One of northern Italy’s most beautiful historic cities, Verona is famous worldwide as the setting of Romeo and Juliet. Travelers have long come to enjoy the romance that permeates the city, but there’s so much more to experience in Verona.  

A wide angle over the city of Verona at twilight, exactly when the opera in the Verona Arena begins!
Verona is beautiful in any light. Photo by Helge Thomas.

In fact, the entire city center is a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its 2,000 year old architecture and urban structure that is still visible today.

Founded by the Romans in the 1st century BCE, Verona’s strategic location between Milan and Venice, sea, mountains and the Italian peninsula, helped it to grow rapidly in importance.  

Today travelers from all over the world come to tour Verona’s cobbled streets and take in its architectural icons. But there’s one architectural icon that outshines all others: The Arena di Verona.

An open-air amphitheater still in use today, the Arena di Verona is the best representation of the city’s important history and rich culture. Today visitors can go to see a ballet, an orchestra concert or a classic opera, and even if it’s not something you’d usually do, we promise you:

There’s no better way to experience the history and magic of the Verona than by seeing an opera in the Verona Arena.

What is the Verona Arena? 

The Arena di Verona is the city’s magnificent amphitheater built by the Romans in 30 AD. The third largest arena in antiquity, it could once hold up to 30,000 people.  

Though it looks like a miniature Colosseum, it was actually built nearly 50 years before the iconic Colosseum. Also, differently than Rome’s most famous ringed amphitheater, the Verona Arena is still used to this day.  

In fact, it’s the largest Roman amphitheater still in use. Standing tall for nearly 2,000 years, the Arena has survived pillaging in the Middle Ages, an earthquake that toppled its uppermost ring, countless rulers and World War II. It has been a stage for gladiator fights, a public trial area, cheap housing for prostitutes and more and later shops, offices and a small market before ultimately returning to a theater.  

Though the Arena had begun its opera tradition in the 1800s, for various reasons it still sat mostly unused. It wasn’t until nearly a century after the first performance that the Verona Arena became a true opera house with the opening of Aida by Giuseppe Verdi in 1913. 

Besides brief pauses during the First and Second World Wars, the Arena has been hosting summer opera seasons ever since.  

Today Verona’s Arena still fills with 15,000 – 20,000 spectators ready to enjoy an opera on a warm Italian summer night.  

Why You Should See an Opera in the Verona Arena

a close up of a giant face, a set dressing from the Tosca opera, with the Verona arena in the background
Set dressing from Tosca sits outside the Arena in Verona. Photo by Boss Tweed

While Vienna and Milan’s infamous opera houses maintain their elegant dress code and extravagant price tag to match, opera in the Verona Arena is available to all. Travelers can choose between assigned seats and cushioned chairs and the stone seating of the amphitheater rings and whatever price range runs between the two. Accessible prices and no strict dress code mean travelers can get tickets for the opera even if they didn’t plan ahead, and if they’ve had enough they can simply get up and leave!  

Built in the 1st century AD, the Arena’s acoustics are so remarkable that even today performers sing without the use of microphones and each voice can be heard in any seat throughout the entire amphitheater.  

Whether you’re an opera fan or not, opera in the Verona Arena is a must-have experience. At a Verona opera you’re fully experiencing Italian culture, participating in history and enjoying a magnificent Italian summer evening in the biggest open-air opera house in the world. 

How to See an Opera in Verona

Photo by Dimitris Kamaras

The Arena’s summer opera season runs from June to mid-September, but check online for exact dates. 

The 2019 Arena di Verona Opera Festival opens on June 21st with the Traviata and ends September 7th with Aida, the “Queen” of the Verona Arena. Since it debuted in 1913 on the Arena stage and officially opened the Arena back up to the public, Aida has been performed over 670 times and is a symbol of the Arena.  

Spectators can also see ballet and concerts in the Arena as well.  

You can purchase tickets online quickly and easily to ensure you have a spot. You can pay with credit card and look at your seating online as well. Otherwise, you can buy tickets directly at the ticket office on Via Dietro Anfiteatro 6/b from 10 am – 9 pm on performance days and until 5:45 pm on days with no performances.  

Truly live La Dolce Vita on our Dolce Vita trip by adding an opera performance on your overnight stay in Verona. Click here to learn more today!  

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Located in the heel of Italy’s boot, Puglia has romantic white-walled towns, dramatic landscapes and ancient culture. 

It also has some of the most beautiful beaches in all of Italy.   

With roughly 800 kilometers of coastline, Puglia has an incredible diverse coastline. Travelers can find sandy beaches, pebble beaches and steep cliffs. There are rocky coves and grottoes, pine woods that grow right up against the sea and towns teetering atop cliffs, barely protected from the sea foam. 

Not only that, but Puglia’s beaches are regularly awarded with the Blue Flag, an international eco-label “awarded to beaches, marinas, and sustainable boating tourism operators” who follow a series of strict environmental, safety and accessibility criteria.

There are hundreds of beaches in Puglia to choose from, so let us help you find the region’s best beaches

We’ll start in the north in the Gargano area, a nature reserve and small peninsula that juts into the Adriatic Sea like a spur on Italy’s boot.

Nearly all of the Gargano promontory is protected by a national park. With approximately 150 kilometers of coastline, this overlooked oasis has dozens of notable beaches. Travelers can choose between pebble beaches or lush sand, as well as caves, rocky inlets and even islands off the coast to explore! 

Then we’ll head south down the Adriatic coastline to explore the beaches of Salento, the area sandwiched between the Ionian and Adriatic seas and the dream of travelers to Puglia.

Explore the best beaches in Puglia:

Baia delle Zagare (Mattinata) 

The Zagare Bay is a small pebbly beach with a gorgeous view of two distinctive white sea stacks near the shore. The beach is protected and only allows 30 people to visit per day beyond the hotel guests from one of the two hotels located on the site, making it one of the most pristine, not to mention exclusive, beaches in the region. Though not the easiest of Puglia’s beaches to visit, it is certainly something special! 

Mattinatella Beach (Mattinata)

Mattinatella, though technically one beach, feels like two with two totally different directions, geographies and atmospheres. Photo by Vito Manzari (flickr)

This beach, also called the Fontana or Acqua delle Rose, is actually two beaches separated by a rocky spur. The north side can be reached only by sea, so it’s free and all but untouched. The beach to the south has lidos and other services but both beaches share the gorgeous blue sea, striking cliffs and green Mediterranean vegetation. 

Pizzomunno Beach (Vieste)

The Pizzomunno beach is located just south of Vieste, a charming Medieval town with whitestone houses and a popular hub for visitors to the Gargano. Named after the 25-meter tall limestone monolith (a natural obelisk) that rises out of the sea, Pizzomunno is one of the longest beaches in the Gargano with a sandy beach and an unforgettable sea.  

The Beaches of the Tremiti Archipelago (Gargano)  

The Tremiti Archipelago is a group of five tiny islands off the coast of the Gargano peninsula. A part of a marine reserve, the islands ar eprotected, pristine and stunning. Only two of the islands are inhabitated but all can be visited by boat. San Domino is the largest of the islands and most popular for its beauty. It’s the perfect place to go snorkeling or diving or just to relax on all but wild sandy beaches. 

Lama Monachile (Polignano a Mare)

The beautiful town of Polignano a Mare is often called the pearl of the Adriatic. The oldest part of the white town sits atop the limestone cliffs overlooking the sea. Here you can find the smallest of bays providing a town beach, Spiaggia Lama Monachile (also called Spiaggia Cala Porto) made of fine white pebbles and beautiful water. When the beach gets too crowded you can escape to the cliffs above to watch the locals do daredevil dives into the sea below, or dive in yourself!  

Torre Guaceto (Brindisi)

One of the most popular beaches in the area around Alberobello is Torre Guaceto, named after a 16th-century defensive tower built on the shore. Today it’s a natural protected marine reserve and home to cave men archaeological ruins for history buffs looking to take a break from the sun. The beach is long, ensuring that you’ll always find a patch of sand to lay your towel.

Torre dell’Orso (Lecce)

Beware: Torre dell’Orso can get packed in the summers, but it’s iconic Two Sisters sea stack is worth seeing! After, stay to enjoy the beautiful waters or visit any of the other nearby beaches of Melendugno. Photo via Wikicommons

Located relatively near to Lecce, Torre dell’Orso is most known for its two sea stacks known as the Due Sorelle, or two sisters. The tale is that two sisters came to the beach to swim every day. One day after diving into rough waters they weren’t able to make it back to shore. So the gods took pity on the lost sisters and turned them into two beautiful sea stacks.  

The crescent-shaped bay is just short of a kilometer long and packed with lidos and beach resorts, but the extra-fine white sand and Le Due Sorelle are a picture-perfect image of Puglia. Torre dell’Orso is one of the Marinas of Melendugno, a long stretch of coast from Torre Specchia Ruggieri to Torre Sant’Andrea, nearly all worth exploring!

Baia dei Turchi (Otranto)

The Baia dei Turchi is one of the most beautiful beaches in all of Puglia. Legend has it that this is where the Ottoman Turks landed in the 15th century to sack the city of Otranto. Today it’s hard to imagine the gorgeous beach as the site of a bloody massacre. A part of the protected oasis area of the Alimini Lakes, it can only be reached by foot or bike, helping it to remain one of the most pristine beaches in Puglia.  The fragrance of the Mediterranean pines and the sea air along with the filtered light and the sound of the lapping waves create its own little paradise.   

Porto Badisco (Otranto)

Porto Badisco is one of the few notable beaches along the rocky coastline between Otranto and Santa Maria di Leuca. According to legend Porto Badisco was the site of Aeneas’s first landing in Italy after his escape from Troy. Today mostly locals visit the small fishing village town and the even smaller sandy beach, but the natural harbor is a beautiful place to snorkel, dive or have a picnic under the trees just beyond the beach. Nearby you can also find the famous Grotta dei Cervi, an underground caves complex that hosted first inhabitants of the area and still preserve thousands of inscriptions and paintings. 

Marina di Pescoluse (Maldive del Salento) 

Located in the Maldive's of Salento, Marina di Pescoluse's crystal-clear water (shown here) is one of the best beaches of Puglia
Photo by Brunokito (wikicommons)

The area’s evocative name isn’t without reason: the Pescoluse beach is roughly 5 kilometers of fine white sand, shallow water and dunes that form tiny islands along the coastline. Dunes behind create a natural barrier between the beach and the main road. Besides the white sand, the beach gets its name from the crystal clear but vibrant blue, turquoise and green water. One of the longest beaches in all of Puglia, its shallow waters make it a great option for those with small children.

Nearby Torre Vado and Torre Pali and even Torre San Giovanni in Ugento are great options to check out right “next door.” 

La Purità (Gallipoli)

Gallipoli’s name means the “beautiful town” in Greek, and in fact this beautiful town has been invaded and conquered for centuries. The pearl of the Ionian Sea, it also has a variety of gorgeous beaches to choose from. While Baia Verde teams with beach clubs that attract those looking for non-stop nightlife, the real beauty is la Purità, or the Purity Beach. A crescent-shaped beach with pure golden sand and a fluorescent blue beach, the ancient city walls and the iconic lighthouse of Gallipoli only add to its charm.

Porto Selvaggio (Nardò)

A wide view of the blue waters of Porto Selvaggio's bay, one of the best beaches in Puglia.
The bay of Porto Selvaggio. Photo by Yellow.Cat (flickr)

Located in a national park and protected marine area, this beach’s name is apt. “Wild,” in Italian, Porto Selvaggio can only be reached on foot from near Santa Caterina. A short hike through a pine forest will lead you to the completely unspoiled pebble beach. Follow different routes in the forest to find even more solitary inlets and bays.

Punta Prosciutto (Porto Cesareo)

Punta Prosciutto on the Ionian coast offers far fewer amenities than the Adriatic coastline, but for many that is its biggest draw. Here you’ll find high dunes covered with classic Mediterranean plants and scrubs and wetlands beyond that. There are few beach resorts but plenty of white sand and clear sea, giving it the ultimate tropical beach feel. Nearby Torre Lapillo deserves a mention in its own right. A four-kilometer-long bay flanked on either side by two towers, Torre Lapillo and Torre Chianca, the water is shallow and crystal clear. Also located in the Porto Cesareo area, this is the perfect beach for those wanting a slightly less wild feel.

Marina di Ginosa (Ginosa)

Finally, we come up the Ionian coast to Marina di Ginosa, a long, sandy beach with a low, shallow sea. Marina di Ginosa is to the west of Taranto and just 17 kilometers from Matera. It’s been awarded a Blue Flag several times for its gorgeous sea and is another great location for families or those vacationing on this side of Salento.

If you’re looking for a beach vacation – Puglia is the perfect option. It’s got hundreds of beaches, not to mention islets, bays, coves, grottoes, cliffs and islands. Though these are some of our favorites, if you find the beach crowded or not to your liking, pack up and head ten minutes or so in another direction on the coast, there will be another beach to try out before you know it!

Revel in the seaside beauty of southern Italy on our Mediterranean Escape trip to the Amalfi Coast and Puglia. Tour UNESCO World Heritage sites and quaint towns, indulging in beach days and delectable cuisine. Sign up now!

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