The top experiences you can live in Verona (part 2)
03 May 2019
Verona when it was not yet Verona
“De summo montis Castrum prospectat in urbem | daedalea factum arte viisque tetris | nobile, praecipuum, memorabile, grande theatrum, | ad decus extructum, sacra Verona, tuum. | Magna Verona, vale, valeas per secula semper | et celebrent gentes nomen in orbe tuum.”
(“From the top of the hill, the Castle looks forward, towards the city, to the great, noble, distinct, memorable theatre made with such an art worthy of Dedalus, with dark galleries, built to honour you, sacred Verona. Great Verona, goodbye, live forever in centuries to come and may all the people celebrate your name all over the world” - Ratherian iconography, from a XVIIIth century copy of a lost circa Xth century manuscript)
Before transforming into the wonderful city full of art that we nowadays know and love, the land that gave life to Verona used to be an ideal place to live for prehistoric populations: a site in Quinzano (a local district) dates back to half a million years ago. The first inhabitants of Verona used to dwell in an area between Ponte Pietra and the hill in front of it, along the ancient salt and amber trade route to Germany. The official “birth certificate” of Verona is dated 49 b.C., when it rose to the rank of Municipium, or city: the Romans built walls, roads and sewers, and noted this event with an inscription on Porta Leoni, one of the city gates.
During Roman times, Verona grew and became a splendid city, embellished by monuments, some of which are still visible today. During our new “Walk and Taste in Verona” wine tour, before reaching the Symposio wine bar — one of the most innovative tasting rooms in Italy — an authorized guide will show you these magnificent Roman remains, starting from a pretty famous one...
The Arena, the heart of the city
The fourth biggest Roman amphitheatre in the ancient world, in its 2000 years the Arena of Verona witnessed gladiator matches, bullfights, hot-air balloons ascents and executions (watched by Dante, too) and even the Buffalo Bill’s Buffalo Wild West Show! Nowadays, it is a magnificent stage for operatic productions and music concerts, accommodating up to 10.000 people.
Built in the first century a.C. outside the city limits, using local marble, in 265 it was included inside Gallieno’s walls, which can still be seen behind it. It was wreathed in a tier of three overlapping arches, which almost entirely collapsed during an earthquake in 1117: a small section of it — the so-called “wing” — survived the catastrophe, allowing us to imagine the pristine majestic appearance of this monument.
A medieval legend tells another story: a Veronese gentleman was convicted and sentenced to death; to save his life, he promised the town government to build a gigantic building, able to hold the whole population, in a night’s time. To complete this huge task, he asked the devil’s help, in exchange for his soul. While the devil put all its demons to work, the gentlemen repented: the Virgin Mary made the sun rise two hours earlier, thus interrupting the devils’ construction while they were building the upper level, which was left uncompleted!
Pro tip: don’t miss the opera season, held every summer and offering magnificent operatic productions under the stars (five or six different productions in rotation), with up to 150 musicians, 200 chorus members, 100 dancers and 200 background actors on stage — an unforgettable experience! When arriving, you will receive a “mocoleto”, a small candle: these were used during the first production of Verdi’s Aida in 1913 by the public, to read the libretto. A tradition that shines still!
Stay tuned to know more about our wonderful city, and make sure to book your place on our “Walk and taste in Verona tour” (born in collaboration with Colors of Italy guides and Symposio wine bar) to discover Verona while tasting amazing wines accompanied by high quality appetizers, cold cuts and cheeses!