by Gina Mussio
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.
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
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
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.