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Friday, 3 June 2016

Mini-Breaking in Verona & Venice, Italy | Part i

Last week my Mum and I went on a little holiday to Italy for three nights. We stayed at the Leon d'Oro hotel in Verona and managed to spend one day in Venice. It was such a lovely break in one of my favourite countries and so I thought I'd do a little write up of the trip in two parts, sharing our time in Verona today. 

Mum and I didn't really know what to expect from Verona at first - of course we'd heard of Juliet's house which it's become somewhat famous for - but, apart from that, it was a completely new city for us to get to know. On the first day, once we'd had a little nap in the hotel and felt a little more alive having had to wake up at 4:30am for our flight that morning, we bought a little guide book and went to explore Verona.

After we'd found the town centre, which was only about a fifteen minute walk from the hotel and clearly marked by Verona's ancient Arena, we decided to walk to the Castelvecchio which is a stunning old castle (as the name suggests!) and is now also a museum showcasing beautiful pieces of art from the Middle Ages. As I've got older I've learnt to appreciate art and exhibitions so much more than I used to and I really think that visiting the castle for its architecture and view of the Adige river alone is reason enough to have a look if you're in the area. On the way you can also stop at the beautiful San Zeno Church or, following the river, the Veronese Duomo Cathedral which is just stunning. I can't remember the exact prices but both the Duomo and Castelvecchio were very reasonable, especially as most such places seem to give student discounts in Italy!

Since both Verona and Venice are notorious for being expensive (especially the latter, which is partly why we chose to stay in Verona), I had looked up the best budget restaurants to go to as I find you can discover some real gems by doing that. It can be so hard to tell whether a restaurant really is authentic or if it's going to be nice and so, I've found that doing a bit of research is definitely worthwhile. The result of this in Verona was dinner at Osteria Al Duca. It's very near the town centre, just off the Piazza dei Signori, serves the most delicious food and is incredibly well-priced, with an offer of two courses for €18. Trust me, two courses will be more than enough to fill you up, with the starters often being what I would consider enough to be a full meal on their own, such as a plate of pasta. A real signal of how good the food was is that the restaurant was packed with Italians who went there for dinner themselves and Mum and I loved it so much that we ended up going two nights in a row! Definitely worth trying if you're in the area. 

On our second day in Verona we of course decided to visit Juliet's house and tomb, as pictured above. I would really recommend going as early in the day as possible to the house as, even by 11am on a weekday not in the school holidays, Juliet's house was crawling with people. Again, entry to both the house and tomb was very reasonable and it was such a novelty to have a look around and stand on 'Juliet's balcony'. Legend has it that if you touch the statue of Juliet's right breast it will bring you luck in love and all the tourists were crowding around it to get a photo touching her breast! The tomb wasn't as busy as the house which was nice and also had its own museum containing some beautiful works of art that I think is worth having a look at. 

In my opinion, the best way to get to know cities like Verona and Venice, however, is to just have a wander around and to see what you stumble upon. It's the way to get a true feel for whatever city you're visiting and can lead you to find things you never would have had you not explored on your own. A case in point of this, is our finding the most amazing and cheap bakery, just on a street on the walk from the hotel into Verona's centre. Boscaini sells all kinds of delicious foods, from pastries (their apple strudels are to *die* for) to pizza, to plates of food for lunch such as breaded chicken, potatoes and roasted vegetables. The lady who ran the shop was so lovely, explaining how absolutely everything in the shop was made by them freshly every day and Mum and I honestly couldn't believe how cheap it was considering the quality. 

Verona is a beautiful city, there's no doubt abut it. And I have to say that I think May is a great time to visit, especially since the weather is just warming up but not too hot (it was around 25 degrees celsius at the time) and, while there were huge numbers of tourists, I imagine there must be many more by the time the school holidays come around. It's definitely worth visiting in my opinion, especially as it has such good transport connections. It was so easy to get the train to Venice, as I'll be back to tell you about tomorrow, and I know that Lake Garda is nearby which I would have loved to have visited had we had more time. One thing I will say is that you don't need more than a few days there - it's ideal for a mini-break, but the city isn't giant and you can explore the majority of it in just a few days so staying for a few nights is what I'd suggest. The hotel we stayed in was lovely, the food was incredible, and once again, an Italian city stole my heart! 

I hope this post was helpful and I'll be back tomorrow with Part ii of my write up of my trip to Italy - telling you all about our day in Venice!

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