The Roman Colosseum is one of the prime tourist attractions in the world with thousands of visitors each year. The crowds are huge, the waiting time can be long, and access to prime viewing areas is limited. Since my husband is a real history junkie who does not like to wait in lines, we booked the semi-private Colosseum Underground Tour with Dark Rome Tours. We were pleased that we did.
The tour included the Colosseum, the Forum, and Palatine Hill. The hill is the centermost of the Seven Hills of Rome and is one of the most ancient parts of the city. It stands 40 metres above the Forum Romanum, looking down upon it on one side, and upon the Circus Maximus on the other.
The tour groups are limited to 12 or less people. They are led by expert English speaking guides and provide special access to the underground and third tier levels of the Colosseum.
Although she is Italian, we had little problem understanding her English. She told us that the Colosseum was built between 70 - 80 AD by Emperors Vespasian and Titus and could hold between 50,000 and 80,000 people. It was used primarily for gladiator contests and special events such as mock sea battles and wild animal hunts.
Sarah told us that a gladiator school was built adjacent to the structures and wild animals were housed in the underground portion of the Colosseum. The structure is considered the prime architectural achievement of the Roman Empire.
We learned that the Forum was the town center of Rome. It was the political, religious and shopping center. It contained the Senate, speakers platform, temples and shops. Much of the forum is still being restored. Marble was removed from the Forum to build churches and other structures during medieval times.
The 15th century Church of St Lawrence was built with Forum marble. The Temple of Saturn, built in 490 BC, is believed to be the oldest temple in the Forum. The Forum area was originally swampy and was formerly burial ground. The Roman engineers found a way to build proper drainage which make the construction of the Colosseum possible.
Following our tour of the Forum we made our way uphill to the famous Palatine Hill, the home of the Roman Emperors, which overlooks the Forum and the Colosseum. It is a popular tourist destination and provides a great view of the surrounding area. Cameras were everywhere.
The entrances to the Colosseum were packed with folks waiting to enter. Sarah cautioned us to beware of pickpockets. The Colosseum has 70 regular entry gates and four VIP entry gates. Dark Rome Tours groups have skip the line passes and we quickly went by the people lined up as we entered the structure.
As we entered, the immensity of the structure became even more apparent.
Animals were generally kept without food or water for several days prior to their appearance so they would be more ferocious. Slaves were used to handle the animals. Wild animals were placed on elevators run by a system of winches and pulleys for transfer to the Colosseum. One can only imagine the stench and chaos as these angry lions, tigers, and other beasts were moved into the elevators for transport to the arena.
Our group moved onto the main area of the structure where we could get a better sense of its immensity. Then we proceeded to the third upper level and were the only ones on this floor.
Thanks to Dark Rome Tours we enjoyed an amazing view of not only he Colosseum but the surrounding area and what a great way to end this 3½ tour.
If you want to see The Roman Colosseum and surrounding area up close and personal including restricted areas, then I recommend, without reservation, booking the semi private tour through Dark Rome Tours. Be sure to book early as this tour does sell out.