on March 1, 2007
Crossing the spectacularly scenic Ponte Pietra, with the River Adige foaming beneath, takes you to the area of Veronetta. Built into a hill crowned by the Austrian Castel San Pietro is a wonderfully-preserved Roman theatre, a more cultured alternative to the baying mobs that frequented the arena. The theatre is a focal point to the area and can be best admired from the walkway along the parapets on the far side of the river.€4 allows access to the theatre and the archaeological museum above it. From the ticket office (tucked away just around the corner on Redentore - careful crossing the busy road), you enter into the 'orchestra,' the semi-circular area at the base of the seating. Coloured marble flooring still remains. The stage is to your left with the river and the medieval town beyond forming a beautiful backdrop. Originally the stage was framed - a pit remains which held the winches that raised and lowered the curtains. The theatre dates from the first century BC, predating the arena by a century. However, during the middle ages the theatre was built over with houses and churches, and it was not until the area was bought by a merchant in the 19th-century that demolition and excavation could take place. One building that was not removed is the Church of Saints Siro and Libera which overhangs the seating area (or 'cavea') to stage right. Legend has it that the first ever mass in Verona was celebrated in this theatre, whereupon mass-conversions to Christianity took place. The church was founded in the tenth century and remains in good nick, though with more modern (14th century) modifications. Climbing up through the renovated seating area leads to an elevator in the rock face. This takes you up to the former Gesuati Convent of San Jerome, which has now provided a spaciously laid-out and well-lit archaeological museum. There are boards on the walls which describe what you are looking at - exhibits range from exquisite white statues of aristocrats and gods to smaller funerary and religious tokens, and some lovely mosaic floors. These are all laid out in the former monastic cells and communal areas such as the refectory. For anyone with a passion for Roman history and archeology the museum, though small, is a must.The museum and theatre complex opens at 8.30am, though when I went in the afternoon it was practically deserted giving me the solitude to enjoy what I was looking at. It closes at 7pm, though the ticket office closes at 6.45pm. On Mondays it is open only in the afternoon. Also, during peak tourist season it often holds plays in the evening. The Two Gentlemen of Verona seems to feature often for some reason!
©Travelocity.com LP 2000-2009