The main attraction on Verona’s expansive Piazza Bra is the Roman amphitheater. Turn your back to the arena, however, and you’re facing another important monument on the square - the Gran Guardia Palace, or Palazzo della Gran Guardia.
The large palace was begun in the early 17th century, but not completed until the mid-19th century. It was originally meant solely as a covered space for soldiers to train when the weather was bad. Later it served as temporary housing for the Austrian military when Italy was fighting for independence, and today the palace is a conference and convention center with spaces available for exhibitions and events.
Because the Gran Guardia Palace was built over a more than 200-year period, it has elements of two architectural styles. The main level features 13 arches, reflecting the arches of the Roman amphitheater on the other side of Piazza Bra, which open onto a covered portico in front of the main doors of the building.
The interior of the Palazzo dell Gran Guardia is often open when there are exhibitions or other events for the public to attend. The palace is host to art shows on a regular basis, and the annual wine show, Vinitaly. Even when the building is closed it is a popular meeting point for guided tours in the city.
The Gran Guardia Palace was the first structure built on the south side of Piazza Bra, intended to anchor the other side of the square from the monumental amphitheater. The small garden that sits between the two buildings has a statue of Vittorio Emanuele II, the first king of a unified Italy.