The Colosseum. Probably Rome’s most famous sight, and must-see on every tourist’s list. I have now visited three separate times, but since the first two times were so long ago (1995 and 1999) I couldn’t remember the details. Sure, I knew this was the setting for gruesome gladiator battles, but most of the other details had faded from my memory over the years. And some places are just better when you can learn about the history you’re looking at, so Andy and I were excited to take the VIP Access tour of the Colosseum Underground and Arena plus the Roman Forum with Walks of Italy.
Remembering past visits to the Colosseum
The first time I was in Rome and saw the Colosseum was on a group tour with my school when I was 15 years old. I know we had a guide since there were about 30 of us, but I don’t really remember anything besides just being there. I’m 33 now, so I think that’s normal.
The second time I went to the Colosseum was when I was almost 19 and my best friend Rachel and I went to Rome and Florence on our own. I remember we went in without a tour and just walked around for awhile looking at things but not really knowing what we were looking at. After a little while, we over heard an interesting tour guide towards the end of her tour. She let us tag along since she was almost done, but then we paid her for her next tour of the Roman Forum and the Vatican the next day. It was just better with a guide explaining things and telling us interesting details.
I can’t say that I remembered those details afterwards, but it certainly helped us enjoy our surroundings in the moment.
Skipping the lines
Taking the tour with Walks of Italy provided us with some extras we wouldn’t have been able to experience on our own. The simplest one was just being able to skip the lines and get right in. Since the Colosseum is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Rome, you can imagine what the lines look like. In fact our guide told us the Colosseum is the only archeological site in Rome that makes any money, and it funds all the others. I’m not sure what the wait time was to get in, but the line snaked beyond where I could see and started to just look like a chaotic mob.
The Colosseum arena floor
The first place our guide took us was the arena floor. We had the view of the Colosseum all around us because we were really on the inside. Even better, it was just our group, so there were no crowds to fight through.
This was when we learned some trivia about the Colosseum. Like how it was built in just eight years, quite impressive given its size and when it was built. Now less than 40% of it remains, mostly due to past vandalism. Even up until the 1700s stones and pieces of iron from the Colosseum were taken because they just didn’t think about preserving history.
By being on this tour, we also had access to the underground section of the Colosseum. This is where the gladiators and animals were before going out onto the main floor. Everything had to be choreographed to keep the show running smoothly. Since it was pitch black under there, it was a bit more tricky than you might imagine.
We also learned that, despite what we always hear about gladiators dying in the Colosseum, they actually didn’t want them all to die. These men were the show, so if too many died, they’d have to replace them and train the new guys. Certainly some of them didn’t make it to the end of the day, but the numbers were lower than I thought. And any injured gladiators received excellent medical care so they could get back to fighting as quickly as possible.
Top level of the Colosseum
The last thing we did was go up to the top level of the Colosseum. Again, we had exclusive access being on this tour, but the stairs were near one of the public areas, so our guide actually had to chase after some kids and shoo away other tourists who tried to go up with us.
I really loved the views from up here. I love taking pictures, and having this vantage point, especially without the crowds, was one of my favorite parts of the tour. We could see the arch in front of the Colosseum, the Roman Forum, and a lot of the city of Rome.
What to expect on the Walks of Italy Colosseum tour
This was actually the second part of the Colosseum and Roman Forum tour. Due to the Colosseum’s restrictions, Walks of Italy has to combine two groups for the Colosseum in order to visit the exclusive behind the scenes areas. Despite this, it’s still a small group of people, and you will still be away from the crowds 95% of the time.
The price includes your entrance tickets. The tour ends inside of the Colosseum, so if you want to look around more on your own, you can. Andy and I took the AM tour, but they also offer a PM version if you don’t want to get up early. Either way, bring water especially if it’s hot.
Thanks to Walks of Italy who provided us with a complimentary tour. As always all opinions are my own. Note: Walks of Italy is now Take Walks.
You might also enjoy:
- How Much We Spent Traveling in Rome
- How Much We Spent Traveling on the Amalfi Coast
- Italy Itinerary: Ideas for Planning One Week in Italy