Shore excursion

It's the setting for a Shakespearean classic, but Sonja Johnson discovers a whole other side to Verona.

WHAT

Exploring Verona, Italy.

WHERE

Verona is a small city on the Adige River in northern Italy, about 100 kilometres west of Venice. It is a former Roman trade centre and is a World Heritage site.

THE SHIP

Sonja cruised on a seven-night Venice and the Po River round-trip itinerary from Venice, via Bologna, Padua and Verona, on Uniworld's River Countess (uniworld.com). Sonja cruised on her own but formed a fast friendship with two female passengers.

THE EXPERIENCE

"Verona is best known as the setting for Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, so I thought I'd better have a look at Casa di Romeo [Romeo's House] and Casa di Giulietta [Juliet's house], where there were lots of people taking pictures of the balcony.

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"[But] I was more interested in the buildings and the local side of the city, away from the tourist sights.

"We started with a walking tour with a local guide, who told us a lot of the history and showed us some of the main buildings, and then we were free to wander for the rest of the day.

"A woman in a shop recommended a coffee shop where the locals go and it was a gorgeous little place, complete with lace curtains - so 1950s.

"The coffee was excellent and they cost only $1.50 each.

"I also loved the local markets, in the Piazza delle Erbe.

"The Italian towns all seem to have little markets where the locals go and shop each day.

"We found the locals to be friendly and helpful and it really was a wonderful place to visit."

VALUE FOR MONEY

"I find cruises the cheapest way to see places and have a holiday," Sonja says. "Every morning we had a guided walking tour and that was all included, so we didn't even have to worry about tipping.

"They always use local guides and they really know what they are talking about; you are almost overloaded with information.

"You could pay for extra excursions if you wanted to, but I was happy to just do the walking tours and then have the afternoons to explore on my own."

As told to Jane E. Fraser

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