"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.
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.
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.
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
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.
For more information, details or to have the tourist guides of Verona that organize for you an itinerary to discover the city walls please send us an email: