Rome – Colosseum Tour

Hi friends, welcome back to my Italy series! After touring the Forum and Palatine Hill, it was time for the main event, the Colosseum tour. The Colosseum’s real name is the Flavian Amphitheater and it was built in AD 80. It reaches 160 feet high, one-third miles around, and only about one-third of the original structure remains. The rest was lost due to earthquakes and scavengers taking materials for other Roman buildings (ancient recycling 😉 ).

In its glory days, the Colosseum was covered in white marble with statues of Greek and Roman gods in each of the arches. Beneath the marble the amphitheater was constructed with concrete bricks and arches, but no mortar was used, just keystones wedged in. There were also wooden beams at the top that held an awning to give the crowd shade.

There are 76 numbered entrances and it’s estimated the crowds of about 50,000 could exit and enter in 15 minutes. If only our modern-day stadiums were as efficient!

I booked a tour that included the underground level where we could walk the hallways the prisoners, animals, and gladiators did. Currently you can only visit the underground with a tour, but you can buy tickets to the arena level for a closer view to the tunnels. When it was our turn, we left the crowds behind and the twelve of us headed down to the underground level.

The Colosseum had 80 elevator shafts that would hoist up props, animals, gladiators, and prisoners to the arena level. This kept the crowd and fighters on their toes, you never knew who, what, or where enemies could come from. I can’t imagine the suspense while waiting to go up and knowing you’d probably not make it out alive.


The underground opened to the public in 2010 and I highly recommend seeing it. It was nice to briefly leave the crowds behind and view this iconic sight from a different perspective.

We then headed back up to see the arena level. The arena was a wooden floor sprinkled with sand so they could clear the blood easier. There is a reconstruction now so you can see what it looked like.


In a typical day at the Colosseum, act one was animals and hunters, act two was criminals or POWs, and act three was the gladiators. When the Colosseum was inaugurated, there was a 100-day festival and over 2,000 men and 9,000 animals died. They also brought in water and had sea battles which would be pretty incredible to see!

The seating inside the Colosseum was dictated by class with the Emperor and Vestal Virgins having the best seats. The next best seats went to nobles, then ordinary men, and the wooden bleachers in the nosebleeds were for foreigners, women, and slaves.

Our tour ended at the arena and we were free to spend as much time in the Colosseum as we desired. Jon and I sat on some benches and took it all in before heading to the second level. The third level is currently closed for renovations.

Outside the Colosseum, the Arch of Constantine marks the victory of Constantine over his rival Maxentius in AD 312. The night before the battle Constantine had a dream of a cross in the sky and when he became Emperor, he legalized Christianity. Gladiator battles were banned in AD 435, and the doors to the Colosseum were officially closed in AD 523.

Jon and I loved our tour of the Colosseum, especially the underground, and it was one of the highlights of our trip!

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37 thoughts on “Rome – Colosseum Tour

  1. An awesome tour Lyssy. It seems that people still love great stadium spectacles. Perhaps a few less people killed and less blood these days. You just have to be awestruck standing there imagining all the feelings. As to their quick entry and exit, perhaps they had no clear bag policy for patrons. Thanks for sharing. Have a great day. Allan

    1. Very true, people do love a good show. I can’t imagine enjoying watching people fighting till death. Simpler times without the clear bag policy for sure!

  2. Just this morning, our local newspaper (the Frankfurter Rundschau) ran a short article about the “increasing numbers of rats and mice” in and around the Colosseum in Rome. They quoted a city official saying that the situation is “absolutely under control” and that all necessary measures have been taken.
    Did you see any rats or mice when you were there?

    1. That’s interesting! I’m sure I did see a few in some alley type streets, but living in NYC I am not as fazed by rats/mice as the average person ha.

  3. Great photos, Lyssy! Until now, I had not seen any of the coliseum’s underground, and I had no idea that it had elevators. How interesting the tour must have been. It’s hard to imagine that a building that old still stands.

    1. Thank you! It was a very cool tour, especially seeing the underground area. It’s amazing how they could engineer everything back then and how it’s stood the test of time for so long.

  4. I forgot about the “sea battles”; that must’ve been quite a sight back in the day. And it wasn’t until I saw “Gladiator” that I truly understood the way the Colosseum worked on its various levels and passageways. A more sophisticated design than it appears to be on the surface.

    1. It would’ve been neat to see the sea battles, the rest would really gross me out! It is a very sophisticated design, especially based on their lack of technology and machinery back then.

  5. While there were many amphitheaters built throughout the Roman empire, none of them were as big or as important as the Colosseum in the city of Rome. The fact that it was built in just eight years gives you more of an idea of how powerful the Romans were. Thanks for the tour. I am glad to hear you had a fantastic time. Aiva 🙂 xx

    1. Oh wow I don’t think I knew it was built in 8 years, thanks for that tidbit! It is a really incredible structure, the Romans sure were powerful and liked to prove it with all their buildings. Glad you enjoyed the tour 🙂

  6. That does sound like such an interesting tour; though I can not imagine having sat in those seats and watching the battles. I cover my eyes for most movie battle scenes and I know those are fake!

  7. I toured the inside of the Colosseum during my very first visit to Rome as a kid: while the idea of death for entertainment wasn’t in people’s minds back in those days, the Colosseum nevertheless had massive success in that arena (literally)! Glad you got to visit the icon of Rome!

    1. It is crazy to think it really was built to showcase death for entertainment. Glad that was outlawed! We really enjoyed visiting this icon of Rome 🙂

    1. It would be so amazing to see back then! It’s just crazy to imagine people enjoyed watching the fighting, I’d be so queasy.

    1. It’s a really impressive structure! There are so many details that are so incredible for the time it was built.

  8. Thanks for sharing such amazing pictures of this storied place. I love all the angles and perspectives. And it was all very instructive. We are going in Mid-October, and you inspired us to book a tour. Thank you,

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