Ancient Romans visiting the Colosseum had a lot in common with citizens in today’s society. They loved to be entertained, appreciated good food and hated politicians as much as we do now. Here are five tips for visiting the Colosseum in Rome and some hints for your Colosseum tour which is sure to be packed with interesting Colosseum facts.
Do some research before you go
Even if you are taking a tour, it is worth learning a little about the history and significance of the site before you arrive. If reading about history isn’t your thing, watching a documentary can be a better option. Our family particularly enjoyed the following documentaries which you can find on YouTube, ‘The Unsolved History of the Roman Colosseum’ and ‘Secrets of the Colosseum’, a program which recreates the mighty wooden lift used to raise lions and other animals into the stadium.
Book your Colosseum tour early
You don’t need to book an expensive Colosseum tour through an external operator as the Italian Government (which manages the Colosseum) runs its own excellent and affordable tours of the site. However, these have limited spaces and fill up VERY early, especially during peak tourist season. If you do book one of these tours, it’s worth noting the price does not include entry to the actual Colosseum. If you miss out, there are plenty of other great Colosseum tours available.
When you arrive to do your pre-booked tour, you will need to show your tour pass at the ‘pre-booked tours’ ticket window and buy your entry ticket to the Colosseum. One handy thing about this arrangement is the ticket seller will tell you where to meet your tour guide which is helpful as the designated meeting spot is not easy to find when the site is crowded. You can only do the tour once but the entry ticket is valid for two days and covers the Colosseum, Palatine Hill and the Forum.
If you would prefer to simply walk around the Colosseum, it can be more efficient to walk to nearby Palatine Hill and buy your ticket there. There are much smaller queues here, compared to the ticket windows at the Colosseum itself. The Colosseum location is easy to find in the heart of Rome and the Forum is clearly signed if you need to walk between the two sites.
Arrive prepared and eat elsewhere
Wear joggers or shoes with a good grip as ancient sites like the Colosseum and Forum have uneven surfaces and can be treacherous, particularly in wet weather. Also, remember to bring some snacks and plenty of water as it can get very hot inside the site. If it looks like there is even the smallest chance of rain, bring wet weather gear too as buying a flimsy rain poncho from a street vendor will set you back around five euro. If you are going to finish touring around the Colosseum before lunch, allow time to venture away from the site to buy something to eat. Dining options around the Colosseum tend to be aimed at tourists and extremely overpriced and underwhelming.
Make the most of photo opportunities
If you are doing a tour, consider entering the site for an hour or so beforehand you can wander around and take plenty of photos. Taking the majority of your photographs in advance means you can fully engage with the tour without getting distracted. If you’re planning on taking photos outside the Colosseum, arrive early or late for the best light and fewer tourists. Remember to look for different angles and creative foregrounds and backgrounds to add additional interest to your shots. Provided you are discreet, you can get great street photography shots in and around the site, with plenty of interesting people and situations to shoot.
You need to travel light
Large backpacks and bags are not permitted inside the Colosseum so travel light if you are coming here. Also, the site is very large with loads of steps, so consider leaving your heavy camera kit back at your accommodation. If you are a keen photographer, it can be better to come back the following morning to take your ‘serious photos’ so you’re not lugging a heavy camera bag around all day while you’re out sightseeing.
Disclosure: The writer and his family paid for their visit to the Colosseum. They highly recommend booking the Underground and Third Ring Tour which takes you under the floor of the Colosseum where lions and gladiators waited before doing battle.
If you are heading to Rome and looking for some other things to do, we really enjoyed our Rome 500 tour of Rome in a vintage Fiat and also the food tours we did. One focussed on the area around Campo di Fiore and the other explored Trasevere.