The Arena di Verona is undoubtedly the most famous monument in the city, and the third-largest amphitheater in Italy right after the Colosseum in Rome and the Capua Amphitheater near Naples. Its construction is still shrouded in mystery, as there is no certain information about it, but it is thought to date back to the first decades of the first century, during the emperor Augustus’ reign. This amphitheater was not located in the center of the city in the past. In the beginning, it stood just outside the walls of the ancient city, to facilitate the influx of spectators and avoid crowding in the city center. It was later incorporated within the Verona walls built by Gallieno, to defend the city from the attacks of the Barbarians.
This ancient building is well preserved, although in 1183 a strong earthquake destroyed the third layer of arches that surrounded it. Only one wing of this layer remains today, allows you to picture its original grandeur.
Like the Colosseum, the Arena was used for entertainment, including gladiator fights. These fights took place in the center of the amphitheater, in the area called harena (hence the name Arena) due to the presence of sand, which was used to absorb the bloodshed of men and animals. These bloody shows were highly appreciated by the ancient Romans, so much that Pliny the Younger cites them in his verses.
Over the centuries the Arena has been used for many different reasons: King Theodoric used it as a stone quarry for the construction of surrounding houses. Later, until the sixteenth century, it is said that prostitutes were relegated here. It was then used for craft shops.
The internal space was used for various reasons, such as the administration of justice, bonfires, shows, parties, and races. On the occasion of the wedding of Antonio della Scala, the Arena was a place of celebration with rides and shows, for almost one month.