I was first introduced to this Italian city 25 years ago by William Shakespeare. What a stage for tragedies and comedies...
Planning our trip to Verona was easy. I had been browsing Kid & Coe for months, waiting for the opportunity to select one of their kid-friendly homes which are dotted with books and toys, just to make travel with the bambini a touch easier.
The Via Emilei Residence, just a hop and a skip from Piazza Erbe, exceeded expectations. The kids loved looping around the stylish, spacious apartment. Through the kitchen, onto the balcony, into the master bedroom, out past the bathroom and back into the living room. The bathroom... Only five minutes after entering, with the host and I at the dining table looking over a map of the city whilst she pointed out the closest kids playgrounds, we heard a gushing of water and excited, high-pitched shrieks. I jumped to my feet and followed the familiar squeals to find water all over the bathroom floor. Two of my three had just had their first experience with a bidet! Thinking it was a sink for children, they swung the tap on, the water hit them and then hit the floor. They were delighted, I was stunned. With the bathmat, I covered up part of the puddle, ushered the mischievous duo out, closed the door and, making my way back to the host, pretended that nothing had happened.
Once the host had left (and water mopped up), we hopped and skipped out of the building to soon find ourselves greeting the Lamberti Tower which stands 84 metres tall. The fabulous Verona Card gets you into an array of sites, at 22 euros, I opted for the 48 hour card. Additionally, since all my three were aged under seven, they entered the sites free of charge, making our touristing extremely good value. So climbing up, we marvelled at the panoramic view offered by the tower.
Verona is an ideal city for walking with young children. Without effort, we found ourselves in the courtyard of Juliet, looking up at her balcony. We left the crowd and entered the House of Capulet. From the balcony my own young Romeos waved down to those gazing wistfully up and my two-year-old daughter delighted in dancing in the space. The bedtime story that night was fixed, though heavily edited and a happy ending added. Sorry Shakespeare, I haven't introduced my kids to that level of tragedy as yet.
The next morning my trio were in charge and, predictably, they opted for a park. A short stroll along the River Adige led us to the Castelvecchio museum where we crossed the Scaligero Bridge, itself quite the playground, for some fun in a well equipped park.
With everyone still eager to explore, we continued until we were suddenly face-to-face with a Roman soldier guarding the Arena. The children were cautious and kept their distance from this bare-legged, helmeted man. I wondered if this was how children felt 2,000 years ago, when crossing paths with these red-plumed and red-cloaked marching machines. We circumnavigated the Arena, which predates the Colosseum in Rome, which even today fills up with audiences enjoying the ambience during opera, ballet and more recently rock shows. Half way round the Arena we again came face-to-face with something ancient and unexpected. Egyptian Sphinxes and golden statues! Well, they were props for the opera Aida, but fun to bump into.
At Via Stella we became familiar faces at two establishments. Rossa Filante, where we enjoyed scrumptious pizza by the slice. Though what I really loved was that the boys felt confident enough to hang out at the counter, trying out the few Italian words they had picked up with the smiling server.
Next was the irresistible Fleggo Pasticceria, with softly coloured macarons, meringues, and beautifully crafted, bite-sized cakes including one called "Juilet's Kiss". Too good for words.
With my youngest taking mid-afternoon naps, and not being one to rush from scenic spot to not-to-miss tourist attraction, it became clear that two days in Verona was not enough. I found Hotel Mastino, just steps away from Piazza Bra. Its location and friendliness of the staff when faced with three excited faces was all that I needed to book two more nights.
Having admired it faithfully from the outside, the Arena was spine-tingling to enter. It is magnificent. I adore the fact that it is still used for entertaining the masses. Being so well preserved, the kids were fearless in climbing up and around the seats, though I was a little more nervous than I let on. We also spent plenty of time in the seats watching the assembly of the set, cranes placing the fibreglass props we'd earlier bumped into down upon the stage of this imperial theatre.
Basking in the soothing rhythm of the day coming to an end in Piazza Bra became part of our routine before we sought out dinner.
I am a huge fan of the 'place around the corner'. We were lucky to find the beautifully designed Ristorante L'Orologio around the corner from our hotel. Outstanding food and superb service, the children loved everything they tried, as did I.
Everywhere we stepped in Verona, the children were greeted with love and kindness, and with so much space to run, have fun and enjoy gelato after gelato (I'm craving a mascarpone with crumble from Gelateria Ponte Pietra right now), I could not think how this city could be any more child-friendly. I look forward to returning... Ciao Verona!