Italians on Italians
Beyond Toscano

Every summer, an epic stadium flickers to life

Every summer, an epic stadium flickers to life
Italy’s centuries-old love of performance, be it musical, or gladiatorial, has resulted in the creation of some of the world’s most grand stadiums. And the Arena di Verona – third largest arena in the world - is one of the finest. Located in Piazza Bra, Verona Arena is a Roman amphitheater built in AD 30 to hold gladiatorial games, drawing crowds of up to 30,000 people at its peak.
In Renaissance times, as tastes became more refined, performances in the arena shifted away from the barbaric and more towards to theatrical. The acoustics in the arena are so good that it’s only as recently as 2011 that microphones were installed for the opera singers.
Today, the music of the arena draws crowds in their thousands over the summer months, eager to hear opera and classical music – along with more contemporary performances, in such an iconic setting. But despite the incredible advances in performance technology, one tradition still remains, captivating audiences with the beauty of its simplicity.
As the sun goes down, at the start of each performance, spectators join in with a traditional ceremony to commemorate the fallen gladiators from the arena’s bloodthirsty past. Candles flicker to life throughout the stadium and the crowd are invited to raise a light in commemoration – whether the naked flame of a cigar lighter, or the LED glow of a mobile phone screen, the sight of the flickering lights dancing in the crowd is almost as memorable as the show itself.