Long, long ago in the ever-lovely renaissance town of Florence, a small group of writers, musicians and artists known as the Florentine Camerata, banded together to recreate Greek dramas in musical form. Et voila, opera was born in all its glory. A handful of centuries later, it’s still one of Italy’s most revered arts and is enjoyed all around the world. A night at the opera is a must-have experience when visiting Italy, and if you’re going to do it, then you’ve got to do it right. So we took the guesswork out of it for you – here are the best opera houses in Italy.
7 of the Best Opera Houses in Italy
1. Teatro Alla Scala – Milan
Set in the heart of Milan, Teatro Alla Scala (Theatre at the Stairway) is one of Italy’s most beloved opera houses. This storied theatre first opened in 1778, where it hosted some of the most famous operas of the time and laid the groundwork for some of history’s most loved performers such as Paganini and Salieri. It remained a pinnacle of opera culture in Italy until it was bombed during WW2 and reopened again in 1946. Nowadays the opera house has been amped up beyond belief with a bar, a bookshop and even its own history museum.
2. Teatro di San Carlo – Naples
Naples’ Teatro di San Carlo is not only one of Italy’s most beautiful opera houses, it’s also the oldest. Founded in 1737, this theatre hosted the greats such as Paganini and Bellini, and entertained countless royals – namely, the first king of Bourbon, Charles III. In the few centuries since its debut, it survived all sorts of difficult eras and even withstood a massive fire in 1816 that left it with just a shell of walls. Today it remains one of Italy’s most loved and recognized opera houses and still puts on one heck of a show.
3. Teatro Comunale di Bologna – Bologna
Dating to the 18th century, Teatro Comunale di Bologna is one of Italy’s foremost opera houses and is a stunning example of the era’s baroque art and architecture. In the Spring of 1763, it opened its doors to Italy and the world with a grand performance of Gluck’s II trionfo di Clelia. It was an absolute knockout with over 1,500 people in the audience. In the several years since it’s been famous for its countless opera performances along with works from Mozart.
4. Teatro Massimo – Palermo
In the heart of Sicily’s Palermo you’ll find Teatro Massimo. This elegant and stunning theatre and opera house sprouted up right at the beginning of the belle epoque in 1897 and has been wowing spectators ever since. With Palermo being the second-largest city in Southern Italy after Naples, the architects knew that Teatro Massimo needed to match the cities grandeur; and match they did. The theatre and opera house not only became one of the most popular in the country but also served as a revival for Palermo’s art scene.
5. Teatro Verdi – Pisa
Frescoes, frescoes and more frescoes. This Pisa opera house is one of the most beautiful in Italy and famous for its stunning ceiling fresco known as the Triumph of Love. Not only that, but this ornate opera house can seat up to 900 theatre goers. Centuries after its inauguration in 1867, it still hosts some of Italy’s most beloved opera, dance and drama performances.
6. Teatro La Fenice – Venice
Teatro la Fenice is simply the theatre that just. Won’t. Quit. It earned its name La Fenice (The Pheonix) first for its resilience and ability to rise from the ashes. First following a fire, and then the loss of its first quarters. In the time since, the theatre has burned down and been rebuilt twice. The most recent reno of the theatre opened in 2003; it is built in 19th century style and depicts stunning scenes from the 1954 film, Senso. If for nothing else than its resilience, Teatro La Fenice certainly warrants a visit.
7. Petruzzelli – Bari
Unlike most other opera houses which are owned by the city, Petruzzelli is privately owned. In fact, it’s the largest private opera house in Europe. Some of its most popular opera performances include Tristan and Isol and Il Gallo d’Oro. It’s known for its continued host of world famous guests. Namely, one of Frank Sinatra’s last performances was held here. Additionally, Petruzzelli has hosted Ray Charles, Liza Minnelli and countless other stars.