Choose Your Own Adventure: Verona, Italy

There's a reason the Bard set his most famous romance in this city—its food, wine, views, and theater are downright seductive.

Courtesy Fondazione Arena di Verona

My husband and I had always wanted to go to Verona, Italy, so we splurged on a trip to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary. It had been a long time since we’d had the opportunity to spend three weeks together. Alone. And Verona seemed like the perfect destination. After all, it’s home to the fictional Romeo (well, before banishment, anyway) and Juliet in Shakespeare’s tragic play. Of course, that relationship didn’t end particularly well—but for us, the historical city was brimming with romance. Here’s how to play out your own love story, Shakespearean style.

Sleep like Juliet

It was a golden, sun-smooched afternoon when we arrived at the Relais de Charme Il Sogno di Giulietta (rooms from $133, double occupancy), a luxurious boutique hotel inside the gated courtyard of “Juliet’s House,” which, depending upon how you look at it, is a blessing or a curse. During the day, throngs of tourists jam the garden to rub the bronzed statue of Juliet, take selfies on the balcony and scribble love notes, which cover every centimeter of space on the arched brick walls. At night, though, the gate is closed to the public, which means hotel guests can reflect on love in quiet solitude. We stayed in the hotel’s enchanting private apartment, far from the maddening crowds, and ogled the spectacular antiques in our sanctuary.

Courtesy Relais De Charme Il Sogno di Giulietta

Saunter in the city

We strolled along the Piazza delle Erbe, Verona’s historic palazzo of market vendors, sidewalk osterie and ancient buildings, their old-world facades fronted with blooming window boxes and kaleidoscopic shutters, ending up at Osteria Verona, where we drank a week’s worth of Aperol spritzes. Verona, we discovered, is a romantic city, seductive for its marbled alleyways, cobblestoned plazas, cinematic hills, medieval and classical architecture and the rippling Adige River.

Share a bottle of vino

We were pleasantly loopy when we ambled over Verona’s oldest bridge, the arched Ponte Pietra, to the utterly enchanting Café Carducci, where we had dinner and a bottle of Amarone della Valpolicella. We ordered a lovely cheese plate—and then another. Our server engaged us with tales of his love affair with wine. We shared another bottle.

Take in the views

At midnight, the streets empty, we danced along the riverfront on our way to Castel San Pietro, a medieval fortress that marks the site where Verona was founded. It was a steep climb to the top, the twists and turns of the narrow staircase not for the faint of heart, but the views of the Veronese landscape are breathtaking, especially against the silvery light of the moon.

All the world’s a stage

My husband bought tickets to opening night of Giuseppe Verde’s “Nabucco.” The Verona Arena dates back to the first century, and is an architectural wonder. The gowns worn by the attending Veronese women were almost as dazzling. That night, the sky was streaked with glitter, and we couldn’t have felt luckier to celebrate our wedding anniversary in one of the most amorous cities in the world.