A Fresh Look at the Colosseum

I LOVE traveling in Italy, but in some ways, it is much harder to write about famous well-known places than it is to talk about more off the beaten path destinations. I could write basically anything about Colombia and people thought it was fascinating, but how many new things are there left to say about the Duomo, the David or the Trevi Fountain?

Or the Colosseum. Even my13-year-old cousin knows everything about the Colosseum (at least that’s what he told me, with an epic eye roll). It’s one of the most famous and iconic landmarks, not just in Rome, but in Europe.

Why Should You Visit the Colosseum in Rome

That doesn’t make it any less amazing to see though! Even though I’ve been in and around the Colosseum on my 2006 visit to Rome, I still gasped in awe when we stumbled upon it on a late night stroll one of our first nights in Rome. It’s not just epic- it’s one of those structures the word epic was invented to describe. Pushing 2000 years old and standing strong: a breath-taking monument to Roman might.

But what are you supposed to WRITE about it?

Luckily for me, my buddies at Walks of Italy (you can probably tell I’m a fan by now), gave me the chance to go on their behind the scenes tour of the Colosseum: VIP Access: Colosseum Underground, Arena and Forum. And just like that, I found my hidden angle.

Visit the Colosseum with Walks of Italy

I won’t go into the tour of Palatine Hill and the Forum- although they are both breath-taking and awesome snapshots of ancient history. Although it’s nice to have a guide give you the history, they are also pretty great to wander on your own. The real attraction here was the bottom level of the Colosseum- the dungeon area where tourists almost never get to go and the real reason to visit the Colosseum with Walks of Italy.

First though, we visited the stage, where ancient gladiators once matched wits and courage with each other along with the odd tiger or grizzly bear. This is an area not typically open to tourists- and other visitors stared at us as if we were VIPs, or possibly about to start fighting ourselves.

Visit the Colosseum with Walks of Italy to Reenact the Gladiator BattlesWhich Gladiator will Win? Visit the Colosseum with Walks of Italy Then we proceeded down, down down, into the hypogeum, the area underneath the stage. Here is where sh*t got real: This was the real backstage of the bloody performance above. The area where gladiators, condemned prisoners and every type of animal imaginable waited anxiously for their turn to appear on stage.

They may have lived thousands of years ago but the Romans were a crafty bunch. They had elevators and levers for moving around wild animals (tigers, rhinos, hippos, crocodiles, you name it). Dozens of trap doors allowed them to surprise fighters above by springing an angry beast at a moments notice. They could even flood the Colosseum floor if they felt like it.  You really see the genius of it all when you visit the Colosseum and its hypogeum.

Exploring the Hypogeum - Visit the Colosseum

Backstage at the Colosseum - Visit the Colosseum with Walks of Italy

Visit the Colosseum and See Where They Kept the Lions with Walks of Italy

Although it’s now open air, it’s easy to imagine how cramped and hot it must have been- you would have heard water dripping, fighters thumping overhead and the blood-crazed roar of the crowd. You might have been seated right next to the lion cage where a hungry and angry feline wanted nothing better than to snack on your head.

After the damp dark below I needed some air. Luckily our next stop was the opposite side of the arena- the very top of the stands- again an area the typical tourist can’t access. From the Colosseum’s top floor you could see the entire arena, which once held 50,000 plus people. The very top, the furthest away from the action, would have seated the poorest citizens: slaves, the very poor and women (you know, the unimportant people). At least they had the best views:

Views of the Colosseum from the Top Row - Visit the Colosseum

Looking down on the Arch of Constantine - Visit the Colosseum
Other side of the railing

It’s kind of creepy to think of these tens of thousands of people, packed in, enjoying their day off by watching people and animals get ripped to shreds. Then again, I don’t think their bloodlust is that unusual, nowadays we just get our torture-porn fix from horror films and watching the news.

For me, the craziest realization about the ancient past is that those people were pretty much just people- the same as us. It’s so easy to forget, and exploring ancient places always gives me that tiny glimmer of insight. They sat in the stands, ate their peanuts, watched their spectacles and tried to escape from their everyday lives for just a couple of hours.

To me, that individual experience is so much more interesting to think about, and maybe write about, than the size of the Colosseum (massive), the work that went into building it, it’s long history etc. etc. No matter what I put down on paper about the Colosseum, I can’t quite capture that. You have to go there and find it for yourself. It’s the feeling you only really get from visiting: gazing up at the sheer size, sitting in the stands, lurking in the dungeons. It’s what makes history real.  You simply need to visit the Colosseum to experience it for yourself.


Visit the Colosseum and Book Your Own VIP Tour of the Colosseum Now with Walks of Italy!

Visit the Colosseum to Experience it Yourself

Special thanks to Walks of Italy for providing my tour. All weird historical opinions are my own.


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A Fresh Look at the Colosseum - Visit the Colosseum with Walks of Italy


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18 thoughts on “A Fresh Look at the Colosseum”

  1. We did the same Walks of Italy tour about 3 weeks ago and it was superb. The Colosseum is amazing place – you have to pinch yourself to believe you’re actually there! Nice write-up.

  2. This looks SO FREAKING COOL!

    I’m a history dork, yet sadly I never made it inside the Colosseum on my first visit to Rome. Will definitely have to remedy that this summer!

    And that photo from very top of the stands? Incredible!

  3. Your pictures are fantastic. Looks like you picked a beautiful day for it.

    I can’t even imagine the Colosseum at its peak. It must have been quite the spectacle.

  4. You’re so right about the difficulty of finding new angles on old places, but that tour sounds incredible! Being right on the stage and seeing the elevators and trap doors would be an amazing experience, even if it would be slightly creepy to be in a place where death was celebrated.

  5. I was thinking the same thing about my inevitable Machu Picchu post, and have simply decided that I shall title it “My Machu Picchu photos are totally different from all other Machu Picchu photos” and then the opening line will be “HA! No they’re not! But now you’re here anyway!”

  6. I always skip blogposts about things that have been written about a million times but I gave it a chance today and I’m glad. I like all of your weird historical opinions!

  7. Your 13 year old cousin sounds awesome! What I found weirdest about the Colosseum was how it appears to be round on the outside, but is oval on the inside. I like your observations better. Much more insightful!

  8. Beautiful photos! And I liked the different angle of commentary, too. It’s always more interesting to me to think about how people in their day would have experienced something. I love that you got to see the colosseum from top to bottom.

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