Today, I’m really excited to present the very first installment of a new blog series called Ask a Local, in which, as you probably have guessed, I ask a local to answer all our pressing questions about their beautiful city.
To kick things off, I’ve asked Italian content strategist and writer, Anna Colage, to tell us about her home in Verona, Italy, a town known for its role in Romeo and Juliet and for its well-preserved Roman coliseum.
First, tell us a little about you. How long have you lived in Verona? What kinds of things do you like to do with your time?
I was born in Verona and I moved to another town when I was a little girl. Then I came back here for college and decided it was the best place to stay for me. So it is about 20 years now that I am living here and I have seen the city change over time. I am a web content writer and in my spare time I like to go out to eat with my fiancè and friends, go to the cinema, play tennis, and learn foreign languages (I am actually learning Portuguese).
If someone is visiting Verona for the first time, what would you recommend they see or do?
Verona is well known in the world as the city of Opera because of its ancient Arena, and also for the sad love story between Romeo and Juliet (the famous balcony was re-built here), but I would say there are so many other things to see: the ancient Roman Theater during the summer theatral season worth well a visit and, of course, Piazza delle Erbe (the most beautiful square in the world, as it was voted by tourists in a recent survey) with its beautiful frescos all around. And do not forget to come for Carnival: we have the most ancient Carnival of Europe – it is 600 years old!
What neighborhoods or parts of town are the best to stay in? (And why?)
Well, of course, the center is the best place to stay to catch all the beautiful glimpses as a tourist. But as a citizen, the most desired is Valdonega which is up on the hill and a quiet and green place to live.
Let’s talk about day trips…what nearby places should everyone make sure to visit?
Verona has a lucky position. Near Lake Garda with its cute villages like Bardolino, Garda, Torri del Benaco, and Malcesine (you can cross it by boat or make a tour and go on the other side to visit other villages). On the north side, there are hills (with vineyards and many famous wine cellars and wines like Soave, Valpolicella, Recioto, just to name a few) and mountains where you can go walking and skiing. At the south-west side, about 35 kilometers away, there is a very nice village called Borghetto with a typical watermill (people go there to take pictures on their wedding day). And, also, Verona is just 1.5 hours away from the sea by car. So there are really lot of things to do in every season.
Tell us about local dishes. We know Italy has some of the best food in the world…but what specific dishes should people try here in Verona?
Yes, definitely Italy is well known for its food, especially because of its wide variety and quality. So my advice is to eat local and, in the case of Verona, that means: risotto al tastasal (risotto with sausage dressing) or risotto with radicchio (risotto with a typical salad of Treviso often eaten here as well), pastisada de caval (horse meat pasticcio), polenta (sort of thick porridge made with maize flour) with cheese or mushrooms on the top, and different lake fish. As sweets we have: baci di Giulietta (Juliet’s kisses), Pandoro of Verona (type of sponge cake eaten at Christmas), zaletti (biscuits), and castagnaccio (made of chestnut flour). All this food connects to the country origin of the town.
|Did I mention that I wrote a book full of these interviews?
Get 100 interviews from top chefs, wine experts, and locals all over Italy.
What are your top three restaurants or bars?
My favourite restaurants where I often go are: a pizzeria called Corte Farina in the center that cooks excellent pizza. The sfilatino (rolled pizza) with cheese and zucchini inside is the best in my opinion. They also prepare excellent salads and some food of the tradition up-to-date with modern taste.
The best bar to have an aperitivo (aperitif) is Aquila Nera (Black Eagle) in the center. You can have a spritz (a glass of white wine or campari with seltzer and a slice of lemon) and an appetizer. You can also have lunch here or a cup of tea with biscuits in the afternoon.
Last, but not least is a trattoria called le Vecette (the two old ladies) that cooks the traditional food I mentioned in my previous answer above with a good cantina of wines.
Is there anything that tourists do that Italians find rude or strange? Any way we can better fit in with the culture?
Well, Verona is a very touristic town, so thousand of people come and walk and eat in its streets and…in the past just sat in front of monuments! That is now forbidden and I noticed that tourists pay more respect to our sometimes very ancient monuments. But still there is one thing that I don’t really understand: why do they write love phrases and put chewing gum to hold the lovecards on the walls in the gallery to go to Juliet’s balcony? This is very rude: they can write directly to Juliet and a committee replies to every single letter coming from all over the world. They should also know that it costs a lot of money to clean all up every year!
What’s the best way to make local friends in Verona?
Well, definitely it is going in Piazza delle Erbe at about 18:00 every day and having an aperitivo in one of the several bars there, especially near the column with venetian lion at the end of the square. Young people used to meet here have a chat, drink together, or just gather.
Why should people make sure to visit Verona when they’re in Italy?
Because it is really a jewel rich of history and culture from ancient Roman times to nowadays. There lots of things to do from Opera to modern ballet, photograpy, gigs. You should spend at least one week to see everything calmly and enjoy our lifestyle.
Anything else you want us to know about Verona or the region?
We are known as mad people who like having fun. There is a nursery rhyme about the region Veneto where all these towns belong: Veneziani gran siori, Padovani gran dottori, Vicentini magna gati, Veronesi tuti mati (people from Venice are well known as famous lords, people from Padova as doctors, people from Vicenza as cat eaters (yes, in the poverty times!) and people from Verona as all mad).
We are always available for a chat even if we do not know each other well. But pay attention: we often speak dialect, which is part of our culture – from young to elderly people. English is quite known, but German plays an important role here as the most tourists come from Germany.
Finally, and importantly, what does the rooster say in Italy?
The rooster in Italy sings chicchirichì and you pronounce it like this.
Any other questions for Anna? Any tips of your own for travelers visiting Verona?