The Smallest Theatre’s Biggest Programme

The nearest Italian equivalent to England’s National Trust, FAI, always has its springtime open days when the properties in its care are freely open to the public. If you have a UK National Trust card then you can visit FAI’s properties free of charge at any time of the year.

The nearest FAI property to Bagni di Lucca is the little theatre of Vetriano, nominated in the Guinness book of records as the smallest theatre in 1997. Actually, the smallest theatre in the world, according to that bible of biggest, smallest, longest, fastest etc. is the ‘Theatre of small conveniences’ in Great Malvern UK which only seats twelve persons, beating Vetriano for this singular nomination in 2002. It’s called that name because it was converted from a derelict Victorian gentlemen’s lavatory.


(The present ‘smallest theatre in the world’ in Great Malvern UK)

However, Vetriano remains the oldest ‘smallest theatre in the world’ as far as I’m concerned since it was originally converted from a hayloft into a theatre at the end of the nineteenth century whereas the Great Malvern theatre only started giving shows in 1999.

We visited the Vetriano theatre as part of this year’s FAI weekend in March. We were last there in 2014 when I wrote my post on it at

It was lovely to be back to visit the theatre – a truly miniature version of Italy’s grand horse-shoe shaped ‘Teatri’, complete with boxes and stalls all decorated in a neo-rococo style.

(Note the chair given by a famous Kennedy).

There was a magnificent exhibition of costumes worn by Mario del Monaco, the great Italian tenor. Evidently, it was the custom once for tenors to own their own costumes. Interesting videos of the mighty Mario were also shown:

We have, however, yet to attend a show there. This is the programme of events for the theatre this year:


I might well attend the Molière but feel that I‘ll give a miss to the Mascagni opera which would be not given its full scope in such a small venue. (I wonder how the Easter chorus will turn out.) However, the prize guest of that evening will be the great-granddaughter of Pietro Mascagni!

If a Pergolesian intermezzo were to be performed at Vetriano then I’m sure I’d be there like a flash. It’s such operatic pieces (other might include Mozart’s ‘Bastien und Bastienne’) that are truly more suitable for my favourite ‘smallest theatre’.

More information on the theatre (including booking details) can be obtained at






2 thoughts on “The Smallest Theatre’s Biggest Programme

  1. Well I really look forward to a theatre evening at Vetriano it is truly superb wonderful decor all recently lovingly restored and is a veritable gem in this area. My personal preference is also to see theatre rather than opera but Gilbert and Sullivan I would see as a possibility or opera selected arias with piano accompaniment. The atmosphere here is truly delightful. There are many fund raising ideas to be learnt from this visit the name plate on the chairs the beautiful painted flowers that are use to embellish around the theatres interior are also a useful form of donation. The main reason for the success and survival of such projects is the keen interest of the people looking after the Teatro di Vetriano their enthusiasm which permeates through to the audiences that attend. Long live FAI and the National Trust that are surely doing a grand task of looking after so much national heritage both in Italy and in the UK.

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