What to see inside the Colosseum
Colosseum was originally known as the Flavian Amphitheater, in part as honour of the three emperors of the Flavian Dynasty who championed and built the Colosseum.
Built between 69 – 79 A.D., the Colosseum was built by emperor Vespasian, whose rule quickly followed the reign of the tyrannical Nero. Emperor Nero had confiscated prime land in the city center to build his ostentatious palace, the "Golden House". This had undoubtedly angered the citizens. To pacify the citizens, emperor Vespasian decided to demolish the palace and instead build the amphitheatre to entertain Roman citizens.
As impressive as the exterior of the Roman Colosseum is, it is equally impressive on the inside. In its hey day, the Colosseum could seat 50,000 people. The important sections you will find inside Colosseum are:
- Cavea or the sitting area
1. Colosseum Arena
2. Sitting area
Spectators were seated in a tiered arrangement called Cavea (enclosure). The seats near the arena were reserved for the privileged including the emperor, the priests, and the senators. Lowly seats at the top was assigned to the commoners and slaves.
The official Underground Tour
You must book the official Underground, third ring, and Belvedere tours. Please note there is a huge demand for the tour. The tour tickets are released online on the third Monday of the previous month. So make a reservation as soon as the tickets for your dates are available.
The tour is conducted by a well-trained staff and offers a complete overview of the interiors of the Colosseum. The Belvedere tour is a "vistas" tour so you get to go to different levels of the Colosseum to view the internal and externals of the Colosseum.
The tour starts with an overview of the building, the history and the tales of gladiators and slaves associated with the building. Then you are taken underground to see the system of wheels, ropes and pulleys that operated the trap doors on the arena floor. Remember, Gladiators and animals were kept in these underground chambers before the games.
From the underground, you move to the third, fourth and the fifth ring. The views of the inside of the Colosseum from the fourth and fifth ring is stunning. During its heyday, the fourth and fifth levels of the Colosseum were least preferred as they were far removed from the action. However, now the tour of the upper levels (which was only opened recently) is in great demand for the views of the Colosseum and Rome. The entire tour lasts for 4 hours and might be worthwhile to take snacks and a water bottle along. Normally, the tour batches are only 20 people. Thus, demand for these tickets is high and gets sold quickly.
The night tour
If you are unable to get tickets for the Underground Tour, you can try booking the night tour. The itinerary is the same except that all quarters of underground are not fully explored.
Tips for visiting Colosseum
- Wear comfortable walking shoes as you need to walk a lot around Colosseum, Forum, and Palatine hill.
- Do apply sunscreen before leaving your hotel. Brace yourself for a full day in the sun.
- Bring a water bottle and drink freely; you can refill them at public fountains.
- If you haven’t bought the ticket in advance, start from Palatine Hill. Buy your ticket at the Palatine Hill entrance on Via San Gregorio as lines at this entrance are shorter than those at the Colosseum.
- The ticket to Colosseum is a combination ticket with access to the Colosseum,
Forum, and Palatine hill. Please note that ticket office closes one hour before closing time.
- If you have bought ROMA Pass, be aware that you are entitled to a separate ‘skip the line’ access which is right beside where the long line of people is waiting to get in.
- Definitely, do the underground tour of the Colosseum. It is worth it.
- Beware of the hordes of "guides" offering guide services outside the entrance of Colosseum. Instead of the guides at the entrance, pre-arrange with your hotel/cruise or go with a well-known tour provider. Some of the well-known operators include Dark Rome, Tours of Rome, and Live Italy.
- The audio guide has 6 listening points dedicated to the Colosseum and three more about the history and origin of Colosseum. Personally, I find the audio guide fairly useless. I recommend hiring the services of a personal guide over audio guides.
- From various strategic look-outs in the Palatine Hill area, you can get views of the Roman Forum, the Colosseum, and a large part of Rome. Apart from Palatine Hill, there are other spots that are a favourite with photographers.
- If you have the luxury, schedule your visit to Colosseum on a Wednesday when it is less crowded than on other days. This is because, on Wednesdays, most tourists go to the Vatican for the Papal audience.
- Near the entrance of Colosseum, you will find people dressed as "gladiators" offering to pose a photo with you. Beware! It is a scam; they will badger you for 20 euros, and they will be rude.
- There is a souvenir shop inside the Colosseum, it is worthwhile to check it out.