Arena of Pula: When in Rome… wait, I’m in Croatia!
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After having a wonderful time in Motovun, it was time to leave. We needed to visit one more destination in Istria before going home – and of course, it was Pula. The main purpose of the visit was to see Arena of Pula, the famous Roman amphitheater and the most preserved antic monument in whole Croatia.
Did you know the majority of Croatia was part of Roman Empire for centuries and they left incredibly valuable historical heritage all over the country? The cities like Pula (Pola), Zadar (Jadera), Osijek (Mursa), Sisak (Siscia), Poreč (Parentium), Split (Spalatum) and many others started to develop. Today most of the preserved Roman monuments are located in Pula: you can visit Temple of Augustus, Forum, Triumphal Arch, Gate of Hercules, small city theater and of course Arena of Pula.
History of Arena
Back at the time, Arena was located out of the city walls and today it is an integral part of the city, short 15 minutes walking from the city center. It was built during the first century AC and it is one of the best preserved in the world and the sixth by size. The interesting fact is that Roman Colosseum was built around the similar time as well. The historians have no idea why a monumental building like Arena was even built in Pula, but there is a legend it was built in honor of emperor Vespasian’s lover who owned some land in Pula.
Arena is geometrically shaped like an ellipse and it had three “floors” in west part and two in the east part. There was the space for 23 000 spectators, who could enjoy gladiator fights. The battleground was located in the middle and rooms for the beasts were underground. The name arena comes from Latin word for sand (harena) because in Roman times it was sanded. Sand was used as well to cover the bloodstains, animal ones as well as human ones. Gladiator fights were forbidden in the 5th century, but for 200 more year fights between wild animals and men convicted to death were organized.
Since then, Arena almost disappeared several times. Local people were using its stones to build their own houses and palaces. Luckily, Pula did not develop more as a city and harbor so Arena was saved. Centuries after, the Venitian Republic had an idea to dismantle it and put it together again – in Venice. Arena was renovated few times, but never completely and adequate. The newest attempt started in 2008 and it will probably take 20 years until it would be finished.
Arena of Pula Today
Today, Arena is the biggest tourist attraction of Pula and one of the main ones in whole Croatia. During the summer lots of popular musicians use the Arena like a concert hall, among them Luciano Pavarotti, 2Cellos, Eros Ramazzotti and others. Attending at least one concert here is on top of our bucket list. I can only imagine how special it is, especially if the performer is one of greatest artists in the world.
An interesting fact is that in 2003 Arena found its place in Guinness book of records! As a part of the artistic installation, Arena was circled with a red tie – the longest tie in the world. (Tie origins from Croatia.)
I have been in Rome and, to be honest, visiting Arena of Pula is nothing like seeing a Colosseum. It cannot be compared. But if you are in Pula or Istria, why not?! The entrance fee is 40 kuna (around 5,20€ or $5,60) and you can stay as much as you wish. There is no waiting lines, no crowds, and the place is a great historical monument and symbol of Pula. If you are coming by car, there is a big parking lot right below Arena with a small fee.
Read more about Istria in our other posts:
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