The first fortified settlement was built in primitive days on the San Pietro hills, near a river ford that linked the plains and pre-Alps area.
The city was probably founded by the Euganeans or Rhaetians and later ruled by the Etruscans and Gauls. Verona was conquered by the Romans in the 1st century B.C. In 49 B.C. the town adopted Roman law and became a "municipium". Verona grew rapidly in size. Splendid palazzos were built, and the city was soon nicknamed "Little Rome".
It was crossed by major Roman roads: the Augustean Way (for Modena, Trent and Germany), the Gallic Way (for Turin and Aquileia) and the Postumian Way (for Ligury and Illyria). Trade was intense, but ultimately ended with the great Barbarian invasions. Theodoric, the King of the Ostrogoths, chose Verona as his home and the seat of his government. The Lombards and Franks also seized the city. In 888, Berengarius I, King of Italy, moved to Verona on the banks of the Adige River and reigned there until 924. Afterwards, the city passed into the hands of King Otto I of Bavaria. In the 12th century, Verona became a city-state run by consuls. It was with the Della Scala family in the second half of the 13th century, however, that Verona flourished.
The city grew in size and was beautified with many magnificent palazzos. Towards the end of the 14th century, Verona fell into the hands of the Visconti dynasty of Milan. At the beginning of the 15th century, the Carrara family of Padua ruled over the city. Verona was then conquered by Venice, which ruled until 1797. During that time, Verona became a lively artistic and cultural center. In the 16th century architect Michele Sanmicheli designed the urban layout and military and civilian organization, which influenced the development of the city for over three centuries. In particular, urban renewal projects commenced in the area around the Arena, which consequently became the new heart of city life.
The Austrians arrived with the Congress of Vienna (1815) and turned Verona into a fortified city and military base: with Peschiera del Garda, Mantua and Legnago, Verona was the most important stronghold of the "Quadrilateral". After the Third War of Independence (1866), the entire Veneto region and Verona were annexed to the Kingdom of Italy.
This is the largest church in Verona. Built by Dominican priests between the 14th and 15th centuries above an existing church, it is full of important works of art, especially medieval masterpieces. The first, to the left of the apse, is the chapel of the Cavalli family with a fresco by Altichiero, (1380 ca.). The Giusti chapel houses one of Pisanello's most famous frescoes, Saint George freeing the princess (1436-1438).
The square sits in the spot where the ancient Roman forum used to stand. It is surrounded by medieval and Renaissance buildings and is the site of a bustling, picturesque open-air market. Worthy of note are Palazzo Maffei (17th century), with Baroque decorations and topped by a balustrade with statues of Hercules, Jupiter, Venus, Mercury, Apollo and Minerva; the Gardello Tower (14th century); the Marciano Lion which towers on a 16th century column in the middle of the square; the Madonna Verona Fountain (14th century); the Merchants'House (14th century), with merlons and porticos; and Casa Mazzanti, once owned by the Della Scala family.
Piazza dei Signori is reached from Piazza delle Erbe by passing under the Costa Arch. Here you can admire the 17th century Venetian style facade of Domus Nova; the Renaissance style Loggia del Consiglio; Palazzo degli Scaligeri, the Lords of Verona from 1260 to 1387; the Medieval (12th century) Palazzo della Ragione or Palazzo del Comune, later renovated in Renaissance style and dominated by the Lamberti Tower (83 m) with two bells, the Rengo and the Marangona, whose tolls have marked the pace of city life for centuries.
Bordered by the Portoni della Bra, imposing crenelated arches built above the city walls by Gian Galeazzo Visconti, Piazza Bra is the heart of the city. It is the site of the public gardens, with monuments dedicated to Vittorio Emanuele II and Liberty, ancient palaces (the most famous are the 16th century Palazzo Malfatti, the 15th century Palazzo Brognoligo, Palazzo Gianfilippi, Palazzo Barbieri, and the town hall) and the Arena. The square was named after a clearing that once stretched out before the city and was called "Brada" by the Lombards.
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