Roman Remains - London & Verona

In London we are proud of our Roman remains. Despite their being revealed at street level largely through the vicissitudes of World War II, they mark something of Londinium life from c.50AD to c.410AD.

But probably the most dramatic find still remains largely buried, the excavation work for the re-built Guildhall Art Gallery (opened 1999) unearthing Londinium’s amphitheatre. For the up close view you must descend to the basement of the Gallery – the website section more than adequately covers what you will see.

Externally though, you can get a picture of the scale of the amphitheatre through the line of black stones that runs around Guildhall Yard, denoting the edge of the arena itself.

Room for the imagination

It’s impressive, but self-evidently can’t match what Italy has to offer.

Take Verona, for example – not one of the most visited locations in the country, but replete with heritage. Most of would think of the Arena, constructed in AD30 and Northern Italy’s largest amphitheatre, able to seat the city’s entire population of 20,000 when it opened. Modern images of balmy summer nights sitting on uncomfortable stone (unless you have a cushion) and being regaled by opera.

Wandering further away in the city, you find something smaller but, to my mind, as impressive. On the bank of the River Adige you’ll come across a Roman theatre (Teatro Romano) dating from before the Arena (1st Century BC) and largely intact – buried under medaieval houses until excavation in C19. The theatre is still used for theatre, ballet and jazz.

Open air theatre - Verona style

And popped on top of it you will find a C15 convent, converted into an archaeological museum of Roman remains (Museo Archaeologico).

Peaceful cloisters

Notwithstanding the pleasure of admiring antiquity, we all get a buzz from a good view. If you go up further still above the Museo, you get a super one of these over the city from the Castelvecchio, home of the La Scala family from C13.

Room for a fabulous view

However, descending, both in height and tone, you can visit the courtyard of a C13 palace in the centre of the city to see the -  yes, genuine, folks – Juliet’s House (Casa di Giulietta), and you too can stand in front of that balcony.

Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo
 amongst all these wretched tourists?!

The problem is that the balcony was only tacked on to the palace in the 1920s. Now, since 2009 and in a move that would chime well with any Conservative-run local authority, the Veronesi have turned the place into a wedding location, hopefully not star-crossed. Is that cheap exploitation, or just a sign of times? What do you think?

At least the balcony was not there when our own Charles Dickens, of star-crossed marriage history, visited the city.

The author is a City of London and City of Westminster Guide, who runs walking tours in the City and in Westminster. See tabs for further details.