Next stop was the Roman amphitheatre, not to be confused with the Arena where we would be seeing the opera..built around the end of the first century B.C. its visible remains today include the stage, the orchestra, the auditorium and some galleries on two subsequent levels together with a top corridor.It was being set up for a pop concert on our visit….
but the Roman seating was still clearly visible,and the setting marvellous….Also on site there is a fascinating museum with Roman finds from Verona in an old fourteenth century monastery behind the theatre………….here a floor… a wall decoration….……a funerary Stella which translates “Cippus lays a curse on anyone who dares to dirty or violate the sepulchre”. Obviously this must have been an issue in Verona!…..lots of pottery and glassware….absolutely incredible it survives….…..a larger than life-size bronze foot from a statue….and an upper walk…….Verona full then of layers of History which is all wonderful to see……..Next day we again walked into town passing one of the ubiquitous policemen. wherever we went there were police of varying sorts some with sub machine-guns , all with holstered pistols……..all very different from England.Our first destination was the Arena itself…of the outside only the Ala, a short section of the outer ring that was the façade of the Arena, has been preserved, shown here in my photo. Under the reign of Theodoric (493-526 AD), the outer ring was partially demolished for the construction of a second set of defensive walls, and until the Renaissance the Arena was used as a stone quarry. The façade features just one architectural style, the Tuscan order, with bossages and limestone blocks from Valpolicella.Once inside the scale of the building became clear…..this was after all the third largest arena in Italy…..Excavations under the structure have brought to light a complex hydraulic system which enabled water to be brought inside the amphitheatre, both for spectacular water games and to clean up the arena after the bloody fights held there. All quite incredible to behold.On our way to our next point of interest we popped into one of the many churches. This was St Niccolo, a fine example of Italian seventeenth century architecture…..We also explored the church of Sant’Anastasia.I loved the flooring in particular, all local marble…..The hunchbacks of Verona are two figures in the church, which are supporting the two stoups at the base of the first columns of the church’s central nave.Next on our itinerary however was the Torre Dei Lamberti Tower – located in the Piazza della Erbe, the Torre Dei Lamberti is the tallest of several towers in Verona. In 12th century Verona, as was the practice in many Italian cities at the time, noble families demonstrated their power and wealth through constructing tall and elaborate towers. The towers acted as luxurious homes as well as watch towers. Ideally, towers were built to be bigger than the nearest tower. Writing this has brought back memories of San Gimignano where there are many such towers giving it the name ‘The Town of Fine Towers’.
Anyhow as the name suggests, the Lamberti Tower was built by the wealthy Lamberti family. Work was begun on the tower in 1172 and was eventually completed in 1463. Over the years however, modifications have been made including the raising of the height by the Venetians in the 16th century. It is still possible to make out the different sections of the tower based on the building materials used.
Before ascending the tower we visited what was called an exhibition of Veronese modern art. I must say it didn’t seem very modern to either of us, but that just shows everywhere is different.What I did like very much was the sensuous painting by Hayez (the Italian equivalent to DeLaCroix) of the personification of “Italy”. She holds the cross in one hand and the volume entitled “History of Italy” in the other, in memory of the martyrdom that took place in the streets of Milan in the days of 1848, when attempts were made unsuccessfully to obtain independence from the Hapsburg Empire and work towards the unification of Italy…..she is therefore both strong yet vulnerable. and these sculptures I admired which were about six or nine inches tall…..We then exited into the courtyard where the striping effect of use of brick interlaid with marble was quite clear………..and we ascended the tower not slowly by its 368 steps but quickly on the elevator! The views were worth our admittedly slender effort…..What is absolutely clear looking at these photos is the significance in historic towns of roofing all done in the same local materials….this gives such a sense of unity.We came out into the Piazza Della Erbe for a quick look at the pensive statue of Dante…..it represents another manifestation of the struggle for independence…………………we just had a fleeting visit then to the Scaliger Tombs – a group of five Gothic funerary monuments in Verona, celebrating the Scaliger family, who ruled in Verona from the 13th to the late 14th century.The tombs are located in a court of the church of Santa Maria Antica, separated from the street by a wall with medieval iron grilles. Built in Gothic style, they are a series of tombs, most of which are in the shape of a small temple and covered by a baldachin. According to the French historian Georges Duby, they are one of the most outstanding examples of Gothic art. The wrought iron enclosure is decorated with a stair motif, in reference to the Italian meaning of the name of the family, della Scala………..Lunch beckoned and whilst the restaurants in the Piazza looked lovely……… we found, down a side street, what turned out to be a fantastic local restaurant for my birthday lunch…..Prosecco, Soave, brilliant food and a relaxing coffee…what more could one ask?On our way to the Duomo…we saw yet another elevated tomb….it seems the Veronesi are trying to get as close to Heaven as they dare.The Cathedral, which is dedicated to Santa Maria Assunta, is the central structure of a complex of architectural buildings which include San Giovanni in Fonte, Santa Elena, the Canons’ cloister, the Capitular library, the square in front of the church and the bishop’s residence. During the Roman Empire, in the area of the present day church, there were villas with private thermal baths (balnea) and probably also a few small temples. The first palaeo Christian basilica was built on the area occupied today by the church of Santa Elena. It was consecrated by S. Zeno, bishop of Verona, between 362 380 A.D. but it soon turned out to be too small and a few decades later it was replaced by a larger basilica. Quite a few remains of the mosaic floor of both palaeo Christian basilicas can be seen under the church of Santa Elena and the Canons’ cloister.
The second palaeo christian basilica collapsed, probably during the 7th century A.D., due to a strong fire or maybe an earthquake. Archdeacon Pacifico was in charge of the reconstruction of the church, between the 8th and the 9th century and the Cathedral, known by the name of Santa Maria Matricolare, was built further south, on the area on which it is situated today.
The church was greatly damaged by an earthquake in 1117 A.D. and reconstruction work lasted at least 20 years: the building acquired its current width and the two Romanesque porches.
The inside was completely renovated between the second half of the 15th and the second half of the 16th century with the addition of the side chapels and the semicircular choir screen.The floor is magnificent and composed of local marbles….At one point I was amazed to find on a shelf some modern scriptural texts bound exquisitely which I examined……works of art in their own right…..Back home over the bridge of stone to get ready for the opera….Even arriving at the opera was special…..we were due to see Carmen.and once inside it was obvious how spectacular the occasion was going to be….The performance was outstanding with two of the three main singers very strong. The orchestra was on top form and the production itself was all you would expect in so magnificent an arena. As a birthday present – sensational!The walk home through Verona at night was delightful…….