One of the most fascinating monuments of ancient Roman times, the Arena di Verona is a large amphitheatre located in the historic centre of Verona, a true icon of this Veneto city along with the figures of Romeo and Juliet.
Typical of Roman architecture, the Arena di Verona has been exceptionally well preserved, thanks also to the regular restorations carried out since the 16th century.
Arena di Verona is the third-largest Roman amphitheatre in Italy, after the Colosseum in Rome and the Capua Amphitheater near Naples.
The lack of written sources about the inauguration of the amphitheatre makes it difficult to date it precisely, although it is thought that it was built in the first century, under emperor Augustus.
When it was built, it stood just outside the walls of the ancient city, to facilitate the flow of spectators and prevent overcrowding in the urban center. Later, it was incorporated within the walls built by Roman emperor Gallienus to defend the city from Barbarian attacks.
Like the Colosseum, the Arena was used for entertainment shows, including gladiator fights. These took place in the centre of the amphitheatre, in the area called harena (hence the name Arena), where there was sand, which was used to absorb blood (of men and animals). These gory spectacles were highly appreciated by the ancient Romans.
Over the centuries, the Arena has been used for the most diverse reasons: as a stone quarry for the construction of houses nearby; for the administration of justice, including stakes; for shows, parties and races and so much more.
The amphitheatre originally had a capacity of 30,000 spectators; nowadays, it contains about half of that, for scenic and safety purposes.
The first opera to be performed at the Arena di Verona was Giuseppe Verdi's Aida, in 1913, one of the most grandiose international shows of the 20th century, attended by people from all over Italy and Europe.
Since then, every summer, the Arena has been home to the Arena Opera Festival, which has an attendance of 600,000 spectators over 50 evenings with five or six alternating productions.
Courtesy: Italy Magazine