Delving deep into Verona’s core, it becomes evident that Piazza delle Erbe truly lives up to its reputation as an unmissable, bustling historic market square. in addition to Piazza Bra. This enduring space reveals itself as a luminous fabric of Italy‘s rich history, where each nook and cranny resounds with narratives of age-old merchants, intricate artworks, and architectural splendours.
When I visited Verona during a quieter travel period, the depth of the city’s cultural fabric was evident. The Piazza delle Erbe, renowned for its bustling ambiance, presented a more intimate dance. Merchants, with seasoned hands and age-old techniques, conversed with patrons, while the few tourists present were captivated by landmarks such as the towering Lamberti Tower and the colourful Mazzanti Houses. As I meandered through, it was clear why this square is heralded as unmissable—it’s where Verona’s pulse truly beats.
This enchanting city, with its bustling historic market square, is sure to capture your heart from the very first step. I’ll share with you its many wonders and stories ensuring you don’t miss a single highlight.
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TOP PICKS FOR VERONA
For the best experience of Verona, consider these tips:
⭐ STAY at Due Torri Hotel, overlooking the historic centre and enjoy breakfast over sunrise or dinner over sunset from its large roof terrace.
⭐ BOOK Food Walking Tour: Eat your way through Verona, taste their famous wines and see the city’s highlights with a local guide; An all-round experience in one 3.5-hour tour.
⭐ See More! Go to the Dolomites or Sirmione + Lake Garda for a day and be completely awestruck by the scenic views. Transportation is provided so, just sit back, relax, and enjoy. After all, you’re on vacation.
⭐ Download the VERONA CITY PASS for free local transport, including entry to the Arena, Lamberti Tower and museums
Piazza delle Erbe: The hearbeat of Verona’s culture and the highlights not to miss
Right in the heart of Verona, a city with roots dating back to the Romans, sits the Piazza delle Erbe. Its name, which translates to the “square of herbs,” hints at its vibrant past.
The history of Piazza delle Erbe
During the Roman era, this was the epicenter of activity. Two major roads met here, making it a bustling forum. People came to chat, shop, and handle business, surrounded by grand buildings and the main city temple.
As the Roman Empire’s influence waned, Verona’s powerful families took the reins, leaving an indelible mark on Piazza delle Erbe’s character and appearance. The square transitioned from its expansive Roman layout into a more intimate and idiosyncratic form.
Modern day Piazza delle Erbe
Despite these changes, its vibrant spirit never dimmed. At its center, a market blossomed, becoming a riot of colours and scents. While herbs dominated, bestowing upon the square its evocative name, an array of traders hawked everything from spices to textiles. The hues of their stalls and the cadence of their voices added layers to the square’s tapestry.
Over the centuries, families like the Della Scala exerted their influence, adding architectural flourishes and endorsing trade, ensuring Piazza delle Erbe wasn’t just a marketplace but a testament to Verona’s prosperity and pride. It wasn’t long before the square evolved into a mosaic of the city’s history, commerce, and artistry — a trend that endures to this day.
Embracing today’s Piazza delle Erbe, Verona
The lively buzz of a thriving market still resonates today. Energetic calls from vendors echo beneath the iconic umbrellas, forever captured in art by Angelo Dall’Oca Bianca. While the stalls now showcase fresh fruits and vegetables more than spices and herbs, they also offer a medley of souvenirs for the curious traveller. Many visitors pause for a moment, savouring an espresso or cappuccino from adjacent cafes, and immerse themselves in the ambiance beneath those emblematic shades.
The Piazza delle Erbe pulsates with energy. By day, tourists flood the square, each eager to capture a piece of its history. But as daylight wanes and evening hues paint the sky, a magical transformation occurs. The throngs of visitors give way to local Veronese, coming to partake in the timeless tradition of “passeggiata.” Both the young and the old converge by the bars lining the square, indulging in aperitifs and spirited conversations. It’s a modern-day echo of the Veronese “happy hour” from millennia past.
But there’s more to the Piazza delle Erbe than just its vibrant café culture. While many revel in the simple joy of people-watching over an espresso or cappuccino, the square beckons with architectural marvels that stand as silent sentinels to history. As you wander through, don’t let the grandeur of these structures escape your notice. From the iconic Palazzo Maffei to the ancient Roman remnants, the Piazza delle Erbe isn’t just a cultural spot—it’s a living tapestry of Verona’s storied past.
Piazza delle Erbe: The highlights at this timeless historic gem
Here are the highlights you won’t want to miss.
North of Piazza Erbe: Legacy and Heights
The Torre dei Lamberti
A tower, passionately called the “Tower of Love”, stands tall at eighty-four meters, proudly holding the title of Verona’s loftiest structure. Eight centuries of history look down upon the city from its summit. If you’re eager for unparalleled views, ascend the 368 steps and let Verona unveil its splendor beneath you.
North West of Piazza Erbe: Painted Memories
Historical records hint at a Roman Capitol Hill that once looked towards the forum. Today, remnants of its glory, like the Mazzanti House, stand in this quadrant. This collection of Renaissance homes, with their vivid frescoes, paints an evocative picture of 1500s Verona – the urbs picta or ‘painted city’. The Scagliari (Scala) family legacy, blended with delicious modern-day culinary offerings, make this a must-visit.
West of Piazza Erbe: Baroque Brilliance
A baroque jewel that dates back to the 17th century, this palace is the creation of the Maffei family. Its intricately designed facade, decorated with statues of Greek deities, speaks volumes of the artistry of its time. Today, while the exterior continues to mesmerize, the interiors house an art repository that spans five centuries. An absolute treat for art enthusiasts!
St Mark’s Lion
Overlooking the piazza from its marble pedestal, this lion symbolizes both Venice ’s influence over Verona and St. Mark’s protective gaze over Venice. Crafted in 1524, it stands as a silent testament to the historical ties binding these two cities.
Torre del Gardello
A sentinel of time, this clock tower, sometimes known as Torre delle Ore, has overseen the square since the early 13th century. Restored under the Scala family’s aegis, it was once equipped with a mechanical bell-clock, making it a pioneer in public timekeeping. Although its clock has long stopped ticking, its historical significance reverberates through the ages.
South of Piazza Erbe: A Merchant’s Legacy
Domus Mercatorum (Casa dei Mercanti)
Nestled in the southern quarter, at the juncture with Via Pellicciai, this magnificent edifice stands as a testament to Verona’s thriving trade heritage. Its foundations, laid in 1301, echo the ambitions of the powerful Scala family, whose ascent to power saw Verona’s landscape transform.
Adorning the cityscape with its quintessential red-bricked facade, the Domus Mercatorum is an epitome of the architectural splendor of its time. Ghibelline battlements crown the structure, adding to its medieval allure. Beneath, a grand porch, punctuated by a series of arches and columns, beckons passersby into its embrace.
As with many ancient structures, time has etched its own narrative onto this building. From its origins as a bustling hub for the city’s merchants, it transitioned into the Chamber of Commerce in 1797, continuing its legacy of commerce and trade. As you stand before it, you’re not just facing a building; you’re witnessing centuries of Veronese trade and politics converge.
As you stroll through Piazza delle Erbe, let these edifices and monuments whisper tales of yore into your ears. Every stone and mural has a story waiting to be heard. So, take your time, and let Verona’s rich history unfold around you.
BOOK: Would you like to discover a city that drips in old time romance, while listening to tales and myths from a local guide? Book this walking experience.
The Centre of Piazza delle Erbe: Echoes of Ancient Prestige
Fountain of Madonna Verona
Commanding attention right in the heart of the square, the Fountain of Madonna Verona is more than just a structure – it’s a storied emblem of Veronese pride. Erected in the 14th century, this magnificent fountain isn’t just a mere decorative feature; it’s an allegorical tribute to the city.
The poised figure atop isn’t the revered Virgin Mary, but rather a medieval queen, the term “Madonna” derived from Mea domina – Latin for “my lady” – a title of respect for noblewomen of yore. Embodying the spirit and essence of Verona, the Madonna holds a bronze scroll inscribed with the city’s credo: Est iusti latrix urbs hec et laudis amatrix – “This city is the bearer of justice and lover of praise.” As you glance at this effigy, it’s as if Verona herself whispers tales of its ancient grandeur.
La Berlina (Tribuna o Capitello)
Known simply as the Berlina, this historical podium whispers tales of ancient ceremonies. It was here that Verona’s magistrates were sworn in, seated on a stone chair nestled within its four pillars, accepting the honour and responsibilities of their office. Though the present-day Berlina has undergone changes, its essence and significance remain undiminished.
Constructed in 1401, the stone podium now boasts an ornate aedicule on top. The Veronese commercial measures, a testament to the city’s bustling trade, are engraved on its columns. And, as a nod to its rich history, one can still glimpse the traditional units of measurement etched on the steps and pillars – reminders of a time before the decimal system’s advent.
Mattone and Tegola
As you wander around, let these symbols transport you back to Verona’s vibrant communal era. At the heart of Piazza delle Erbe, even the ground and pillars tell tales. Here, the “mattone” (brick) and “tegola” (rule) are not just words but standards etched into stone. One of the steps showcases a rectangle, a guideline against which bricks sold in the square were measured. Any deviation from this size was not merely shrugged off; merchants faced hefty fines for such discrepancies.
Similarly, the meticulously laid paving stones at the square’s center are more than decorative elements. Each stone, approximately a meter in length, once dictated the dues stalls should pay, based on the space they occupied. And as for that chain and iron ring hanging on a pillar? No, it’s not a relic of medieval punishment, as many might assume. Instead, it’s a testament to fair trade practices of the past. This ring was adjustable, defining the exact standard size for a “fascina” – a bundle of firewood up for sale.
Nearby grooves on the pillar served as benchmarks for length, ensuring that every measurement was just right. Though its days of measuring and ensuring trade fairness have long since passed, La Berlina now serves as a serene resting spot. Families pause here, children play, and travellers capture memories with their cameras, all under the silent watch of Verona’s ancient symbols of integrity and fairness.
Hidden Gems around Piazza delle Erbe
Beyond the main attractions of Piazza delle Erbe, there are a few more intriguing spots that add to the square’s timeless charms.
The Enigmatic Whale Bone of Arco della Costa
Right where Piazza delle Erbe meets Piazza dei Signori, a mysterious whale rib dangles from the medieval Arco della Costa. Held up by an iron chain, this bone has graced the arch since the 1700s, and perhaps even as far back as the 15th century. Its origins remain a riddle. But don’t walk under it too casually; local lore says it’ll drop on the first truly innocent person who passes beneath!
Piazza dei Signori: Verona’s Stately Square
Verona’s Stately Square Nestled close to the ancient Roman forum, now Piazza delle Erbe, lies the elegant Piazza dei Signori. This historic space echoes the grandeur of epochs gone by, with Romanesque, Gothic, and Renaissance architectural styles coming together seamlessly.
Graceful arches and walkways link the surrounding buildings, providing a picturesque backdrop for the square’s central figure: Dante Alighieri. Dante, renowned for penning the “Divine Comedy,” found solace in Verona between 1312 and 1318 after being banished from Florence . A monumental statue in the piazza pays homage to Dante and the hospitality he received from the influential Della Scala family. Crafted by Ugo Zannoni in 1865, it stands as a testament to Verona’s rich cultural legacy. Locals often affectionately dub the square as Piazza Dante, a nod to the poet’s profound impact on the city’s history.
Where eat at Piazza delle Erbe, Verona
At the heart of Verona’s vibrant scene, this bustling square promises an authentic culinary journey. Picture this: you’re seated at an al fresco table, soaking up the square’s ambiance, all while sipping on a refreshing aperitif. Soon, a plate of creamy truffle risotto arrives, accompanied by crispy bruschetta, capturing the essence of Verona in every bite. For those craving the ocean’s bounty, the seafood linguine is a must-try, offering a delicious deep dive into Veronese flavours.
For an unforgettable gourmet experience, Maffei Restaurant is the place to be. Housed in a majestic medieval palace from the 1600s, it exudes elegance and charm. Their truffle risotto is unparalleled, as are the succulent lamb chops. And for wine aficionados? The restaurant’s cellar boasts one of Italy’s most impressive collections. Given its stellar reputation, a reservation at Maffei Restaurant is a coveted spot. If you’re hoping to enjoy their exquisite offerings, be sure to book well in advance, ideally a month or so, to ensure a table in this gastronomic haven.
Pro tip: Explore the flavours of Veronese cuisine at Caffè Dante Bistrot. Their delicious menu is specially prepared by their in-house chef.
Top Recommendations for an Unforgettable Verona Experience
⭐ STAY at Due Torri Hotel: This luxurious 5-star establishment isn’t just any hotel. Housed within a 14th-century palazzo, Due Torri Hotel offers an elegant blend of historic charm and modern convenience. Overlooking the historic centre, you can start your day with breakfast over a stunning sunrise and end it with a gourmet dinner during sunset from its grand roof terrace. And if you’re a wine enthusiast, their curated wine list will certainly impress.
⭐ BOOK Food Walking Tour: Dive deep into Verona’s culinary scene with this all-inclusive tour. Not only will you sample iconic dishes like Risotto all’Amarone, but you’ll also get a taste of Verona’s authentic street food. The local guide will not only introduce you to the city’s gastronomic delights but also share stories, history, and cultural insights about the places you visit. By the end of this 3.5-hour tour, you’ll have experienced Verona through both taste and tales.
⭐ See More! Go to the Dolomites or Sirmione + Lake Garda: If you think Verona’s beauty is unparalleled, wait until you venture to the Dolomites or Lake Garda. The breathtaking landscapes of the Dolomites will leave you in awe, especially if you’re a nature lover. And Sirmione, the pearl of Lake Garda, offers thermal springs, historic sites, and serene lake views. With transportation sorted, you can immerse yourself in the stunning vistas without a worry.
⭐ Download the VERONA CITY PASS: Make your travels hassle-free with the Verona City Pass. This isn’t just about free local transport. It’s your golden ticket to some of Verona’s most iconic sites. Marvel at the historic Arena, where grand operas come to life. Ascend the Lamberti Tower and take in panoramic views of the city. And, of course, the numerous museums where Verona’s rich history is showcased in detail. Plus, with the pass, you might gain priority access, ensuring you spend less time in queues and more in exploration.
on a final note …
Piazza delle Erbe stands as a testament to Verona’s rich history and vibrant culture. A bustling hub, it showcases architectural marvels, markets, and eateries that truly encapsulate the spirit of the city. Whether it’s climbing the Torre dei Lamberti for panoramic views or savouring authentic Veronese dishes at local restaurants, there’s something for every traveller.
If you’ve been captivated by the tales and sights of this square, I highly recommend diving deeper into our resources. There’s so much more to explore and understand about this iconic space. Let our in-depth guides and stories be your compass in navigating the wonders of Verona.
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This post was first published in July 2020 and is regularly updated. Last update was on September 30, 2023.