A Brief History of the Verona Arena

Veronas Arena seen from the street
Verona's Arena seen from the street | 40360866@N03
Ione Wang

Built in the first century, the Verona Arena is an open-air Roman amphitheater that’s still fully in use today, making it one of the best-preserved ancient structures in the world. That means that these stones have seen everything from gladiator games to One Direction concerts, from medieval jousts to Puccini operas. Its colorful palimpsest of histories makes it a perfect representation of Verona itself.

The city was built up in the first stage of the Roman Empire’s expansion because of its strategic location on the river Adige. It was used as a base for controlling the northern territories, and it was at the center of many important roads. You can see the footprints of this ancient history all around the city, as Roman ruins are incorporated with nonchalance into the everyday fabric of the infrastructure. The Arena today is located in the historic center of the city, but back in Roman times it was on the border of the urban area, just outside the city’s walls.

The arcades of the arena

The Arena is made from pink and white stone from nearby Valpolicella. It originally had three tiers of arches running along the border, but only two survived. The place held over 20,000 people in its heyday, hosting festivals that would draw visitors from all over. It was a complex and demanding entertainment industry, powered by the labor of hundreds of slaves in the underground tunnels. Grandiose stage sets would be erected in the central space. The elliptical shape gives the space excellent acoustics.

There were processions, circus acts, dancing and music, but, above all, the citizens came to see blood sports. Fierce wild animals from faraway places in the empire were brought in to be hunted, and condemned prisoners were executed in bloody and inventive ways. The feature presentation was always a gladiator show, in which two trained combatants would fight one another to the death. The word “arena” means sand, and it refers to the sand that covered the floor of the ring to absorb the blood spilled during the fights.

The center of the Arena, seen from above

In the 16th and 17th centuries, the theater hosted games and tournaments. The first documented joust took place here in 1590, with all kinds of equestrian games plus knights demonstrating their horsemanship and fighting skill.

Both Veronese knights and foreigners came to participate, from even as far as Sweden. Shows like bull hunting continued into the 17th century, and exotic animal exhibits were always popular. In 1751, a rhino was shown in the Arena to the wonder of all the spectators.

Even today, the Arena continues to play host to a variety of important cultural events. It’s one of the best places in the world to see opera is here at the yearly summer festival, which hosts up to four different productions. And from the most renowned opera singers of the world to contemporary artists like Pearl Jam and Adele it continues to be relevant. It was even the setting for a recent Bollywood movie called Rockstar.

That’s just a brief history of a place with 2,000 and some years of history on its back.

culture trip left arrow
 culture trip brand logo

Volcanic Iceland Epic Trip

meet our Local Insider


women sitting on iceberg


2 years.


It's the personal contact, the personal experiences. I love meeting people from all over the world... I really like getting to know everyone and feeling like I'm traveling with a group of friends.


I have so many places on my list, but I would really lobe to go to Africa. I consider myself an “adventure girl” and Africa feels like the ULTIMATE adventure!

culture trip logo letter c
group posing for picture on iceberg
group posing for picture on iceberg

Every CULTURE TRIP Small-group adventure is led by a Local Insider just like Hanna.

map of volcanic iceland trip destination points
culture trip brand logo
culture trip right arrow
landscape with balloons floating in the air


Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world

Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.

Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.

Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.

Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.

We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.


Keen to explore the world?

Our passionately curated premium small-group trips are an invitation to connect with like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences.