Art and history are the cornerstones on which the elegant beauty of my city is built. Verona is an important cultural centre with its museums and monuments, very well preserved echoes of the past, as well as its churches, genuine masterpieces of religious architecture. There are also many important figures whose lives and passions have shaped the history of Verona.
Castelvecchio, the ancient castle which protects the city
Of all the many museums in Verona, the Castelvecchio museum stands above them all. This museum, located in Corso Cavour, is housed in the mighty mediaeval castle, a symbol of the Della Scala family’s rule. Originally called the Castello di San Martino in Acquaro, the Castelvecchio or “Old Castle” was built between 1354 and 1356 to defend the city at the request of Cangrande II Della Scala. It retained its military function for many centuries, only changing to civilian use in the 1900s. Initially, it hosted the civic collections of Veronese art in the 1920s and, after the damage suffered in World War Two, it was restored by the architect Carlo Scarpa, one of his finest projects. Inside the museum, the exhibits include collections of Romanesque sculpture, ancient jewellery from the Lombard era, ancient arms and armour and Veronese and Venetian painting from the mediaeval period to the 1700s, with works by Bellini, Tintoretto, Veronese, Longhi, Tiepolo, Guardi, Ricci and Rubens.
A notable moment in history
In January 1944, the Castelvecchio was the venue for the famous Verona Trial, where six members of the Grand Council of Fascism were tried and convicted for their decision on 25 July 1943 to depose Benito Mussolini as Head of State. These six included the son-in-law of Il Duce, Galeazzo Ciano, who was executed by firing squad at Fort San Procolo.
The ancient Roman theatre overlooking the Adige
Equally worthy of note is the archaeological museum at the Teatro Romano, housed in the former convent built in the 15th century by the Jesuits, who had identified the nearby hills of Colle San Pietro as the ideal location for the treatment of the sick and the production of medicines thanks to the availability of water. One of the best preserved Roman theatres in northern Italy, it is still used to stage shows during the summer season. This museum transports us back to Roman times, exhibiting a great number of finds and themed temporary exhibitions. The best time to visit is at sunset, where you can enjoy an unbeatable view of the city.
The museums dedicated to Juliet
"...Juliet, the dice were loaded from the start...” (Romeo and Juliet, Dire Straits)
The city of love also gives us a chance to see with our own eyes the locations of the greatest - and most tragic - of love stories, with a visit to Juliet’s House and the Museo degli Affreschi G. B. Cavalcaselle at Juliet’s Tomb. Juliet’s House is inside a mediaeval residence where the Cappellatti family used to live (their name became the Capulets in Shakespeare’s play) and whose coat of arms is still visible on the keystone of the archway leading to the courtyard. Inside, some typical rooms of a medieval palace have been recreated, featuring frescoes and old paintings, taking us back to the times of the Shakespearean legend, a feeling which is enhanced by the costumes and furnishings used in the very famous 1968 film by Franco Zeffirelli.
The museum at Juliet’s Tomb stands on the site of the former San Francesco al Corso convent and was converted into a museum in 1973, dedicated to Giovanni Battista Cavalcaselle, considered the father of modern art history in Italy for his important work on ancient Italian and Flemish painting, conservation, restoration, museum curation, cataloguing and academic teachings. It houses an extensive collection of mediaeval and modern frescoes taken from the walls of palaces and churches in Verona, once dubbed the city of frescoes. There is also a red marble sarcophagus on display, said to be the tomb of Juliet.
Art: the beating heart of Verona
Let us move on to the city’s very core, Piazza Erbe. Art lovers must not pass up the opportunity to visit GAM, the modern art gallery, housed into the Palazzo della Ragione not far from the brand new Palazzo Maffei museum.
At GAM, you can enjoy the Achille Forti collection, an estimated 1,400 works amassed by the Veronese botanist and patron of the arts around the start of the 20th century, 1,100 of which cover the period between the early 1800s and the mid-1900s. It features works by Hayez, Dell’Oca Bianca, Casorati, Birolli, De Pisis and many other major artists, in a building which includes the lavishly decorated Cappella dei Notai. Nearby, just past the tall column with the lion of St. Mark that dominates the square, is another artistic trove which has recently opened to the public.
The 17th century Palazzo Maffei now houses the extensive art collection of a Verona-based businessman. The gallery is laid out like a Cabinet of Wonders, taking visitors on a journey across more than five centuries with works ranging from painting to sculpture, from the applied arts to design. Particularly worthy of note is the section dedicated to modern art, which boasts masterpieces by the great artists of the 20th century, from Duchamp to Picasso, de Chirico to Fontana, and a great many others. An absolute must-see for art history lovers. When it comes to temporary exhibitions, the main port of call in the city is the Palazzo della Gran Guardia, where there are regular international art exhibitions.
Museums to suit all tastes
The city’s assortment of museums also features the Museo Lapidario Maffeiano, one of the oldest public museums in Europe, founded in the mid-1700s with the painstakingly assembled collection of Marquis Scipione Maffei, who named it the Museum Veronese, the museum of the city of Verona, taking the unusual step of opening it to the public at a time when collections were exclusively private. The museum has a very extensive collection of tombstones, a primary source for scholars of history, artefacts which tell a story.
Housed in one of the most historically and architecturally important buildings, Palazzo Pompei, designed by Sanmicheli, is the museum of natural history: sixteen rooms covering scientific areas such as the study of rocks and minerals, palaeontology and zoology. The precious fossil collection is particularly worthy of note. Another must-see museum is the Fondazione Museo Miniscalchi Erizzo, a unique example in Verona of late-Gothic civil architecture. A stately home until the end of the 1400s, it is now a museum with a precious collection of weaponry, ivory, majolica, bronzes, porcelain and Russian icons all housed in a building which features a chapel, a former library and a Chamber of Wonders.
We also have to highlight the Museo Africano dei Missionari Comboniani, a study centre promoting African culture; the MusALab, the museum and archive of the Franca Rame and Dario Fo collection, covering more than ninety years of the history of theatre and Italian culture; and the Guglielmo Marconi radio museum, with artefacts of unique historical value, such as the directional aerial used on the yacht Elettra, which sent the first wifi signal in history. A recent addition for little ones is the Children’s Museum, the first museum designed for to stimulate children's senses and stimulate their creativity. It is impossible to cover everything that Verona has to offer in just a few days but that just means you will have to come back another time! My beloved Verona is always here and ready to welcome you again, with a wealth of art and culture to delight you.