No matter how many postcards you've seen of Rome's iconic Colosseum, you just don't get it until you pass beneath its crumbling arches. Built by Emperor Vespasian in 72 C.E., the huge amphitheater held 50,000 spectators and marked its opening with 100 days of brutal spectacles like gladiator combat and animal fights. The Colosseum was in use for four centuries, and now you can tour the ruins. Walk through the Hypogeum, an intricate series of tunnels and elevators originally used to transport animals, slaves, and gladiators, to the performance above, or take a moonlit tour to have one of the world's most storied structures all to yourself.
By Gillian Longworth McGuire, AFAR Local Expert
Imagining an Event at the Roman Colosseum
About 70 C.E., the Colosseum was commissioned by the emperor as a gift to the people of Rome. This huge amphitheater, which held about 50,000 spectators, opened in 80 C.E. with 100 days of events such as combat among gladiators, and animal fights to entertain the public. The Colosseum was used for four centuries, and over time much of the structure has been destroyed. This amphitheater, however, is still a symbol of old Roman times. When I was in Rome, I naturally visited the Colosseum. I was struck by its enormity and tried to imagine thousands of spectators screaming and cheering during the gruesome games. I had seen several movies that depicted the spectacle and felt a little disturbed. The size of the Colosseum made me think of the 10 years it took to build it and the many who slaved to complete this structure. It was quite an engineering feat. There are many of these architectural marvels in Rome and throughout Italy. The beauty of the amphitheater was striking. I could imagine it newly built with its archways, marble seats, water fountains, and huge awning that would be rolled across the top to protect spectators from the sun or the rain. Today, the Colosseum is still one of Rome's top tourist destinations and a symbol of the city.
By Connie Hand
We lived in Italy for 3 years a while back ago and went back for a visit last year and I was in awe all over again. The Colosseum has that effect on me and maybe others. If you see it 100 times, 100 times you will be in awe of the grander of it. Now only if I knew a secret to escape the tourist crowds...
A V.I.P. Tour of Rome's Grand Colosseum
Going to see the Colosseum in Rome is outright amazing; getting to see it V.I.P. style is even better. Skip the (very long) lines and get right in to the Colosseum. You'll have your own, uncrowded, private deck to observe on the ground floor, and then get to go underground, a V.I.P. only area where the gladiators and animals were kept. Learn about those inner chambers and the way of life of the gladiators. The tour ends by getting to go to another restricted area, to the top floor of the Colosseum where the best views are, of both the Colosseum and a fantastic view of the Roman Forum. This is definitely a spot in Rome where going V.I.P. is the only way to go!
By Ashley Castle Pittman, AFAR Contributor
What else can you say, it's THE Colosseum. Impressive on every count. Long live Caesar.
By Ed Gabrys
Paul says that, with my love of food, you’d never know we saw any sites in Rome. He’s right. I’m more of a food blogger than a tourism blogger. While I think the sites are amazing and educational, I hate how crowded they can get! I totally prefer sitting at a little cafe, watching the people go by, engaging in conversation with locals, and just, relaxing. I learn the most just this way. A few nights before this trip, my mother-in-law and I got into a heated debate about what’s most important to a traveler. I say, “it’s all about the food” and she says, “it’s all about the sites”. I say, “you need food to survive” and she says, “not if you’re in a museum”. I say, “food brings conversation” and she says, “so does the Trevi Fountain”. This debate went on and on for days and before we left we decided to settle on a healthy balance of food and sites. Then, we got to Rome. What’s the first thing we did? We ate, and then we ate some more and, as a result, we learned. We learned about Italian culture, cuisine, and caught a small glimpse of what it’s like to be Roman. Our niece learned how to ask for the check (el conto por favore) and I learned how to confidently walk into a Roman restaurant and ask for a table for 5 (cinque). All without even stepping foot into a museum. Some of our favorite memories are a result of where and what we ate. And what did my mother-in-law have to say after all this? “You’re right Michelle. Maybe it is all about the food”.
End of December
It is said that Rome once conquered the world and now the world conquers Rome armed with cameras, souvenirs and symptoms of gluten over dose. Except on Christmas. Perhaps the only day of the year when Rome is desolate, desolate enough to hear the echo of your own footsteps, desolate enough to hear the history, layer upon layer, echo like the Grand Canyon of western civilization.
A Night stroll at the past glorious Colosseo
Imagine this place comes to life, gladiators fighting, animals roaring drowned in the deafening screams of the primitive audience. I think it better left as it is
Make sure you check out the Colosseo during the day and at night. Even at its current size it's magnificent. When you think about Roman and Greek history it's truly astounding. Could we ever create anything today that could last as long as these buildings???
By Glenn Miller
The Colosseum in the Evening
Of course the Colosseum is not to be missed when visiting Rome. To get this view, walk up the stairs next to the Forum and enjoy the grand view of the Colosseum.
The Colosseum at Night
The energy around the Colosseum at night is amazing. It begins when you are blocks away, walking up the Via dei Fori Imperiali, and you first see the lights dancing in the distance. As you get closer the crowds thicken, like the humidity. Street vendors hawking their wares abound, some of them cleverly sell tripods. The view is mesmerizing and not to be missed. Next stop, the Colosseum.
The Colosseum as Seen from the Forum
It's the perfect backdrop from any angle.
Yes, a tourist attraction, but for a reason. The grand scale of the structure is as impressive as the details.
Colosseum in the Morning
There's a magical electricity that occurs when I stop to place my hand on something ancient and weathered. While thousands visit the Colosseum in Rome each day and walk past the fake gladiators, Made In China trinkets, and busloads of camera-toting tourists clogging the walkways, I think very few stop to think about what this place really was, or if they do, not for very long. Sure, it's the place of ancient Roman entertainment and is featured in many Hollywood movies, but it goes beyond that. Take the scene in the photo for example, and imagine yourself being an audience member in Ancient roman times, and what that must have been like in Rome's golden age when the arena floor was intact. What would it be like? Now, as the traffic and tourists continually tread on the site and slowly blacken and pollute the stonework more and more each day, these moments will be relegated to distant memory, and there may not be a day when you can put your hands on the actual stone of the ancient Colosseum and touch what the ancient Romans felt and saw. Much of the Colosseum shows evidence of past looting and decay, and it will only get worse. Advice: go here now, and brush past the photos with the gladiators. Pass up the plastic Colosseum replicas and chariot rides. Grab a panini if you must, but don't hesitate to go to the top level and touch the stones gently, lingering on what it was like in the past and savoring a moment you may not get to experience again.
By Joseph Smith
Colosseum, Rome, Italy
My one day trip to Rome, missed out on Fontain di Trevi but the the colosseum and the Vatican City absolutely compensated for it all.
First Day of School!
The first day of a 4.5 month journey studying and traveling through Europe!
Rome, Italy and its ruins what more can you say! A definite trip to take your children to see as well! I hope to return one day and let my children experience this spot!
Underground Adventures in Rome
Visitors to Rome are seeing all the major sites in the same ways these day and it is hard to imagine how your experience of Rome's history will ever be different from the thousands who have seen it before you. That's what makes experiences like this one even more rewarding and memorable, when you can access areas of a site like the Colosseum that the general public don't get to see. Underground, on the reconstructed arena floor and up on the 3rd level. Instead of just seeing the Colosseum, it feels like you're retracing the final steps of a gladiator and being a super VIP traveler/explorer at the same time.
The Colosseum is probably Rome’s best-known landmark. Built by Emperor Vespasian in 72 C.E., the elaborate spectacles held here would have been as popular as today's Broadway blockbusters. Underneath the massive stone amphitheater is the Hypogeum, an intricate series of tunnels and elevators that transported animals, slaves and gladiators to the performance above.
By Gillian Longworth McGuire, AFAR Local Expert