Earlier this year I wrote a piece on Verona: its history, it’s culture, its climate, its hotels etc, but it was all a bit general! So I thought I would put that right and talk a little more in-depth about what the city can offer the holiday maker with deep pockets and a yearning to see a bit of opera!.
So much these days is “budget this” and “budget that”, but if you are looking for a once in a lifetime European holiday the budget should be blown: the two star hotels forgotten and the cheap airlines ignored.
So let’s dig out the AmEx gold card and go crazy with decent flights, fine food, best seats for the opera and 5 star hotels.
Getting to Verona
From London your choice is British Airways or Easyjet. You could fly from Manchester on Monarch but that is not a luxurious experience either. Get on the train, first class of course and fly from Gatwick from which British Airways offers their Club Europe service. Flights out tend to be early afternoon, whilst return flights depart Verona slightly later between 17:00 and 18:00 and take just under 2 hours.
Both flight times give most people the chance to get to London on the way out and return from London on the way back, wherever you live in the UK, although you may be pushed if you have to go up the West Coast any further than Manchester!
The early afternoon flight out will get you into Valerio Catullo, Verona somewhere between 4 and 5 leaving you a couple of hours to collect your bags, get through airport security and enjoy the short transfer between airport and city in time for dinner.
Staying in Verona
Because of your arrival time I would let the hotel feed you on the first night rather than dash out and find another restaurant: if you have chosen a decent hotel it should come as no surprise to find that their food is good too! Top of my list (it makes a very creditable 2nd on TripAdvisor) is the Palazzo Victoria, especially in the low season when the rates are very reasonable. It is housed in a 14th century villa once home to one of those powerful Veronese families you hear about – you know, the sort loved by Shakespeare – but this grand old building has been given a thoroughly 21st century makeover and the result is a beautiful place to stay.
It is one of only a very few 5 star hotels in Verona Italy but as with many things across the city, quality outweighs the quantity! It is also very central, another important factor, just 6 minutes walk to the Arena di Verona.
So we have got to Verona, eaten and rested for one night (don’t try and squeeze in a trip to the opera on the first night – yes, with a 21:00 curtain up for performances in June and July, it is possible, but I would really suggest you leave that treat until the second night!)
Opera in Verona
So now it comes to the opera. If you are planning a night at the opera, make sure you book for the summer festival nice and early. Tickets are already on sale for 2014 and tickets for Placido Domingo have already sold out! The operas will be A Masked Ball, Aida, Carmen, Romeo and Juliet, Turandot and Madame Butterfly. Best seats are €188 which isn’t bad for a night at the opera in such beautiful surroundings! Full details and tickets can be found at the Arena di Verona official website.The Arena di Verona, home to the 2014 Summer Opera Festival
This would be a good moment to talk about pre-opera dinner. Around the Arena and on the walk from hotel to Arena there are dozens of restaurants, some are truly superb! As it is so close you may like to eat at the hotel again, but if you do choose to eat somewhere else don’t go crazy! The problem with pre-theatre dining anywhere in the world is that you will have to leave your table early. So by all means book a table at Da Ugo, L’Oste Scuro, La Griglia or Trattoria al Pompiere, but don’t expect to stay as long as you would like to! Maybe these treats would be best left for your last night!
What to do during the day
If you are in town during the early part of the summer it can get very hot, so a chauffer-driven tour in an air-conditioned limousine can be a very pleasant way to get about, especially if you want to explore the surrounding countryside which is rich in palaces, castles, villas, views and art, not to mention the largest lake in Italy, Garda Lake.
Your own driver also means you can partake of a spot of wine-tasting in the area’s famous wine-making regions of Soave and Valpolicella and still get back to your hotel safely.
WARNING: don’t do this on the day of the opera otherwise you are likely to snooze throughout acts 2 and 3!
This is also a good trip to do later on in summer when August’s thunder storms threaten or later, between early September and late October (dependent on the year), when La vendemmia (the harvest) is in full swing.
Whichever opera you decide see, wherever you decide to stay and whenever you decide to go Verona offers a huge variety of things to do: as you would expect from a UNESCO world heritage site. And even if you don’t like opera or would rather visit at a quieter and cooler time of year than during the festival, Verona is an unforgettable destination: whether your highlight is a walk along the river (may I recommend Ponte Navi right round to Ponte Sacligero by the Civic Museum in Castelvecchio), a fine meal, a good old sing-song or an afternoon knocking back some choice wines on a sun-drenched vineyard in the company of a wine-drenched sommelier!
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