The Roman Theater of Verona. Not only the Arena

Roman Theater, Church of San Siro and Libera
Roman Theater, Church of San Siro and Libera
Built close to San Pietro hill, exploiting the slope of the land, after almost two millennia and many vicissitudes the Roman Theater is still there, clinging to the side of the hill, and hosts shows and events.

Perhaps not everyone knows that in Verona, in addition to the famous Arena, there is another well-preserved ancient theater: the Roman Theater, a grandiose open-air construction built by the Romans on the left bank of the Adige River. Here too, during the summer months, concerts, plays and ballets are held under the aegis of the “Estate teatrale veronese” (Verona Summer Theater), a festival created in 1948 with the intention of paying homage to William Shakespeare. During the summer months, the theater also hosts important concerts by established artists from the international music scene, as well as musical and cultural events of great interest.

Built around the 1st century A.D., during the Middle Ages it fell into disuse and a series of houses were built on its remains. It was rediscovered only in 1800, when the hovels built on the cavea (the set of steps of Greek and Roman theaters) were demolished and the two lateral staircases and part of the cavea were brought to light. In 1904 the area was finally purchased by the municipal administration, which continued the work of excavation and restoration, which continued until about 1970. In spite of the efforts made, the structure today, although it offers an extraordinary view, does not express all its original grandeur. Like all Roman theaters of the time, it had a semicircular cavea and a stage closed by a large masonry backdrop.

Unfortunately, of what must have been the great scene in front of the river, built in tuff and richly decorated, there are only a few ruins. The low cavea is the best-preserved: of its twenty-five steps in white stone, twenty-three are still in use today. The high cavea, which in Roman times had about ten steps, has not been rebuilt, but only outlined through an embankment. Today, to make this incredible site even more evocative, there are two buildings which, over the centuries, have survived the restoration work. They are the Convent of San Girolamo and the Church of Santi Siro e Libera. The convent, which now houses the rich collections of the Archaeological Museum of Verona, is literally clinging to the wall of the hill and occupies what was once the first terrace of the theater, while the church dominates the eastern side of the ancient steps.