Italy has a wealth of beautiful, historic opera houses, many still serving as theaters. Opera fans should try to visit at least one opera house and enjoy a live performance in Italy. The opera season is generally October through March or April but outdoor performances are held in the summer. Opera houses hold theater and dance performances at other times of the year, too, and some can be toured without going to a performance.
Teatro Alla Scala, the famous opera house in Milan, reopened in December 2004 after an extensive renovation. It has a bookshop, bar, and history museum, too. The original opera house, designed by neoclassical architect Giuseppe Piermarini, opened in 1778 and many famous operas were first performed here. La Scala was badly bombed during World War II but reopened in 1946 and quickly regained its reputation as a top Italian opera house.
La Fenice (the Phoenix) in Venice, is one of the most famous theaters in Europe. La Fenice first opened in 1792 but was twice badly damaged by fire. It has recently been renovated and reopened. La Fenice is in Venice's San Marco neighborhood.
The Teatro di San Carlo in Naples is the oldest opera house in Italy, founded in 1737. Some of the first ballet productions were also performed here during the opera intermissions. Opera, ballet, and short comic opera are still performed at Teatro San Carlo. A museum is in the planning stage.
The opera house in Bologna is one of the top theaters in Italy and also one of the oldest. It is a stunning example of 18th-century baroque architecture. Located in the heart of Bologna's historic district, the Teatro Comunale di Bologna holds opera, musical, and symphony performances.
Teatro Massimo in Palermo is the foremost opera house in Sicily as well as one of the finest in Europe. It's opening in 1897 signaled the beginning of Palermo's belle epoque. Year-round performances include opera, ballet, and music.
Built in 1829, the neo-classical theater of Parma is rich in gold and stucco work. The theater holds opera, dance, and drama performances as well as concerts and special events.
Teatro Verdi in Pisa is one of the most beautiful theaters in central Italy. The 900-seat auditorium, inaugurated in 1867, has a beautiful ceiling fresco and today houses opera, dance, and drama performances.
Teatro Regio, the prominent opera house in Piazza Castello, a beautiful square in Torino, was rebuilt in 1973. The original 19th-century theater was destroyed by fire in 1936. It is a popular spot for musicals and plays as well as opera.
Rome has a beautiful opera house and holds many classical dance concerts and opera performances there. In the summer, opera and dance performances are held in the ancient Baths of Caracalla, a spectacular setting for opera under the stars.
Although not an opera house, another fantastic historic setting for opera is the Arena di Verona, a restored Roman arena. The open-air opera season starts in June but there are sometimes other performances during the year.
The Puccini Festival is held in Torre del Lago Puccini, once the home of opera composer Giacomo Puccini, in July and August. The new outdoor arena is in a beautiful setting overlooking the lake.
The Sferisterio Opera Festival is held in an open-air arena in the countryside of Macerata, in central Italy's Marche region. Performances take place in July and August and often draw top-name performers.
For more top performance venues in Italy, see these popular summer music festivals. Going to a concert in an outdoor setting is one of the top summer experiences. Be sure to buy tickets in advance.