Churches are not only for eating but also banking

Eating in churches and more

Have you ever counted how many bell towers are strung between the narrow streets of Verona? An army! But not all of them ring to announce the mass, some of them have moved their bells to the sacristy, which has meanwhile become the kitchen. Now their ringing draws the attention of waiters late with table service.

And one church has even become a bank- see below.

Church Santa Felicita Verona

In this Scaligera version of Minor Jerusalem, we have the tempting opportunity to dine in one of the city centre's deconsecrated churches, which to the most secular minds will be an enticing taste experience and, au contraire, borderline desecrating to pious spirits.

Let us begin with the very popular San Matteo Church, near Porta Borsari in Vicolo San Matteo, 1. The pre-existing temple of Janus is revealed by the remains that can be glimpsed through a thick glass pane on the floor, while the rest of the ambience tells the story of a former church that started out Romanesque, grew up Baroque, and secularised into a pizzeria. The décor, the colour of the walls and the curtains create a hyperglycemic South American telenovela atmosphere with glossy peach, frothy pink and sugar-sweet white colours, which also spread to the tablecloths, plates and ceilings. Still, it remains a nice and cosy place.

Troubled is the recent history of the former hidden church in Vicolo Raggiri 11, a small, secret street in the centre not far from Piazza Erbe. Inside, bars, pubs and restaurants have followed one another, in a romantic setting (perhaps the most auspicious place to be with the person with whom you aim to spend an after-dinner drink). However, we remain at the door, because it is currently awaiting a new reopening.

We continue towards Ponte Pietra. In Via Santa Felicita awaits La Sagrestia, an eatery housed in a former Romanesque church that also gives the street its name (we give the house number, it is number 8). This restaurant-pizzeria, skilfully restored, offers the opportunity to eat under the protective gaze of saints resurfaced here and there from the wall frescoes that rise up to the warm wooden ceiling above the tables.

In a privileged position is the Pizzeria Redentore, located right on the banks of the Adige and facing the Roman Theatre and Castel San Pietro. Probably the glance towards these two marvels of the city inspired the pizzaiolo to name two site-specific pizzas on the menu, the first named after the city's oldest bridge and the second after the castle on the hill.

In Via Adigetto 6A the ancient 13th-century church of Santa Croce di Cittadella has become the restaurant-pizzeria Il Braciere, perhaps the place that has retained the perception of the sacred the least but that can best offer a fun social atmosphere! Inside you will find the bust of a Christ hanging halfway up the wall, observing the banquet taking place under his gaze. In the space above, on the other hand, you will find the super-sized head of Buddha towering over the tables. Very interesting menu and clientele!

Let's move on to stradone Porta Palio to collect the Prima Fila restaurant housed in the former church of Santa Caterina. Inside, you can dine in the space of the church's former choir, where there is a privileged view of the rest of the restaurant from below.

But a fun and unusual tour of former churches does not necessarily end with a full belly, because some are used for theatre, dance, music, readings or art exhibitions.

In Veronetta, in the former church of San Francesco, you can see a show off in the unlikely but fantastic Teatro Camploy. This building near Porta Vescovo has been restored by architect Rinaldo Olivieri (the same who designed the installation of the Christmas Star that the Arena gives birth to every year) with an enjoyable restoration of the interior that alone is worth the purchase of a ticket for a show staged in this gem.

Staying in the centre, you can visit the temporary exhibitions set up in the deconsecrated churches of San Giorgetto (next to Santa Anastasia and in the square of the same name), San Pietro in Archivolto (in Piazza del Duomo) or the concerts in San Pietro in Monastero (in Via Garibaldi, 3). It is also fun to attend the numerous film forums with attentive arthouse screenings (true rarities not to be missed by cinephiles and non-cinephiles alike) at the former church of Santa Maria in Chiavica (in the street of the same name) or to enjoy reading and temporary exhibitions in the former churches of San Sebastiano, at the entrance to the Biblioteca Civica in Via Cappello, or San Francesco (in Via San Francesco, 20) now the Arturo Frinzi University Library.

We end our census of the conversion from the sacred to the profane with the incredible metamorphosis that took place in the former church of San Silvestro in Piazza Arditi. Here the Christian god has given way to the god of money: today the former temple houses a bank in a truly unique and unmissable setting. It is obligatory to peek through the stained glass window of the churchyard (pardon! the entrance) to admire the combination of frescoed walls, altar and tabernacle with the rational desks of the bank employees.

Before the Bankers arrived

First Napoleon and then the Risorgimento requisitioned some of these places of worship from the religious orders that administered them, others are being added after the recent wise words of Pope Francis: 'sell churches to feed the poorest'. So before long we will probably have to update the list with new entries.



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