Built by the Romans in the middle of the 1st century AD, the Verona Arena was the 8th largest amphitheatre in the Roman Empire, the 4th largest in Italy. Today it still hosts entertainment for thousands, albeit with no gory fights – mostly concerts now days.
When I was driving on route from Venice to Milan, with Verona on the way and a couple of hours to spare, the Verona Arena was one of the biggest attractions immediately identifiable in the city.
The arena was built to offer the citizens various spectacles to watch:
- Duels between gladiators
- Hunts where men would battle with dangerous animals
- Athletic competitions, with boxing particularly popular
The arena could hold up to 30’000 people from the city of Verona and its neighbouring regions.
The amphitheatre was originally built outside the city’s gates, primarily for crowd control ensuring the safety of citizens in arriving at the arena without fights or riots breaking out. Another contributing factor why the arena was built where it is, was to allow people arriving from outside of the city to easily arrive at the arena, aligning to the city’s road network.
In the 3rd century when defence of the Roman city became paramount against barbaric invasions, the arena was included within the walls of the city and became part of the city’s defence. During this time, the arena lost its purpose of entertainment for the citizens in the time of Emperor Gallienus.
The arena that is found today is not in the same grandiose structure was built. As early as the 3rd century AD the arena experienced degradation when Christianity in the city disproved of gladiator duels and the amount of events held during the Late Antique period declined.
The arena was also degraded further due to the building materials which was recycled from the arena in the construction of new buildings. There was also a horrific earthquake which caused great damage to the arena in the 12th century, leaving only 4 arches on the outer circle of the arena to survive.
Despite the factors which caused the arena’s diminished structure, today it is still a lively venue for concerts, in particular the opera.
There are either guided tours available to the arena, or self guided tours. In comparison with my trip to Milan, I was easily able to acquire a self-guided entrance ticket without much queuing or too much cost. The nice part with the entrance ticket is that you are able to enjoy the arena at your own pace, walk around the different levels of the arena and enjoy its views of the surrounding city.