Verona, situated on the river Adige in northern Italy, was a Roman town probably founded some time in the 2nd century BCE. It was a colonia by 69 CE and the impressive monuments which survive to this day attest to the city‘s importance. In late antiquity, the emperors Constantine I and Theodoric spent time in Verona, the latter building a palace, and today it is most famous for its magnificent amphitheatre, which was the third largest in the Roman world and which continues to hold important cultural events.
After the Colosseum in Rome and the amphitheatre in Capua, the Roman arena in Verona is the third largest Roman amphitheatre. With its gigantic dimensions of 140 metres in length and 110 metres in width it dominates the Piazza Brà from the north. Its great acoustics and unique location make the Roman arena the ideal location for events and it attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors to Verona every year during the Festival season to see the opera and theatre performances.
The arena in Verona was built in the 1st century AD by the Flavian emperors according to the principle of “bread and games”. For almost 400 years gladiators fought here and entertained the masses with bloody carnage. When emperor Honorius prohibited the gladiator games in 404 AD, that was the end of the Arena of Verona and the amphitheatre stood empty for centuries. The original four-floor building with a length of 152 metres and a width of 113 metres was damaged in the 12th century by several earthquakes and reduced to its present size – the interior zone. The four-floor exterior – the remains are only three stories tall with 4 arches – still gives a good impression of the glory of the former curtain wall surrounded by columns.
On account of its dark catacombs, the Roman arena was often called the “labyrinth of the devil” by the Veronese people and was primarily used as a quarry for the surrounding residential buildings. The first to return to their roots in the Renaissance, the Venetians restored the venerable walls. Since then, sporadic concerts, bullfights and theatrical performances have been held in the arena once more.