Listòn in Verona: the piazza step by step

Walk through the arches that mark the end of the Corso Porta Nuova, and the street expands into a clearing that stretches the field of vision. Piazza Bra is spread before you like a stage with the curtain drawn back: its proportions are dizzying, with palazzos on the left and the Arena on the right, dripping history from every pore of every stone.

Piazza Bra has nothing to do with Piedmont’s cheerful, cheese-making city of the same name. It refers to the Lombard word breit – meaning “large” - which evolved to braida before everyday usage truncated it to bra. The “big piazza”, as the name literally means, doesn’t seem to do this immense area much justice.

But it’s neither the flowerbeds, nor the titanic Palazzo Barbieri that catches our eye: it’s that expanse of enormous, flat square stones on the western side of the piazza, which is called the Listòn. These great, polished, gleaming stones – the listòn – represent a land of promenading, of the romantic stroll. The young friends and young lovers of days gone by would meet here, as would old friends and relations who hadn’t seen each other for what seemed like a lifetime.

Crowded as a beach in August, the Listòn spreads into the square’s widest expanse and welcomes its visitors to the laziest part of the day, when the clock ceases to reign as tyrant and becomes a mere comforting figurehead.

We sit down, we talk, we look and murmur at what’s around us. We wait for dinnertime or for the Arena to open its doors for a night at the opera, while the setting sun caresses one of the most beautiful cities in Italy, and therefore in the world.

There is no world without Verona walls
But purgatory, torture, hell itself.
Hence “banished” is banished from the world,
And world’s exile is death

William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet.
Quotation carved on the plaque at the entrance to Piazza Bra.