on November 7 and 8), during which that year's vintage is celebrated.

If you have the time, drive out to the legendary Renaissance city of Ferrara, an hour-and-a-half drive from Verona and a truly hedonistic destination for art-lovers. In the 15th and 16th centuries Ferrara was one of the centres of the Italian Renaissance, and it boasts numerous palaces that were built for the court of the House of Este. It was the ambition of the House of Este to build “the ideal city”, the equivalent of absolute beauty; unsurprisingly, the dynasty was also a great patron of the arts, and within their palace walls they welcomed a great number of painters and artists, including such geniuses of the time as Piero della Francesca, Jacopo Bellini, Michelangelo, and Andrea Mantegna.

Later on, Ferrari also served as inspiration for Giorgio de Chirico (1888-1978), an Italian pioneer of the surrealistic and metaphysical styles of painting. De Chirico arrived here in 1915 and, overwhelmed by the beauty of the city, immortalized it into his surreal world of dreams, thereby also marking a turning point in his creative career. In honour of the centenary of this visit, from November 15 until February 28 the Palazzo dei Dimanti is hosting a broad retrospective of de Chirico's works.

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