Arena di Verona is a Roman amphitheater located in the historical center of Verona, in Piazza Bra. The Arena is one of the best preserved amphitheaters in the world, thanks to the systematic restorations carried out since the 16th century.
The Arena was built around the year 30 AD, in an area outside the city walls. In 265, the Roman Emperor Gallienus decided to built a new stretch of wall, 550 meters long, to finally include the Arena.
The amphitheater was slowly abandoned in the following centuries, due to the affirmation of Christianity and the consequent end of the gladiatorial games.
During the reign of Theodoric the Great, at the beginning of the 5th century, some shows were held in the Arena, from which many chronicles of the time attributed the construction of the amphitheater to him. However, the most serious damage to the amphitheater was done by the same King Theodoric, who demolished a greater part of the outer ring of the Arena, and used the material to build another section of the city walls.
Other damages to the amphitheater were due to natural disasters, among which the flood of the Adige river of 589, the earthquake of 1116, the catastrophic earthquake of 1117 and the earthquake of 1183.
Under the reign of Berengar I of Italy, at the beginning of the 10th century, the invasions of the Hungarians took place, which forced the defenders to use the Arena as a fortress.
In the late 13th century, the prostitutes were ordered to practice their profession inside the Arena, and the order was abolished only in 1537.
During the 16th century, the amphitheater became more and more important for the city, and Verona decided to restore the ancient monument. The restoration began in 1568 and, after an interruption in 1575 due to a serious plague that struck the city, the works were completed in 1586.
In 1728, the Marquis Scipione Maffei published the text Degli Anfiteatri e singolarmente del Veronese (About Amphitheaters and in particular about the one in Verona), which represented a significant turning point towards a scientific and archaeological approach to the monument.
Between September 1728 and July 1729, important works were carried out to clear the layer of soil that covered the arena floor, while from 1731 to 1735 other parts of the amphitheater were restored and consolidated.
In 1805, Verona was under French rule, and the government allocated funds for the restoration of the monument. Luigi Trezza was commissioned to make a plan, with the aim of placing the missing steps, restoring the podium, the most compromised vaults and the stairs leading to the first and second order of vomitoriums (passages situated behind a tier of seats).
Beginning with 1913, the Arena was used for opera perfomances. Today, the event is called Arena di Verona Festival, and it takes place every year in the summer months.
The outer dimensions of the amphitheater are 152.43 meters in lenght and 123.23 meters in width. These dimensions make the Arena the eighth Roman amphitheater in the world by size, and the fourth among those located in Italy, after the Colosseum, the Campania amphitheater and the one from Milan.
The appearance of the structure today is quite different from the original, in particular due to the lack of the outer ring, almost 31 meters in height, which would have been the true monumental facade. The only part left standing is the so-called Ala, composed of four arches on three orders, decorated with buttresses and cornices in Tuscan style.
The interior of the amphitheater consists of two main parts: in the center, the arena, where the shows were held, and the cavea, with tiers for the public. The arena measures 75.68 meters in lenght and 44.43 meters in width. The cavea is 39.40 meters wide.
In ancient times, the arena was separated from the tiers by a podium, above which there were nets to guarantee the safety of the spectators. The cavea was divided into horizontal sections by means of walkways and, at the top, it had a porch covered by a roof.
The largest entrance to the amphitheater is located to the west of the building. Here, the central vault is twice as high as the others and reaches below the tiers of the cavea.
HOW TO GET THERE
The Verona Arena is located in Piazza Bra, about 1.5 kilometers from the Verona Porta Nuova railway station. The closest bus stop is near the Arena, on the bus Lines 11, 12, 13, 51, 52, 78, 90, 92, 94, 96, 97, 98, 102, 161, 162, 163, 164 and 165.