How to: A Guide to Visiting an Italian Opera

Kaydee Culclasure

Opera is one of the most iconic attractions of Italy. Originating in Florence, Italy, opera has been a popular form of entertainment for about 400 years. When visiting Italy, it is the perfect activity for a night out. Here’s a quick history of opera.

I love musicals. So naturally, I was thrilled to learn that our study abroad group would be attending one in Rome during our trip! No, musicals and operas are not even close to the same thing, but I enjoy romance and music and acting, so I was definitely looking forward to this activity from day one. I’ve never been to an opera, so I had to figure out how to dress and act for the event. Here are some thing’s I’ve learned.

Inside the Teatro la Fenice in Venice, Italy

Here are some general rules to help you fit in (or at least not stick out) when attending an opera in Italy:

  • Attire
    • Some theaters might have a dress code, most don’t, but generally it is important to dress nicely for the opera. Here are some opera attire do’s and don’ts for both men and women.
      • Guys should consider: nice shirt (button down with a collar); khakis or dress pants; and dress shoes
      • Guys should avoid: T-shirts jeans, shorts, or sweatpants; sneakers or flip flops
      • Girls should consider: Skirts or dresses; dress pants; accessories
      • Girls should avoid: Short skirts or dresses (need to be over the knee); strapless anything; sneakers or flip flops
  • Applause
    • After the end of a song, the crowd applauds until the spotlights go down. Italians are very expressive, so whistling and the occasional “bravi” is appropriate and a standing ovation is normal at the end of the show.
  • Leaving the theater
    • If you have to leave the theater during the performance for any reason, try to do so in between songs. Movement in the theater is distracting to the performers so it is courteous to be as discreet as possible when entering and leaving the area.
  • Cell phones
    • Once again, it would be super rude to interrupt the performance, so make sure your phone is silent and no texting during the show! Not only does it distract the performers, it might annoy the person beside you. Not cool at all!

Finding the perfect show:

It’s easy to find theaters and shows with great ratings online on websites like Tripadvisor and About are great for comparing price, venue, and the description of the show to help make your choice. Using websites with reviews is helpful so you can find exactly what you think you’ll enjoy attending, but here are a few shows to consider right now:

Here’s a link to the top ten opera houses in Italy. Check them out too!

My “Best of Italy” Opera Experience:

Many places offer dinner and show combinations, so check into that before you buy your tickets. In Rome, we had dinner at a local restaurant close to the theater. The show we attended was “The Best of Italy,” at the Teatro Palazzo Santa Chiara. I thoroughly enjoyed the show. The theater was small, but I liked the fact that there was a small audience.


Inside the Teatro Palazzo Santa Chiara during intermission

The only rules our group knew of before attending the show were the clothing and cell phone rules. We all made sure to dress to impress and keep our phones hidden. However, we didn’t know the other etiquette rules. When one of us got up to use the restroom during a song, that person would get a few dirty glances from the performers and other audience members. We also had to follow the lead of the other attendees for applause guidelines. It was a learning experience, but it was well worth it!

The actors involved the audience and moved around to engage us in the performance. I asked if I could take a picture with the singers afterwards and I was lucky enough to get one with the soprano and the tenor. I was pleased to meet them and tell them how beautiful the show was. I explained that I would be writing a blog entry about the performance and they were excited to take a picture with me!


Me (middle) with the soprano (left) and tenor (right) of the Teatro Palazzo Santa Chiara


When you decide you want to go to the opera in Italy, keep in mind that

  • You should compare different shows to make sure you pick the perfect one
  • Be polite and courteous while you’re attending
  • Opera is an incredible experience, so sit back and enjoy the performance!



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