Verona Rediscovered

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Summit Entertainment

Verona, Italy, exudes romance and the town is no stranger to tales of the heart. It's the setting for Shakespeare's tragic love story Romeo and Juliet, of course, and the city comes to the big screen on May 14 with the Letters to Juliet. The movie stars the effervescent Amanda Seyfried as an American who travels to Verona and discovers a letter tucked in a wall seeking love advice from Juliet (turns out it's a thing) that leads her on a grand adventure.
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Verona Rediscovered

Verona, Italy, exudes romance and the town is no stranger to tales of the heart. It's the setting for Shakespeare's tragic love story Romeo and Juliet, of course, and the city comes to the big screen on May 14 with the Letters to Juliet. The movie stars the effervescent Amanda Seyfried as an American who travels to Verona and discovers a letter tucked in a wall seeking love advice from Juliet (turns out it's a thing) that leads her on a grand adventure. The film's stars were lucky enough to spend last summer shooting all over the city, but Shakespeare never actually made it to this medieval town in northern Italy. We think he would have been pleased by the sun-dappled piazzas, medieval towers, and beautiful open-air theaters. Just because the bard missed the magical glow of Verona in the summertime doesn't mean that you have to. Read on for a lovers' guide for how to see this fabled city hand-in-hand.

Verona Rediscovered

Hard to believe, but Juliet's 14th-century house is not only standing, the Casa de Giulietta has the balcony of your dreams and you can take pictures on it. Still, it's important for all but the least cynical to note that while the property may be known as the Capulet family home, the balcony was undoubtedly added much later. (That said, it's so lovely that you won't fault the fantasy.) Today, the wooden floors and beams gleam and medieval frescoes are spotlit. In addition to leaning over the picturesque marble balcony and shouting "O Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo?" you can join throngs of visitors who rub the right breast of Juliet's bronze statue for luck. And, of course, you can place love letters on the wall outside the house.

Verona Rediscovered

Romeo and Juliet's fabled marriage began and ended at the ancient church of San Francesco al Corso. According to the story, the ill-fated lovers secretly wed here, and the dark crypt containing Juliet's "tomb," an empty red Verona marble sarcophagus, lies in these cloisters as well. The 14th-century church itself is worth seeing even for those who aren't following the well-tread path of Juliet-seekers. The former Franciscan monastery was destroyed in 1447, and then rebuilt many times through the centuries. It was turned into a museum in 1973, called the Museum of Frescoes, and is open to the public.

Verona Rediscovered

Scenes from Letters to Juliet were shot in the Piazzetta Pescheria, one of Verona's many idyllic squares. In medieval times this was the town fish market; today it's a quiet spot with cafes topped by vine-covered trellises that are the perfect place to escape the summer crowds. Except, of course, for last year when it was filled with a film crew and camera equipment. The grips are long gone, so get comfortable and share a long Italian-style al fresco meal that's as different from an American lunch on-the-run as can be.

Mia, flickr

Verona Rediscovered

Like Paris and London, Verona has a river that winds its way through town. But unlike those other two famous European cities, the Adige River that bifurcates Verona is small and, well, more charming than industrial. The water itself flows down from the Alps, and often appears surprisingly powerful. Take some time to walk along the river, admiring the Roman bridges and the regal cypress trees in the distance.

Verona Rediscovered

The film shot in Piazza Viviani, a busy place known by the locals as Piazza delle Poste (the main post office is there). For a more romantic afternoon, spend some time in quiet Piazza dei Signori instead. The nickname for this square is Piazza Dante since it houses a statue of the poet, who spent time in Verona and wrote about it as well. Check out his likeness and then wander around admiring the Renaissance architecture. Then grab a espresso at the historic Antico Caffè Dante and drink in your surroundings.

Verona Rediscovered

Stars Amanda Seyfried and Christopher Egan posed in the sunshine in front of the ancient Arena di Verona and you can easily recreate this classic tourist snapshot. But we say come on a warm summer night to see the ancient Roman amphitheater, one of the city's most important icons. You may have to resort to the tactics of the gladiators who used to battle there to get some of the coveted tickets to the moonlit summer operas that are staged in July and August. During summer 2010, the 88th Opera Festival is dedicated to the works of Italian-born Franco Zeffirelli.

Verona Rediscovered

The spectacular Ponte Scaligero was first constructed in the 14th century but was destroyed during World War II. The town then lovingly rebuilt the landmark using the same red brick and white marble. You should make a point to stroll across and admire the castle-like details up close. When you get to the other side, climb to the hilltop and watch the sunset reflect off the red roofs of the city below. The bridge will be even more romantic on your walk back at dusk, when the lamps are illuminated and the bridge is bathed in soft light.

Verona Rediscovered

In addition to admiring the ancient architecture of this Roman structure, you can also visit the attached archaeological museum and even catch a show at the Teatro Romano [www.teatroromano.it]. The theater still hosts plays each summer, and there's no substitute for being able to see an open-air performance of Shakespeare's works here. (For 2010 they will be staging The Tempest and The Merry Wives of Windsor, but alas not Romeo and Juliet.) There are ballets and jazz performances as well -- a better choice if you don't speak Italian.

Verona Rediscovered

The Letters to Juliet crew also shot scenes in the wine cellars of the nearby medieval town of Soave, a walled fortress city that sits on a hillside just like the ones in fairy tales. It's one of the loveliest towns in the region, and the red brick walls surrounding the castle's red tower strike a grand pose against a blue sky as you approach. Once in town, explore the ancient streets, poke around wine shops, and marvel at the medieval buildings. Soave makes wine that's almost as breathtaking as the scenery, so plan to tour the vineyards that line the hillsides as you drive past rows of vines and tall, regal cypress trees back to Verona.

Verona Rediscovered

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