The Walls and City of Verona

From the city centre looking over the river up the hill where the Castel San Pietro lies. That area of the city is thought to have been the original area settled by the Romans in the 3rd Century BCE. The amphitheatre is on that side of the river, to the right.

Both spectacular Roman sites, Verona’s Arena and Amphitheater, impress with their ancient roots and extensive and well-fortified walls. The walls foundations are from Roman times, with various extensions added during the middle ages. With a capacity of several thousands of spectators, Verona’s arena enchants and its very presence dominates the city square.

Verona is an old city, and as the Romans conquered the Italian peninsula, was to become a city of some importance, lying directly to the North and along the direct route to the Balkans and Danube provinces, with the bridge over the River Adige being a significant strategic asset. The city was walled for much of its history, including a very recent renovation of these walls in the 1800’s as a stronghold of the Austro-Hungarian empire’s Italian holdings. The walls encompass both sides of the river, with farm land and the Roman amphitheatre on the north side of the river, and the city itself and the Arena on the south side. The city’s entire central area is listed as an UNESCO world heritage site.

While both the Roman Arena and Amphitheatre are spectacular sites, what struck me most about the city was the its extensive and well fortified walls. The walls foundations are from Roman times, with various extensions added during the middle ages. As recent as the 19th century the city walls still had a place in the general defensive strategies for the broader region. These fortifications saw the Austrians installing fortifications enclosing the city within a fortified radius of over 30kms. The World Monument’s Fund has a very detailed pamphlet, The Walls of Verona authored in 1954 if you are interested to read further.

The city walls, though shorter in distance and encompassing area, are in their height comparable to both the Aurelian walls around Rome and the Theodosian walls around Constantinople (Istanbul) and enclose a larger area than the walls of York. Surprisingly though, very little mention is made of them in the tourist brochures. I can’t seem to find any details of their overall length, or the size of the area enclosed, but they would have to be over 10kms long, and a general area of at least 8km/squared.

The Roman amphitheatre.
The Roman amphitheatre.
Stairs leading up from the river to the Castel San Pietro
Stairs leading up from the river to the Castel San Pietro
These stairs lie outside of the walls, on the far side of the hill from the Castel San Pietro.
These stairs lie outside of the walls, on the far side of the hill from the Castel San Pietro.
WIthin the city walls on the North side of the river are still vineyards and farms. The walls here on the left are not the city walls, but rather the walls to a vineyard (see following pictures).
WIthin the city walls on the North side of the river are still vineyards and farms. The walls here on the left are not the city walls, but rather the walls to a vineyard (see following pictures).
The walls just on the north side of the river before they start climbing up the hill.
The walls just on the north side of the river before they start climbing up the hill.
Though we first thought these were actually the city walls, these are part of the internal walls that form a second barrier from the walls themselves, which seem to extend the natural terrain of steep hillsides along this section of the wall.
Though we first thought these were actually the city walls, these are part of the internal walls that form a second barrier from the walls themselves, which seem to extend the natural terrain of steep hillsides along this section of the wall.
A rampart built so that guns could both point outwards and defend the walls themselves. You can see the walls climbing up the steep hillside in the distance with the tower (in the following picture).
A rampart built so that guns could both point outwards and defend the walls themselves. You can see the walls climbing up the steep hillside in the distance with the tower (in the following picture).
A bastion tower along the walls facing North. The walls along the right side are the boundary walls of the vineyard (following image).
A bastion tower along the walls facing North. The walls along the right side are the boundary walls of the vineyard (following image).
The walls facing north, in the western direction. The city walls are on the right, the tower from the preceding photograph would be just behind me.
The walls facing north, in the western direction. The city walls are on the right, the tower from the preceding photograph would be just behind me.
Vineyards and a villa in the distance are both enclosed by the stone walls pictured in the preceding photographs. The hill in the distance behind the villa, while quite close to the city, was not enclosed within the its walls.
Vineyards and a villa in the distance are both enclosed by the stone walls pictured in the preceding photographs. The hill in the distance behind the villa, while quite close to the city, was not enclosed within the its walls.

Verona is built around an “S” curve of the River Adige, which is a tributary of the River Po. The river divides the old city into two sections. The northern part of the city is very hilly and is mainly farming and vineyards. The original settlement was built as it traversed the river and lay on the easiest north-sound road of Italy. Looking at a map, Verona lies due north of Rome and is a logical point to cross the River Adige to reach the north-eastern provinces, and to the further east. The crossing of the river by the Ponte Pietra, like many Roman bridges is built to last; in floods in the 19th Century, the waters of the Adige rose 8 metres, every bridge was washed away except for this. However, all the bridges in Verona, and much of the town itself was destroyed or severely damaged in WWII; after which a significant restoration process has been undertaken.

View to the south-east of the River Adige. This hill, and much of what you can see lies within the city walls.
View to the south-east of the River Adige. This hill, and much of what you can see lies within the city walls.
Bridge over the River Adige. At this point of the river, the river itself is a part of the city's overall defences.
Bridge over the River Adige. At this point of the river, the river itself is a part of the city’s overall defences.
The River Adige.
The River Adige.
Looking west from the Ponte Pietra
Looking west from the Ponte Pietra
The Ponte Pietra. The bridge is well enclosed within the city walls.
The Ponte Pietra. The bridge is well enclosed within the city walls.

While the terrain on the north side of the river is hilly and the land has villas and parks, the south side of the river is a bustling, medieval type town of considerable size and one of the best preserved (or perhaps restored is a better description!) cities of its age. Its narrow streets, piazzas walled within multi-storied buildings, lend it a highly urbanised sensibility. Shakespeare wrote three plays based in Verona: The Gentlemen of Verona, The Taming of the Shrew, and of course, Romeo and Juliet, with Juliet’s balcony a popular destination lying in the heart of the city.

The Piazza dei Signori in the central district of the city. The statue is Dante Alighieri, who was to be protected by the city, was one of many famous people during the ages that the city would play host to. In the background you can see buildings showing a typical Renaissance style of rampart that is also seen in Florence.
The Piazza dei Signori in the central district of the city. The statue is Dante Alighieri, who was to be protected by the city, was one of many famous people during the ages that the city would play host to. In the background you can see buildings showing a typical Renaissance style of rampart that is also seen in Florence.
These embedded columns are also to be found in Venice, so I assume there is some commonality to their usage as these two cities were quite close in various historical times.
These embedded columns are also to be found in Venice, so I assume there is some commonality to their usage as these two cities were quite close in various historical times.
The "Balcony of Juliet", thought to be in the general vicinity and of the particular age and appearance of the balcony used by Shakespeare in Romeo and Juliet, as she descried, "O Romeo, Romeo! wherefore art thou Romeo?"
The “Balcony of Juliet”, thought to be in the general vicinity and of the particular age and appearance of the balcony used by Shakespeare in Romeo and Juliet, as she descried, “O Romeo, Romeo! wherefore art thou Romeo?”
The statue of Juliet in the courtyard. It is thought to bring good luck to your romance to rub her right breast, and the many locks, pledging the fidelity of love bear witness to the ongoing and powerful appeal of these characters of "the Bard".
The statue of Juliet in the courtyard. It is thought to bring good luck to your romance to rub her right breast, and the many locks, pledging the fidelity of love bear witness to the ongoing and powerful appeal of these characters of “the Bard”.
This building is just near the entrance to the Ponte Pietra. It is a building that grabbed my eye every time I passed it for its look, its shape, and the age and obvious signs of wear of its stonework. Truly, a building of character.
This building is just near the entrance to the Ponte Pietra. It is a building that grabbed my eye every time I passed it for its look, its shape, and the age and obvious signs of wear of its stonework. Truly, a building of character.
Piazza Erbe, where a street market is a seemingly permanent fixture. In the foreground you can see the Lion of St Mark, bearing homage to the connection that lay between Verona and Venice.
Piazza Erbe, where a street market is a seemingly permanent fixture. In the foreground you can see the Lion of St Mark, bearing homage to the connection that lay between Verona and Venice.
This laneway leads from a small and old courtyard (pictured here to the Piazza Erbe
This laneway leads from a small and old courtyard (pictured here to the Piazza Erbe
A fountain in the heart of the Piazza Erbe
A fountain in the heart of the Piazza Erbe
Closeup of another fountain in the Piazza Erbe
Closeup of another fountain in the Piazza Erbe
A fruit store just off the main shopping mall.
A fruit store just off the main shopping mall.
A road at night in the centre.
A road at night in the centre.
A road, with a car's lights lighting the walkway. Cars are only partially allowed in the city centre, with many of the roads for pedestrian use only.
A road, with a car’s lights lighting the walkway. Cars are only partially allowed in the city centre, with many of the roads for pedestrian use only.
The stage of the Arena as seen from the back, with preparations well under way for a presentation of the operatic version of Romeo and Juliet. The arena is used throughout the year for many concerts.
The stage of the Arena as seen from the back, with preparations well under way for a presentation of the operatic version of Romeo and Juliet. The arena is used throughout the year for many concerts.
The promenade of the southern entrance of the city as taken from the Arena. The café's along here have a splendid view of the Arena, and you'll have to visit the city itself to take in the view over a fine pizza and espresso.
The promenade of the southern entrance of the city as taken from the Arena. The café’s along here have a splendid view of the Arena, and you’ll have to visit the city itself to take in the view over a fine pizza and espresso.