Lugging my complete collection of Shakespeare book across campus to my weekly class is still one of my fondest college memories. The book weighed a ton, both literally and figuratively. I would hang on every word my professor said, and there are notes in the book which I still have many years later. It was here on the Indiana University campus that I first fell in-love with Shakespeare, and learned the intricacies of his famous tragedy Romeo and Juliet. The seed of Verona, with all of its literary magic, was planted and I longed to see it for myself. More than twenty years later, I found myself below Juliet’s balcony gazing up at the iconic stone perch. It brought back all of the memories of my college days in a room filled with the sound of iambic pentameter and a longing to jump into the pages of Shakespeare’s world. There I was in Verona.
It was a dream to stay in Marcello Pigozzo’s luxury hotel Palazzo Victoria during my visit to Verona, Italy. With a similar story of fond memories and a longing to connect to Verona, Pigozzo purchased the Palazzo forty years after first exploring it and he has put his passion into a luxury stay that he hopes feels like home. At home is exactly how I felt when I walked through the front doors of Palazzo Victoria.
The property is situated perfectly in the centre of Verona. As the city invites you to explore from every direction, the property itself conjures up a beautiful mix of emotions too with it’s intentional blending of old and new, modern and antique, bold and soft, open and intimate.
The dream is that you are surrounded by the ancient Roman remains of Verona, and literally preserved under the hotel in a little museum which offers a great first spot to visit, juxtaposed with a splash of savvy contemporary and very Italian design. The white Gaetano Pesce tufted leather sofas and armchairs cannot be missed, and anchor the whimsical and eclectic décor. A bright green living wall and hazy purple rotunda light fixture give the stark space some bold and modern personality.
There are 74 rooms at Palazzo Victoria including 8 junior suites and 7 suites. Each suite carries the theme of old and refined new blended together. Upon arrival I was greeted with a welcome drink and a gift of local olive oil to take with me. My room with a courtyard view of the glowing lobby and a luxurious king-sized bed was the perfect centrally located haven to return to each afternoon for an aperitif made and served by the loving hands of Patrick in the Victoria Lounge E Café, and regroup for a plan to explore more of the city under the stars or stay in and enjoy the home away from home atmosphere of Palazzo Victoria.
Dining at Palazzo Victoria
From the lobby there are several off-shoots, you can wander into the Victoria Lounge E Café with its various rooms of seating, bar area and even outdoor private courtyard space for a cozy and metropolitan feeling aperitif in bright natural light spaces with exposed ancient ruins on display softly as if the two have cohabited all along. There is a pool table in one room for anyone inspired to share a friendly game, and even a very private outdoor inner courtyard that is insulated from the outside world.
Patrick is the bar keep here and the cocktail menu is inspired daily by his creativity. In keeping with the theme and blend of old and new, classic cocktails are infused with a breath of fresh air, along with reliable favourites like the Spritz for a traditional Italian aperitif the Palazzo Victoria way. One of my favourite parts of ordering and enjoying a traditional Italian happy hour or “aperitif” is that each drink is served with a small and thoughtful selection of savoury snacks like local olives, nuts and small crackers, making the occasion official and a bit more detailed than other parts of the world. It is an invitation to linger, to snack, to savour the moment and that is exactly what I did every afternoon. This lounge has become a meeting place for not only guests, but local Veronese as well, which makes it a great place to people watch and feel authentic Verona.
Borsari 36 is the restaurant on property at Palazzo Victoria, and its open kitchen concept carries on Pigozzo’s invitation of feeling at home. The 14th century courtyard terrace is where I enjoyed breakfast every morning, with a visit into this open kitchen just inside to enjoy selections from a bountiful buffet of fresh, local ingredients. Chef Carmine Calò has created a beautifully simple and elegant dinner menu that represents Italian culture with intention for sourcing and combining authentic flavours and presenting them in a way that you feel like each dish is a work of art. Dine under the olive trees al fresco or inside with the Roman remains underneath you beyond plexiglass that feels whimsical and fanciful.
A stay at Palazzo Victoria makes it easy to explore Verona in all directions, and this exploring off-property is exactly what I did during my stay here. Of course, my two decade Verona seduction has been inspired by the fact that Verona is the literary town of “Romeo and Juliet,” but Verona is a city with riches beyond Shakespeare’s words and the notoriety they have brought to this city.
With this said, the very first thing I did when I arrived was drop my bags and head out with a plan to end up at the foot of the famous balcony at Casa di Giulietta, wide open to get lost along the way. Just a short ten-minute walk from Palazzo Victoria I found myself walking through the famed passageway into the courtyard where the balcony can be seen and visited. Girls waited their turn in line to take their place up above on the balcony and have their photo taken from their partner waiting below, it was great people watching. The bronze statue of Juliet standing in the courtyard was also getting patient attention as people stepped up to it one-by-one and cupped Juliet’s breast in their hand, often while smiling for a photograph. The belief is that this is good luck for finding true love and many take their turn to have their intimate moment with Juliet for this sake.
The way to Juliet’s house from Palazzo Victoria is down charming narrow streets lined with boutiques and bakeries and cafes and through Piazza Delle Erbe, the largest piazza in Verona. I stopped along the way and bought “Juliet Kisses,” a sweet Verona treat, and a few linen pieces made nearby. I stood in the middle of this piazza when I got there and turned in a complete circle looking at the buildings from street to sky that lined the piazza, one façade after another with picturesque balconies and antique windows. The entire circumference of this piazza is lined with cafes with pretty tables set up and inviting you to take a break and people watch in one of the busiest squares in Verona. I returned here for a beautiful pasta lunch the next day with a great show of activity as I dined, literally the Town Hall is found in this square and it is indeed a town hall square. In addition to cafes and shops, Piazza Delle Erbe also has a few fountains (namely the Madonna Verona fountain) and marble statues, and it is the hub for visiting the Piazza dei Signori a square with miss-matching buildings from different time periods, and Scaliger Tombs a group of gothic monuments.
This “Gateway to Italy,” beautiful welcome for visitors coming from the North, is also host to the Verona Arena, constructed in 30 AD, which rivals the Coliseum in Rome with its golden façade and its grandeur which is in remarkable condition. You can cross the River Adige on the Ponte di Castle Vecchio which is connected to the castle with the same name. This bridge was the longest bridge, of its kind, in the world when it was originally constructed. Castelvecchio, originally built in 1354, was hugely important to the town of Verona because it served as a mode of defence. Today you can visit the inside of the castle which is now a museum.
There is a mystique about Verona, and as you walk the ancient streets you cannot help but wonder what it must have been like, felt like, looked like, during the days of Shakespeare and Romeo and Juliet. As I spent time here I felt as though I had indeed walked into the pages of the romantic tale, with my very own home here in Verona at Palazzo Victoria.
Via Adua 8, 37121 Verona, Italy
Getting there: Fly into the Verona airport and take a short taxi ride to Palazzo Victoria in the middle of Verona
The Fit Traveller was a guest of Palazzo Victoria Verona for this stay. As always, the opinions, words and images are authentically our own.