Verona Walls

"There is no world without Verona walls, But purgatory, torture, hell itself. Hence banished is banish'd from the world, And world's exile is death." Shakespeare, "Romeo and Juliet" Act III scene III. In the photo, the doors of the ancient city walls.
Shakespeare, who has never been in Verona, unknowingly or perhaps from documents and stories he read or heard, seems to know the importance that over the centuries the walls of Verona had for the city. Verona is in the center of northern Italy, at the crossroads of communication routes that go from north to south and from east to west. This, in addition to promoting its development and prosperity, has also made it coveted by all those who wanted to control the region. In order to defend itself from enemies and conquerors, over the course of almost two millennia Verona was endowed with an imposing defensive system characterized by walls, towers, fortified gates, castles and forts that can be found throughout the city, both in urban and suburban areas, and represent a remarkable architectural heritage and an important historical testimony worth being visited with a guided tour.

Roman Age

When Romans built new cities they were very careful to protect it from potential threats.
For Verona, they put the urban structure inside a bend of the Adige river in order to have the protection of its fast current on two thirds of the city, almost like the moat of a castle. They then closed the open side to the south with a high wall reinforced by towers, in which there were four monumental gates, two of which are partially preserved: Porta Borsari and Porta Leoni. To the north they surrounded the hill and the access to the two bridges with another short stretch of wall. This defensive approach, although expanded as the city grew, remained substantially unchanged until the of end nineteenth century.

The Middle Ages

Theoderic king of the Goths the barbarians restored and strengthened the Roman walls, including the Arena in it. However, it was not until the 12th century, at the beginning of the Communal (city state) age, that a new city wall was built to incorporate the new urban expansion of Verona. A large part of this middle age wall is now visible on the south side of Piazza Bra (the piazza where the Arena is), together with the entrance gate from which Romeo, if he ever existed, left Verona for exile.
With Cangrande della Scala (1300s) lord of the Scala family that ruled of over Verona for 150 years, a new wall was built, more or less protecting the same boundary that has remained unchanged until modern age.

Venetian Walls

The Republic of San Marco took control of Verona in 1405. With the introduction of gunpowder in the 1500s, the old Scala family walls were largely reinforced to withstand the blows of the new artillery. The author of the project was the architect Michele Sanmicheli who, together with the fortifications, also created the three monumental gates that open on the southern side of the city: Porta Nuova, Porta Palio, Porta San Zeno.

The Habsburgs

From 1815 Verona became part of the domains in Italy of the Habsburg Empire. For the Austrians, the north-east of the peninsula and Verona in particular were of vital strategic importance. In order to keep them under control, they invested considerable economic and engineering resources in the adaptation of the city's defensive system to modern warfare. The walls were further reinforced and the territory of Verona to the west and Lake Garda, was scattered with forts built in order to fragment a possible enemy advance. To support the immense army stationed in the area, a series of supporting infrastructures were built in Verona: an arsenal, a bakery (the Santa Marta complex) and a military hospital.

Itineraries along the Walls

There are many guided tours proposed by tourist guides of Verona to discover the city walls on foot or by a means of transport. In the center of Verona you can still admire the remains of the Roman walls, well hidden in picturesque alleys and palaces. In particular, long stretches of the so-called walls of the Emperor Gallienus have been incorporated into middle age buildings, and are easily recognizable by a trained eye. From Piazza Bra and on the hills it is possible to admire the still intact Communal age walls with the characteristic crenellation and some towers still intact. For those that come with a means of transport it is possible to drive along the imposing Venetian-Austrian walls that extend to the southern edge of the old town and on the Torricelle, the hilly area north of the city.
Walls of Verona of various eras are included in many guided tours proposed by tourist guides of Verona, both general and thematic: Roman Verona, Medieval Verona-Scaligera, Venetian Verona. The walls and fortifications of Verona can however become a thematic itinerary in their own right.

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