When in Rome…

15th May 2011

There is no shortage of ‘culture’ in Rome and whether you enjoy sightseeing or not, the famous sights of Rome cannot be missed. A visit to the Colosseum is almost a prerequisite for any first time visitor to Rome, with its central location and proximity to many other sights.

When construction was completed on the Colosseum in 80 AD it was the largest amphitheatre built and could accommodate over fifty thousand people. The engineering skill and technology of the day was pushed to its limits by its construction and design. Gladiator games and circuses were two of the best forms of entertainment organized by the heads of state, so they can gain favor from the crowd. The stadium was even designed to be flooded to provide mock navel battles. The Colosseum was built primarily to entertain the masses in brutal and barbaric games of beast on beast, people fighting animals, or the most popular, human on human combat. Almost all of which were to the death. Many of the Gladiators were slaves, captured in war and trained in special schools. There were of course exceptions where Roman citizens signed themselves voluntarily to become gladiators. The Colosseum is more than just an amphitheater. It also regales the culture of the ancient Romans, who were fond of battles, victory, losses, and liberation. Built during the Flavian dynasty, the Colosseum, could have been named after the statue of Colossus situated near it or for its gigantic size.

Today, although ruined, you can still see the four divisions, including the Roman aqueduct, which used to bring water into the stadium, and the topmost portions of the main floor, which will give you a perfect view of the Arch Constantine and the Roman Forum. You can still imagine gladiators and lions chasing each other inside.

There is a chance you may spend more time queuing to get in than actually within the monument. The Colosseum is always crowded from the moment it opens to when you are kicked out. Usually, the building is open for a Colosseum tour between 9:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. It can extend, though, to even 6:00 p.m. on summertime. The best time to visit is for the last admission in the early evening. Not only are there fewer crowds but also, the view over the forum at sunset from the window of the Colosseum is awe-inspiring. Another alternative for avoiding the masses, visit the Colosseum in the evening, when it is closed. Although fascinating from the inside, the Colosseum also needs to be fully appreciated from the outside. There is a small patch of green outside the Colosseum, which makes the perfect spot for a picnic.

If you are planning on heading inside then, it is well worth joining a guided tour in order to fully appreciate the design and history of its crumbling walls. Upon your arrival, you are usually approached by the tour guide groups who offer an entertaining tour, entrance and queue jump for around 14 you can normally haggle this down if you can convince them that someone else offered you better price. The tour guides can be a lot of fun. They are usually Italian men with a comical English, which will both confuse and humor you. It is easy to see why this is one of the most visited sights in Europe, however as a consequence there are people who do try to rip you off. Often you will meet “free” tour guides. It is best to walk away from these, since they are not Official Guides and not legal. You can also opt to get a private guided Coliseum tour, where an Official Rome Tour Guide will show you around the important areas of the Coliseum. This is the best option for first-timers, although small, there is still a possibility of getting lost. If you require a private tour guide, then make advanced reservation. Prices vary, depending on how many people are participating. Usually they will only cover the fee for the tour guide, you provide your own admission charges and transportation. The best tour, if you are more daring and willing to risk the consequences of getting caught, is offered by young Romans who will gladly show you where a ladder has been hidden for years, in order to climb over the wall and have a private viewing at 3am.

Although the Rome Metro is not the most comprehensive of systems Linea B (blue line) has a station at Colosseum station (2 stops from Termini). The Colosseum is unmistakable as you exit the station. The Colosseum is also more than adequately serviced by local buses. The Via dei Fori Imperiali that runs from the Colosseum to Piazza Venezia alongside the Roman Forum has a dozen routes that fan out after the Piazza Venezia to most accommodation areas. There are a dozens of Rome hop on, hop off bus operators, all of which stop at the Colosseum. All the operators use very similar double deck open top buses. Each passenger will get a disposable audio device for commentary along the way with a choice of at minimum 8 languages. Most buses have their first bus departing Termini at 08:30 or 09:00 with the last bus leaving at 18:00, finishing around 20:00.

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