When in the post-war years Enrico Wallner decided to restore his family’s hotel to its former splendour, he possessed all the wherewithal for the job: a passion for art, a newfound vocation for hotel-keeping and – last but not least – a sizable family fortune. He tasked Alessandro Polo., an engineer, with the building work and commissioned Pino Casarini, one of Italy’s greatest twentieth-century fresco painters, to oversee the decorations. Wallner was an art collector and antiques connoisseur who had studied film at Cinecittà: he envisioned the hotel as a showcase of the arts.
Pino Casarini was a visionary, an eclectic jack of all trades: the son of an engraver and gilder, he was at once an artist, a fresco painter, an illustrator, a glass decorator and a sculptor. A habitué of the Venice Biennale
, he devoted himself to sacred art, decorating numerous churches in Trentino, Veneto and Friuli, took part in the artistic life in the city, worked in advertising graphics and drew caricatures and portraits. He also designed many stage sets for the Arena
, a cradle of Italian and international opera music, an illuminating particular that explains the distinctive structure of the Arena Casarini
, the room he decorated at the Due Torri, inspired by the world of the circus. Together with the “Brandeburg Knights’ Tournament”fresco in the lounge, the Arena was one of the two Casarini masterpieces that the public was able to admire when the Due Torri was inaugurated on January 1 1959. The date marked the beginning of a fortunate period for the hotel, which became a favourite haunt of stars and celebrities.
The Arena Casarini today: a treasure rediscovered
In 2015, during restoration work carried out by the new owners, the Arena Casarini was brought back to light and subsequently returned to the people of Verona in all its splendour in the course of a special inauguration ceremony.
Entering the Arena, one is immediately struck by its vitality and sensation of movement. Whole portions of the walls depict scenes of circus life in a dizzying whirl featuring acrobats, jugglers, tightrope walkers, contortionists, clowns, ballerinas, lion tamers, bears, elephants, horses, monkeys, giraffes, camels and dogs. Special architectural effects create a perfect illusion. Thanks to the alternation of protruding and recessed walls, as well as the pilasters that separate the scenes represented, extending up to the ceiling and creating an impression of curvature, it’s like being under a big top. Architecture and painting fuse in the harmony produced by this vortex of colour.
The Arena was in a state of neglect before the restructuring work began. Now that it has been restored to its original beauty, it is used as a meeting room and conference hall.
On top of that, since 2016, in partnership with ArtVerona
, the hotel has promoted Premio Casarini
, a nationwide competition whose winners are invited to decorate a wall in the adjacent Sala dell’Accademia with a work of their own. Young artists are thus put under the spotlight and offered a prestigious location to express their talent.