The amphitheatre, known by locals as The Arena is today the most famous and most visited monument in Istria and your starting point for the city.
Built in the 1st century AD (the same time as the Colosseum in Rome) during the reign of Emperor Vespasian from local limestone, it’s believed that once upon a time the arena could seat around 20,000 spectators for gladiator fights. In the Middle Ages it was the site of knights tournaments and fairs.
The admission fee buys you entry inside the Arena and access to the underground passages and tunnels once used by gladiators, today hosting a regular exhibition of ancient viticulture and olive growing in Istria.The exhibits include reconstructions of machines once used for the production of olive oil and wine, with hundreds of amphorae used for storing and transporting the precious liquids.
Today, able to seat a mere 5,000 – this is the place for year round performances – the Pula Film Festival (July), Opera Season, Equestrian Festival and various local and international concerts with stars such as James Brown, Joe Cocker, Michael Bolton and Bob Dylan performing here. The Arena also hosts the Outlook Festival in September, a great event for electronic music lovers.
During the summer, look out for the weekly Spectacvia Antiqva, an event that recreates gladiator fights and hosts workshops where you can try on Roman clothing and hairstyles and sample Roman-like food and wine.
For some great photos, walk around the arena to the hilly slope and take shots with the harbour behind.