Verona Fortress Town

Since its foundation in Roman times and even before, Verona has always played a key strategic role thanks to its position as a junction between mountains and plain, in the middle of roads that cross the north of the Italian peninsula from east to west, north to south. This has meant that all those who over the centuries, for a short or long time, had the government of the city, worked to provide Verona with fortifications that made the city safe and able to withstand attacks that at any time could reach it. Fortifications that were always at the cutting edge of architecture, able to withstand the new war technologies that developed over the centuries. They enveloped and protected the urban growth and changes of Verona for more than two thousand years. From Roman times to the Hapsburg era, in Verona there are still many examples of military architecture that, thanks to the tourist itineraries organized by the Association of Tourist Guides of Verona, can be admired in various itineraries that focus on one or more historical periods.

Roman Fortifications (I B.C - V A.D.)

Despite the two thousand years that have passed, the remains of the Roman fortifications are still abundant and in many places visible in the historic center of Verona and allow us to get a very clear idea of the defensive system of the first urban structure of the city. In several places are still visible remains of the wall that closed the bend of the river Adige. Of particular interest are the features of the so-called Walls of Gallieno, the restoration that took place in just six months in 275 AD under the threat of the barbaric invasion of Alemanni. Large stretches of wall can be seen at various points in the city in the characteristic composite material that was collected in the haste of the operation: tombstones with inscriptions, decorations, statues, pebbles, etc. Of great interest are also the two access gates, now called Porta Borsari and Porta Leoni, which still mark the main entrances to the city of Verona in Roman times.

Municipal Walls and the Scala Family (XII - XV C.)

From the Roman period, if we exclude the rebuilding of parts of the wall by Theoderic the Great (fifth century), the most important intervention of fortification in the city was in the communal age, around the twelfth century. Little remains of that simple masonry intervention: a small stretch of stone rediscovered inside Castelvecchio on the occasion of the restoration, and a circular tower.
Much more radical was the Scala family intervention, still visible today along the entire southern side of Piazza Bra, from the gates of the Bra square to the Aleardi bridge and, with its defensive towers, along the entire ridge of the Torricelle, the hills that protect Verona to the north. Castelvecchio, the old castle of Verona, was part of this project, a very well-equipped Scaligeri fortress on the banks of the Adige river from which it drew water for its moat and over which the fortified Scaligeri bridge with its towers and battlements still extends today.

The Venetian Age (XVI - XVIII C.)

It was in the Venetian period, however, that began the process of massive fortification that would make Verona a real impregnable fortress until the annexation of Veneto to the Kingdom of Italy. Gunpowder had gradually been introduced, and the evolution of artillery had made obsolete the old concept of fortification consisting of a high, but rather thin wall, reinforced here and there by towers and gates, which represented a simple barrier to the entry of men on foot, arrows, spears and at most some weak shot of catapults. The new war technology required a radical change with the introduction of ramparts and other architectural devices. The enterprise in Verona was entrusted to Michele Sanmicheli, a brilliant and meticulous military architect, originally from Verona and trained at the school of Sangallo and Sasovino. Michele Sanmicheli had already built some of the most important defensive systems for Venice and its commercial colonies scattered throughout the Mediterranean. In addition to the functionality of his work, the greatness of Sanmicheli lies in having embellished the walls of Verona with beautiful monumental gates that are magnificent examples of Renaissance architecture: Porta Nuova, Porta Palio and Porta San Zeno.

The Hapsburg Belt (XIX C.)

The complete transformation of Verona into a fortress-city, however, took place with the annexation of Veneto and then Verona to the Habsburg Empire in 1815. Verona became the capital of Austrian possessions in the Italian peninsula, a logistical centre for a vast army where equipment was made, food supplied and the wounded were treated. In addition to strengthening the city walls, Verona was also equipped with an Arsenal, a centre for provisions, the Santa Marta barracks and a military hospital where many of the wounded of the bloody wars of independence were hospitalised: Custoza, San Martino and Solferino. Even today, these buildings bear witness to the Hapsburg care for functionality and austere aesthetics that inspired and integrated the styles typical of Verona: Romanesque and Gothic. Still today, the Venetian-Austrian city walls represent a real historical park, so much so that they became part of the reason for the designation of Verona as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Guided Itineraries

Numerous itineraries can be organized along the embankment built by the Austrians, with the possibility of visiting the ramparts, the walls of the Carnot facing them, the powder magazines and some of the fortresses such as the fort San Mattia, San Leonardo and Santa Sofia.

For more information book a guided tour of Verona fortifications send a mail to Verona Guide Center.