Back to the Future
During our walking tour of Verona, “past meets present” kept coming to mind. This was evident in the streets, stores, and churches. Old Roman roads lay below modern roads. One of the stores had a basement area that contained a special section of the ancient Roman wall. One of the churches had a combination of Romanesque, Gothic, and Medieval architectural styles.
The most prominent display of this theme culminated in our visit to the Verona Arena. This arena was built about 2000 years ago. As an American, I can’t begin to grasp the enormity of this time gap. Back then, it was used for sports, entertainment, executions, and everything in between. The structure has been restored multiple times in its 2000 years of life. To stand there inside the arena and imagine 30,000 people screaming and yelling at criminals or entertainers staving off hungry lions and tigers was quite surreal. Then, thinking that this same structure is still hosting thousands of people for pop, rock, and opera concerts really gave me a lot of appreciation for the legacy of Roman architecture. Their exceptional knowledge of structural design, engineering, aesthetics, and entertainment still stands today. Past meets present.
This really came to mind when I sat down inside the arena and looked around. I saw large marble blocks that formed the seats for the audience, evenly spaced openings at different levels for entry and exit, and stair steps above the openings that go up to the top. This is exactly like any modern sports arena, which can also be used for concerts and other large gatherings of people. Past meets present.
Also interesting to see was the Romans’ use of composite materials. The need for composite materials arose as it was discovered that more materials meant more strength. This was demonstrated through the collapse of the outer wall of the arena. According to our tour guide Lorella, the outer wall was built with only marble and the Roman version of rebar. The inner section of the arena was composed of marble, brick, pebble, concrete, and other materials. Composite materials are all over the place today. We even got to see some of this in action at the Lamborghini factory yesterday where the body of the cars were made with carbon fiber and aluminum composites. Past meets present.