It was my second time in Verona, but my first time with a purpose. Marco and I had tickets to see the opera Aida in the Arena of Verona that night.
It was a steaming mid-afternoon in August and we stopped at an outdoor cafe to get ice cream and water while we passed the time until the show. The waiter, dressed in a long-sleeve dress shirt buttoned to the top with a bow-tie, legs covered by his long black apron, was barely sweating as he ran to serve table after table, the wide amphitheater in the background giving his movements more importance.
Located in the main square of Verona, piazza Bra, the Arena di Verona is a beautifully preserved reminder of Roman rule. Built in 30 AD, the structure seems a miniature Colosseum, one that could still seat up to 30,000 people.
By day visitors come to tour the structure, but the true show starts at night. Spectators fill the stone stands for the opera – the architecture and acoustics are simply added benefits.
Though the day was clear and hot, the cloudless sky giving no reprieve from the heat, toward dusk the clouds started forming. We wandered into the Arena around 6:00 p.m., finding our “seats” to the left of the stage. I had never seen an opera before and was thrilled to see one al aperto. The sky grew darker and candles were lit, lighting up the enormous amphitheater more than the stars.
When thunder and heat lightning threatened the instruments the opera was paused. and paused. and paused. Each time we waited thirty minutes at least until someone deemed it safe for the orchestra to reenter and for the opera to continue. Each time the people waited, understanding the rule meant to protect the priceless instruments.
Then, during the third or fourth intermission due to weather I saw something I thought reserved only to American football games. Starting from the far corner on the opposite side a group of people standing up, raising their arms high and screaming “oooh-ayyyyy!”
In the ancient Arena of Verona, during a performance of perhaps one of the most sophisticated art forms, us common folk passed the time together … doing the wave.
Also read my AFAR highlight on Verona here