Exploring Underground the Colosseum and Ancient Rome
Undoubtedly my highlight of my perfect weekend in Rome was visiting the Colosseum. This is the iconic image of Rome and one of the most famous ancient buildings in the world so, yes, it’s going to be busy and super touristy but you just can’t visit the Eternal city and not see the Colosseum!
It’s hard to really comprehend just how old the Colosseum is, it was built in 80AD and originally it was known as the Flavian Amphitheater. The Colosseum is the most impressive building of the mighty Roman Empire and is so huge it could accommodate 55,000 spectators – just try to imagine the roar of the crowds!
Think you know the Colosseum?
As the Colosseum is such a familiar and iconic image, people sometimes tend to think they know all about the Colosseum. Hollywood is partially to blame as the stadium is best known for bloody tales of gladiators, slaves being fed to the lions and the emperors all deciding thumb (which I learned was a complete myth) and actually it turns out that this mighty building is quite misunderstood. There is so much more to learn and discover about the ingenious Roman Empire and the important role that this Colosseum played and I found it particularly fascinating to learn how clever and advanced these people were so long ago.
Not surprisingly the Colosseum is very busy and it can take a little of bit of imagination to really appreciate just how amazing this fascinating building is. Luckily we had an expert guide to show us around the Colosseum, we took the Underground Colosseum and Ancient Rome Tour with LivItaly and our guide, Rachel, really brought this incredible building to life for us.
The Gladiator Moment!
We skipped the line and entered the Colosseum in record time and headed straight onto the arena floor. Talk about gladiator moment! This was really special and I tried to imagine how a gladiator all those years ago must have felt when he emerged onto the arena floor and looked up all around the mighty stadium to where the crowd would have been cheering.
Next, we delved deep underground the Colosseum, winding through the dark, labyrinth-like corridors and seeing the chambers under the arena where wild animals, that people had never seen or even heard of before, would emerge out of trapdoors for the fascination of the roaring crowds. Rachel described it all in great detail, allowing my imagination to really run wild with what these very walls have witnessed.
From the underground we made our way up through all the layers of the Colosseum, learning as we went about how important the events that were staged here were to keeping the citizens of the Roman Empire in check until we got to the third tier of the Colosseum where we got the perfect view and great photos over this amazing building and the rest of Rome.
The Ancient Roman Forum and Palantine Hill
After the Colosseum we made our way over to the Palantine Hill where the Roman Emperors lived and get an amazing view over Circus Maximus to one side and the Roman Forum, Colosseum and the rest of Rome to the other. Rachel explained what life would have been like for emperors here and told us about the origins of Rome before showing us to an awesome view and photo point with the Roman Forum stretching below us against a backdrop of the rest of Rome and the imposing Colosseum to the right.
After many photos we wound our way through the ruins of the excavation site of the Roman Forum, past the scattered ruins of ancient temples, theatres and government buildings that would have been the focus of Roman life 2000 years ago, some almost defy time and gravity as they perch precariously but stubbornly upright after all this time.
I can see why they call it the Eternal City – there is history and ruins around every corner and they are still discovering more and more even today. What a timeless, amazing city Rome is!
How to visit the Colosseum
Normal entrance to the Colosseum costs €12 which includes admission to the Palatine Hill and Roman Forum too. For me, visiting these monuments was the highlight of my time in Rome and essential to understanding the history of the Eternal City and I definitely think it’s worth taking the time to visit them all.
For more on things to do in Rome and where to stay and eat on a budget check out my Backpacker Guide to Rome.
To jump the long queues, get exclusive access to the underground and higher levels of the Colosseum and learn more about this fascinating place I highly recommend the Underground Colosseum and Ancient Rome Tour with LivItaly. I’m not usually a fan of group tours but this felt more like having a local friend who is also an expert in Roman history to show us around. It almost felt like a private tour as they limit group sizes to only 6 people, Rachel’s passion and knowledge for Roman history really shone through and it was great to be able to ask loads of questions.
By the way, I was a guest of LivItaly but all views and opinions are my own.