Posted by: Brad Nixon | January 13, 2016

In Fair Verona, Where We Lay Our Scene

2016 is the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death. We’re observing it from time to time.

If there is a city other than London often associated with Shakespeare, it’s Verona, Italy.

Verona Piazza della Erbe Brad Nixon 6434 (640x480)

A couple of his plays are set there, most notably Romeo and Juliet. There’s a certain amount of Shakespeare-related tourism in present-day Verona, including the always-popular “Juliet’s balcony,” overlooking a little piazza. According to local legend (and avid tour guides), it’s the site of the world’s most famous balcony scene.

There’s no truth to that legend, but that doesn’t stop mobs of visitors from gathering there to take photos.

Verona is a fascinating city. We spent several days exploring the town, in which the culture and architecture echo its Roman, Medieval and Renaissance history. For example, it has one of the largest surviving Roman colosseums, the Arena di Verona. I previously wrote about watching the extraordinary spectacle of a large-scale production of Aida there.

Verona opera Aida Brad Nixon 6502 (640x480)

There was a cast of 200, a full orchestra, and an audience of at least 10,000. CLICK HERE to see more. It’s a long tradition in Verona, and that earlier post includes information about scheduling and tickets.

Time didn’t permit, but we could have seen Shakespeare performed in that fair city during the summer of 2011, here:

Verona amphitheater Brad Nixon 6305 (640x480)

That is another structure from Verona’s Roman past, the 1st-Century B.C. amphitheater, with modern touches. The old city is immediately across the Adige River. Here’s a panoramic view from that same point; the stage roof is at the bottom left center:

Verona panorama Brad Nixon (640x172)

As you can see, the Adige encircles three sides of the city, creating an ideal site to fortify from Roman times onward. That bridge on the near right is the Ponte Pietra, built by the Romans in 100 B.C., although only the first arch at the city end survived being blown up by retreating German troops in WWII. Built by one army, destroyed by another.

Here’s a view that shows some of the original tiered stone seating plus modern seats the Roman missed out on.

Verona amphitheater Brad Nixon 6296 (640x480)

The amphitheater isn’t entirely intact. Some of it has been overbuilt, and other parts carted away over the centuries. Despite that, it’s an excellent demonstration of Roman engineering, and makes dramatic use of the hillside setting overlooking Verona.

When we were there in 2011, there was theater being produced in the amphitheater, including Shakespeare. The current website, HERE, indicates that may not currently be the case. There are certainly other theatrical venues in the city where one can see Shakespeare performed in that adoptive home-away-from-home of his. There is an archaeological museum adjacent to the amphitheater, and if you have enough time in Verona, it’s worth the walk across a 2,200 year-old bridge to see.

We’ll come back to see more of Verona. The city is rich in interest, past and present.

© Brad Nixon 2017

 

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