There is always some struggle in planning a trip to a place you have never been before; especially if you are a photographer. When you get used to seeing the world through the lens of a camera, you have to fight with the annoying knowledge that no matter your effort, you will not see nor photograph everything on your list. This is a fact. It is hard to deal with it, but that is the way things are.
It is almost impossible to completely embrace a city or a country the first time you visit it. There are some hard choices you will need to make, and you will leave something out. This line of reasoning also applies to your gear. How many times have you asked yourself, “Do I really need this lens? Should I bring my tripod? I definitely have to buy an extra seat for my bag".
Usually, anxiety wins; you stick everything you have in your suitcase and convince yourself that you are going to be the first one to see the entire city in one day. Later, reality wins. You complete half of the program in a mad panic and your shoulders are calling for mercy.
Unfortunately, there are no golden rules in these kinds of situations. Every person has a different taste, every photographer shoots differently and, most important, various subjects. We see things uniquely, and this is the most beautiful thing about photography. Place ten photographers with disparate backgrounds in the same place, and they will bring you ten different pictures.
If you are coming to Verona, you may find that the choice I made is suitable for you. It is a win-win situation: you will see most of the most well-known attractions of the city and then some; you will bring only one lens; you will walk in the open air, and it will occupy but half a day. Are you ready to go?
When you think of Verona, you can not escape Romeo and Juliet, the Arena in Piazza Bra and the astonishing Roman and Medieval heritage. However, always remember that before there was civilization, lay nature. Usually, we pay less attention to the course of Adige, the second biggest river in Italy that carves up Verona. As you can see on the map, the river cuts a path through the heart of the city: the perfect route to get a vast, stunning view of its skyline, but that’s not all folks. The path starts way before Romans, and Middle Age people shaped the buildings we see today. The start of our journey will be at San Pancrazio, right in the centre of the Parco dell’Adige Sud. The starting point, in my opinion, is one of the best places in Italy, the bridge of Castelvecchio, just five minutes walk from the Piazza Bra.
We may have decided what to see, but what about the gear problem?
Once again, sadly, no fixed rules. Except for one. There is only one commandment: less is more, always. I do recommend to choose just one lens, two at most, and shape your photography according to what you have, not the other way around. You need to approach travel photography the same way you would a photographic project: you have to follow the task you chose; this may be to use only one lens. Get out of your comfort zone and be creative. There is always a chance to create pictures; you just have to want it.
My personal choice was the ultra wide-angle Sony FE 12-24mm Ƒ/4 G series, mounted on my Sony Alpha 7R MkIII. This is my newest acquisition and I needed to test it in the open air. What better occasion than an 8 km (5 miles) walk between nature and civilisation to see how it works?
The route is straightforward, even in the wild area of the Parco dell’Adige. You make your way towards Verona on a dirt, pedestrian path next to the river. There are many spots where you can reach the shore if you choose. The area surrounding the river is wild and untamed: lots of trees and roots everywhere, a never-ending game of lights and shadows. Usually, I would have shot in black and white, but mother nature blessed me this day with clouds above a thin red line of sunlight. No way I am going to miss that. I am sure there will be a chance to shoot black and white later thanks to the abundance of marble and the stone.
This first part of the path is perfect to let you leave your comfort zone. To make some beautiful images, you need to be creative. Move closer and further away from the trees; you must look in every direction. You need to manage and use the light coming from above and shape the nature around you at your pleasure. You checked the map before, so you already know there will be time for more “postcard-like” pics. Let this wilderness help you, and most of all take all the time you need. The silence around you will be your friend.
At some point, civilisation will come. A dyke, the smoke of a steel mill nearby, the first bridge, abandoned stables. Verona is just around the corner, you can feel it in the air. The view approaching the centre will leave you speechless. The abundance of bridges along the river will let you jump from one side to another. I can assure you will do it, especially when you end up at the breathtaking Ponte Pietra. The view is gorgeous from both sides, while on one you have Teatro Romano and in the other the Duomo. A place for living life in peace.
With the right lens, this is also a huge place for some classic old street photography. Everyone in the city will end up here eventually: tourists, locals, students, artists. Lots of faces, plenty of stories, infinite chances of pictures. With my wide-angle, I do prefer to move on. However, I keep on looking at my back once in a while. The view keeps on changing here because the river hits a curve – like it is trying to hug the city.
When I reach Castelvecchio, the sun is right behind the bridge now, forcing its way through the clouds. There is something magical about this place. You can almost feel the power of the Scaliger dynasty. In certain times of the year, it is possible to reach the shore and take a look at the foundations from the river level.
From now on, it is up to you guys. You may decide to take a look at the Castelvecchio Museum inside the castle walls where they display a collection of sculpture, statues, paintings, ancient weapons, ceramics, gold work, miniatures and some old bells. Otherwise, you can reach Piazza Bra quickly for a drink or a dinner in front of the Arena.
Alternatively, you can follow my advice once again: take a sit, rest, and enjoy the view.
To get to San Pancrazio from Piazza Bra
- 5 minutes walk to Strad. Maffei (Bus Stop)
- Take the bus number 70.
- 16 minutes (16 stops) to Via Ponte San Pancrazio.
Author: Mirko Fin
Mirko is a photographer with Aperture Tours: professional photography guided tours, designed to help you get the best out of your camera whilst exploring wonderful cities with a local. He has no limits or disciplines in photography. He looks for the meaning in everything. He finds his life as a photographer as a never-ending challenge, an everlasting expedition.