Things to Do in Veneto
Feel like part of history as you attend an event in the Verona Arena (Arena di Verona), a spectacular Roman amphitheater that has dominated Piazza Bra since the first century. Once a venue for sporting events, games, and gladiatorial battles, today audiences of up to 15,000 gather to watch opera, music concerts, and dance performances.
The powerful Doges ruled the Venetian Empire from the Gothic fantasy palace that is Doge's Palace (Palazzo Ducale) until 1797. The site was one of the first things those arriving in Venice saw as their ships sailed through the lagoon and landed at St Mark's Square, and the doges ruled with an iron fist—justice was often meted out here. Today, the site is one of the most well-known attractions in Italy.
St. Mark's Basilica (Basilica di San Marco) is the crown jewel of Venice, one of the most sumptuous cities in the western world. This ornate cathedral blends elements of Gothic, Byzantine, Romanesque, and Renaissance architecture—testimony to the city’s political and economic dominance that spanned centuries. Topped by soaring domes and with an interior of astonishing golden mosaics, the church is so opulent it is known as the Chiesa d’Oro, or the Golden Church. Construction began in 828, when the body of St. Mark was smuggled back to Venice from Alexandria; the church has been rebuilt, expanded, and delicately restored over the centuries.
In northeastern Italy, close to the Austrian border, the Dolomites form a stunning mountain range of jagged peaks, dramatic spires, and picturesque valleys. The group of five tower-like rocks outside the town of Cortina d’Ampezzo, called the Cinque Torri, is one of the most famous attractions in the Dolomites and offers an array of outdoor recreation opportunities.
St. Mark’s Square (Piazza San Marco), often referred to as “the drawing room of Europe,” is one of the most famous squares in Italy. The geographic and cultural heart of Venice—with St. Mark’s Basilica and Doge’s Palace at one end, the campanile in the center, and the colonnaded arcade topped by the Procuratie palaces lining three sides—this elegant piazza is also steeped in history. Settle in at one of the many coveted café tables and watch tourists (and pigeons) pose for photos while you sip a Bellini and soak in the square’s Renaissance splendor.
Venice is a city built on water, and the Grand Canal (Canale Grande) is its bustling main street. Lined with sumptuous Venetian palaces and crowded with gondolas, water taxis, and vaporetti (public ferries), this thoroughfare is a feast for the senses. The Grand Canal winds its way through the central neighborhoods of Venice from the Santa Lucia train station to St. Mark’s Square (Piazza San Marco), passing under the iconic Rialto Bridge along the way, and functions as the scenic main artery for transporting both people and goods around the City of Canals.
Padua is home to one of Italy’s greatest treasures of medieval art: the Scrovegni Chapel (Cappella degli Scrovegni). Decorated with an exquisite early-14th-century fresco cycle by Giotto—considered a masterpiece of Western art—the chapel was restored in 2002, and the frescoes were returned to their original magnificence.
Home to the city’s town hall and other important buildings, Piazza Bra sits at the heart of life in Verona. The huge city square welcomes visitors from all around the world who come to stroll the wide expanse, enjoy a coffee or a meal at one of the al fresco restaurants, or attend one of the regular music performances held at the Verona Arena.
The largest public square in Italy is in the city of Padua, although Prato della Valle is much more of an oval than a proper square. The huge space of more than 96,800 square feet (9,000 square meters) has an island in the middle that's surrounded by a canal that has rows of statues on either side. This was once a swampy area, but in the late 18th century, a drainage system was installed and the piazza took on its present look.
There are 78 statues in the Prato della Valle set in two rings, including one dedicated to the man whose idea it was to drain the swamp and build the piazza. There are bridges over the canal so people can walk to the island – Isola Memmia. It's often the site of local festivals.
Translating to Square of Herbs, Verona's Piazza delle Erbe is the city's central square and host to the local market. It has been the center of political and economic life in Verona for centuries. It was also once the site of a Roman forum. The 272-foot Tower Lamberti, the tallest tower in Verona, stands in the piazza topped by an octagon-shaped structure that holds the 1464 Rengo and Marangona bells. Palazzo Commune, Verona's town hall building, is also located here. It was built in the Middle Ages, but renovations in the 19th century added a neoclassical facade.
Also located in Piazza delle Erbe is Torre Gardello, which was built in 1370 but not finished until 1626. Palazzo Mafei is a Baroque building on top of which are sculptures of the gods Jupiter, Venus, Apollo, Hercules and Minerva. The most popular attraction in the square is the 14th-century Madonna Verona Fountain, also known as the Virgin of Verona.
More Things to Do in Veneto
William Shakespeare put Verona on the map for the English-speaking world, setting his tale of the star-crossed lovers Romeo and Juliet in this northern Italian city. The Bard’s timeless story has inspired a steady flow of romantics to visit Juliet’s House, or Casa di Giulietta, as Verona’s 13th-century palazzo of the Dal Cappello family is now known. Though Romeo and Juliet were almost certainly figments of Shakespeare’s imagination and the famous balcony where Juliet is said to have gazed down at Romeo was added centuries after the love story was written, the romance of Juliet’s House transcends fact or fiction.
After Chianti, the vinicultural region of Valpolicella produces the most wine in Italy under the DOC (Denominazione di Origine Controllata,) Italy’s top quality classification for wine. Winemaking has existed in the cool hills and mild climate of the area since the time of the ancient Greeks.
The wine now labeled as Valpolicella comes from one or more of three grapes: Corvina Veronese, Rondinella, and Molinara. The wines produced here tend to resemble Beaujolais and are often lighter in flavor and texture, often fruity and fragrant. Perhaps the most regarded wine from the region is the subtype called Amarone della Valpolicella. It is considered worldwide to be one of Italy’s finest wines.
Vineyards and tasting rooms (along with some great restaurants) are scattered throughout the valley, with everything from traditional villas and small, family-run spots to modern, tech-savvy winemakers. Most welcome guests for wine tastings or events.
Prosecco has grown world famous as the sparkling wine of Italy. Grown in the Prosecco Hills just north of Venice, a visit to the wine region is not only tasty but excessively scenic. As opposed to champagne which refers to a region, the name ‘prosecco’ refers to the grape itself, though it is also called ‘glera.’ It is grown in this lush valley of Italy, surrounded by green hills and framed by the Dolomite Mountains. Prosecco has been grown here for more than ten centuries.
Three main towns can be found in the region: Valdobbiadene, Conegliano and Vittorio Veneto. Mild climate and rich soils make this the Vineyards, tasting rooms, and local restaurants all offer opportunities to taste the dry, light sparkling wine at its source. Many of the vineyards have small terraces on steep slopes that offer great views of the surrounding countryside. Wine-centered events take place during the summer months.
Venice is made up of over 100 small islands, but generally “the Venice islands” refers to the three most famous outlying islands in the Venetian lagoon: Murano, Burano, and Torcello. Murano, just north of Venice proper, has been the center of Venice’s famous glass-making industry since 1291, and the island’s expert glassblowers still handcraft stunning pieces of Murano glass today. Farther north, Burano has quiet canals lined with brightly painted fishermen’s houses and is home to Venice’s traditional lace artisans. Its neighboring island of Torcello, first settled in 452, is believed to be the first populated island in the Venetian lagoon.
Of Venice’s 100-plus outlying islands, the group that forms Murano is the most famous. This tight cluster of small islands has been the center of the Floating City’s historic glassmaking industry since 1291, when the city center’s glass factories were forcibly moved across the lagoon—just north of Venice proper—after a number of devastating fires. Today, travelers visit Murano to see how expertly trained artisans blow glass into exquisite stemware, chandeliers, vases, and sculptures. Those particularly interested in the history of glassmaking should stop by the Museo del Vetro, which traces the art back to ancient Egypt.
The Rialto Bridge (Ponte di Rialto) was the first to span Venice’s Grand Canal (Canal Grande) between its two highest points above sea level. The original 12th-century wooden bridge was replaced in 1592 by a stone structure resting on wooden pilings—a bold design by Antonio da Ponte featuring a single central arch over the water that allow ships to pass. Today, the bridge is among Italy’s most famous, carrying an endless stream of tourists and locals across the canal while countless gondolas and vaporetto water buses pass beneath.
With ancient Roman ruins, church crypts that inspired Shakespeare, and grand Austrian-style buildings from the 19th century, Verona’s Historic Center (Centro Storico) is an architectural treasure trove. Highlights include the 2nd-century Verona Arena, the Casa di Giulietta, and the 14th-century Scaliger Tombs.
As poignant as it is beautiful, Venice’s 17th-century, white-limestone Bridge of Sighs (Ponte dei Sospiri) spans the narrow Rio di Palazzo canal between the interrogation rooms in the Doge’s Palace (Palazzo Ducale) and the New Prisons just opposite. It’s one of the most famous bridges in the Floating City.
Villa Pisani is considered the queen of the magnificent villas built between the 16th and 18th centuries by wealthy Venetians along the Brenta Riviera, and its original 114 rooms were an homage to its owner, the 114th Doge of Venice. Take a day trip from Venice to admire the sumptuous architecture and vast gardens.
Venice is made up of a group of islands that is crowded with opulent churches and sumptuous palaces. The humble island of Burano, though, in the outer reaches of the Venetian lagoon, shows a completely different side of the city, with its jumble of technicolor fishers’ houses and a long tradition of lace-making.
Villa Barbaro (often known as Villa di Maser), masterpiece of 16th-century Italian architect Andrea Palladio, is one of the most striking of Veneto’s UNESCO-listed Palladian villas. This group of elegant patrician residences are scattered in the hills between Vicenza and Treviso, and make for a fascinating day trip from Venice.
A symbol of Verona, the 14th-century Castelvecchio Bridge (Ponte Scaligero) spanning the Adige River had the largest supporting arch span in the world when it was completed in 1356. The original was destroyed during World War II, but a new bridge was rebuilt with the same red-brick crenellations as its predecessor.
Historically, Piazza dei Signori (also known as Piazza Dante in honor of the poet’s statue in the square center) was the civic and political heart of Verona, and is still home to the Loggia del Consiglio, the former city hall. Lined by medieval palaces and elegant arches, this square is a vibrant local gathering place.
- Things to do in Venice
- Things to do in Vicenza
- Things to do in Padua
- Things to do in Treviso
- Things to do in Verona
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- Things to do in Friuli-Venezia Giulia
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