As you travel across northern Italy the list of sites is endless. It’s very easy to spread yourself too thin trying to see as much as possible, and equally as easy to stop and never leave many of the captivating towns that you encounter. One such place that can sometimes slip under the radar is fair Verona.

Verona is a magical, romantic town that you can spend days getting lost in and where fictional characters take on life and become a reality. You can almost imagine that the story of Romeo and Juliet actually took place here (it is suggested by the locals that Shakespeare used the city of Verona as a muse). You can even visit Casa di Giulietta (Juliet’s house) to prove it.

You’ll see the actual balcony she supposedly stood-in and pined over Romeo, and you can add graffiti to the walls like millions of other people have over the centuries, to pledge your undying love, if you can find space.

The narrow streets are lined with a rainbow of charming pastel coloured buildings with terracotta roofs, which are intermixed with ancient roman architecture, the most famous of which is the Roman Arena. This ancient amphitheatre, built in 30AD is now used for opera, plays and ballets and is quite an experience.

For 25 euros each (depending on what’s showing) you can see the popular opera ‘Carmen’. You get your tickets at the gate just before dusk, then go and buy some dinner, some beers and of course some gelato and you’re all-set for a magical evening. Tickets at this price are for the higher-area seats, where you sit on ancient stone steps, which just adds to the experience, but most people bring or hire a cushion.

The performance starts when it goes dark and at that moment everyone lights the little birthday candle they were handed on the way in. It adds an element of magic and looks like fireflies, just before the performance really takes you away.

An excellent place to stay is the Lonely Planet listed Camping Castel San Pietro, which is made up of terraces dug into the side of a hill. It’s hard to avoid having to do some steep walking on occasion, but still, it’s a lovely place. It’s heavily shaded as they’ve kept most of the original trees and you camp on the dirt where the undergrowth once was. The facilities are basic but fine for a few nights and it’s only 5 minutes walk into town. One thing though is that if you’re directed to camp at the bottom of the hill, there’s a separate, ‘secret’ entrance, which is extremely difficult to find, even with their map.

Overall Verona is well worth a visit and you could easily spend a few days getting lost in your imagination here, but if you only have one day you can still absorb enough of its charm. And even if you’ve never been to the opera and it’s not your thing, (like my boyfriend), make the effort and drag them along, because if you only see one opera in your life, see it in Verona. (He doesn’t openly admit it, but I think he kind-of enjoyed it).

Lorna Jane is an Australian environmentalist & traveler.

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