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Visiting the Roman Colosseum

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The Colosseum in all its glory

The Colosseum in all its glory

No visit to Rome is complete without a visit to ancient Rome’s most famous site, the Roman Colosseum. As one of the most recognized landmarks in the world, the Colosseum stands today as an iconic symbol of ancient imperial Rome.

Commissioned in 72 AD by emperor Vespasian and completed by his son Titus in 80 AD, the Colosseum has withstood devastating earthquakes, fires, and stone-robbers over the centuries. Despite being in near-constant use for over 1900 years, the structure is incredibly well preserved.

Today, the partially restored Colosseum is one of the most visited sites in all of Rome. In 1980, the historic center of Rome including the Colosseum was added as a UNESCO World Heritage site. In 2001, the Roman Colosseum was voted as one of the New Seven Wonders of the world, a distinction that is certainly justified.

The Roman Colosseum

The Roman Colosseum

The Colosseum was built just to the east of the Roman Forum and was the largest elliptical amphitheater ever built in the Roman Empire. Measuring 188 meters long by 156 meters wide, the structure was designed to hold 55,000 spectators.

The exterior of the Colosseum is made entirely of travertine stone and is four stories high. The building has eighty arched entrances, which allowed for easy access for its spectators that included all classes of Roman society.

Resident cat in the Colosseum

Resident cat in the Colosseum

The central area of the Colosseum, the arena, was covered with a great wooden floor and canvas to make it waterproof. Over this was a layer of sand that was used to absorb blood. Used as a venue to entertain the public with games, mock sea battles, animal hunts, and competitions, it is probably most famous for its gladiator contests. Although the Colosseum stirs images of classic civilized early Roman life the reality is that thousands of animals and gladiators brutally lost their lives within the walls of the Colosseum all in the name of entertainment.

Looking into the arena

Looking into the arena

The Christian emperor Honorius outlawed the gladiator contests in 407 AD and fights with wild animals were banned in 523 AD bringing to an end the bloody legacy of the Colosseum. By the late 6th century the Colosseum was being used for other purposes such as housing, workshops, a fortress, a quarry, and a Christian shrine.

In 1349, an earthquake caused severe damage to the Colosseum and collapsed much of the south side of the structure. Instead of rebuilding the Colosseum the site was used as an informal quarry and the stone was used for other purposes around Rome including building hospitals, churches, and St. Peter's Basilica.

The Roman Colosseum

The Roman Colosseum

Today, visitors can relive the history of the Colosseum by touring the structure on your own or taking a guided tour of the building.

Just recently, the underground portion of the Colosseum was opened to the public to view the areas where the animals were kept and where the gladiators prepped for their contest. Entry to the Colosseum is grouped together with the Roman Forum and the Palatine Hill and your ticket will be good for two days. To avoid waiting in the usually long lines at the Colosseum buy your ticket across the way at the Palatine Hill and you are good to enter all three sites.

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The interior

The interior

Admission Fees:

Full Entrance: 16 euro

Reduced: 2 euro (EU members between 18 and 25)

Under age 18: Free

On-Line Reservation Fee: 2 euro

Guided Tour: 5 euro

Audio Guide: 5.50 euro

Colosseum Hours:

Jan 2 to Feb 15: 8:30 am - 4:30 pm

Feb 16 to March 15: 8:30 am - 5:00 pm

March 16 to last Saturday in March: 8:30 am - 5:30 pm

Last Sunday in March to Aug 31: 8:30 am - 7:15 pm

Sept 1 to Sept 30: 8:30 am - 7:00 pm

Oct 1 to last Saturday in Oct: 8:30 am - 6:30 pm

Last Sunday in Oct to Dec 31: 8:30 am - 4:30pm

One of the many statues in the Colosseum Museum.

One of the many statues in the Colosseum Museum.

While visiting the Colosseum, be sure to visit the museum dedicated to Eros (Greek god of love) located on the upper floor of the outer wall of the building. The museum contains numerous statues, busts, and other artifacts excavated from the Colosseum site and other locations around Rome.

Also, every year on Good Friday the Pope leads ‘The Stations of the Cross’ around the Colosseum, a modern link to its use as a Christian Shrine and monastery in its many past lives. Enjoy your visit to Rome and in particular the Colosseum, one of Italy's most treasured sites.

Ciao for now.

The Roman Colosseum

Questions & Answers

Question: What are some reasons to visit the Roman Colosseum?

Answer: There are many reasons why people visit the Roman Colosseum. It is one of the most historic structures in the world and was the largest Amphitheatre in the world when built in 80 AD. The Colosseum represents almost two thousand years of Roman history, both good and bad.

Question: Do I need to do a tour to visit the Roman Colosseum?

Answer: You don’t have to do a tour, but I have visited the Colosseum both with and without a tour and I think it is a much better experience with a tour. Having someone point things out and explain the history of the Colosseum really adds to the experience.

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