The symbol of the city, it was built in 30 A.D.. It is the third largest and well preserved amphitheatre in the world after the Coliseum in Rome and the Capua amphitheatre. Its monolithic blocks in local marble create an axis of 74 x 45 metres with a cavea consisting of 45 steps.
The arena is sunk below the natural level of the surrounding ground, because the ancient city was located 2 metres from the current surface. Built outside the Roman walls, it was embedded in the walls of Gallieno in 265 AD, due to continuous barbarian invasions, but was partially destroyed by the tremendous earthquake of 1117. Hence the characteristic shape of its wing, of which only a small portion of the outer ring remains. Over these 2000 years, it was used in different ways.
In Roman times, fierce gladiator and wild beats fights attracted up to 30.000 people (evidence can be found at the Museo Lapidario Maffeiano). In the medieval period, its Arena arches were homes for prostitutes and shady people. It was only around 1450 that the arena returned to its former glory, with shows of all kinds, including tournaments, dances, duels, bullfights and even hot air balloon ascensions. In 1913, thanks to its impeccable acoustics, it was used for the first time for the important Opera Season and concerts that attracted 20,000 spectators.
The Arena di Verona is known all over the world for its famous Opera Season.
According to legend, the famous tenor Giuseppe Zenatello happened to be in the amphitheatre with his friends and sang an opera air for fun. Everyone was surprised by the incredible acoustics of the theatre and, in 1913, the first opera season of the Arena was inaugurated with the Aida by Giuseppe Verdi, so the Arena became one of the most important opera theatres in the world. The premiere was attended by people from all over the world, musicians and writers, including Puccini, Mascagni, Kafka and many others. So, on that day, the most famous open-air opera season in the world was born, with about 600,000 spectators for about fifty night shows.
Over the years, the Arena Opera Season has hosted great artists, such as Maria Callas, who debuted in 1947, the legendary Pavarotti, Domingo, and many actors and directors famous all over the world. Its incredible set designs, which contributed to its success, revolutionized the history of Opera.
At every show, candles are distributed to the audience, which, at the beginning of the show, are all lit at the same time, thus creating an exciting atmosphere.