History of Verona

Mother Earth Travel > Italy > Verona > History

This wonderful city along the Adige river, at the foot of the Lessini Mountains (today a National Park) has been the site of various human settlements for the past 300,000 years. Stone was used as one of the principle natural resources by these early settlers, who began working with materials other than flint. They fashioned numerous objects ' from instruments for use in daily life to religious artefacts.

At the time when the region was first touched by Roman civilisation, it was probably inhabited by Celts. The Emperor reinforced the city's defences with strong city walls. Extraordinary monuments were built and the urban structure began to take shape ' it was an interesting mix of the Medieval and the modern.

Over the years, Verona became a very important city due to its geographical location (even today, it is an important industrial and commercial gateway to the north and the centre of Italy) and its port provided access to northern Europe. For this reason, it became one of the most highly developed urban centres in Italy.

After the succesive barbarian invasions between the fifth and the tenth century, Veron was finally made a Free City at the beginning of the thirteenth century - after a long struggle against Frederico Barbarossa, it came under the rule of the Scala family in 1260. It was the Scala family who transformed it into one of the most important kingdoms of the time. It took in most of the Veneto, as well as the large regions of Emilia and Tuscany and was dotted with magnificent buildings and works of art.

In 1405, it became part of the Venetian Republic. In 1796, it was occupied for six months by Napoleonic troops. By 1801, it had been successfully divided up by the French and the Austrians, and it was definitively annexed by the Hapsburg Empire in 1814.

During the nineteenth century, Verona took on an important administrative and military role. The city's defences were reorganised and strengthened: Verona became the principle stronghold of the 'Quadrilateral' (the other three being Mantua, Peschiera and Legnano) which became the pivotal point of the Lombardy-Veneto defence structure during the War of Independence. The province of Verona officially became part of the Kingdom of Italy in 1866.

There are several artistic spots to visit around the city ' the following are a few which are not to be missed: the Piazza dei Signori, which is a truly beautiful sight, flanked by the Palazzo del Comune with its neo-classical façade; the imposing Medieval Torre dei Lamberti (83 metres high); the Palazzo Tribunale, or Palazzo del Capitanio, a Scaligieri palace with a characteristically angular tower (the Scaligeri ruled Verona from 1260 to 1387); the Loggia del Consiglio (a splendid example of Veronese Renaissance architecture) and the 'Duomo' (cathedral). This was built in the twelfth century, on the site of an early-Medieval church. It underwent many renovations between the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. The façade successfully blends Roman and Gothic architectural elements. Its gateway and Roman entrance hall are beautiful. The interior is Gothic and houses many priceless artistic treasures including an altar-piece by Tiziano depicting The Assumption (1535), which is in the first chapel on the left.

The Palazzo Pompeii (now home to a museum of natural history) was designed by the architect Sammicheli. In fact, Sammicheli's work is also visible throughout the city as, he was respnsible for its complete restructuring.

The Piazza delle Erbe (once the site of an ancient Roman forum) is characterised by monuments dating back to various periods which stand opposite the market. It is also home to the Arena - one of Verona's most famous monuments. It was built in the first century A.D. and has been expertly preserved, thus making it one of the world's most evocative and important operatic theatres. The interior is elliptical and measures 44.43m X 73.58.

The Castelvecchio is a splendid example of military architecture. It was built towards the end of the fourteenth century, when the nobility began to doubt the allegiance of the city.

Last but not least, is Juliet's House,- where Shakespeare's heroine was said to have lived. It is now a place of pilgrimage for many star-crossed lovers.