My recent trip through Italy was jam-packed with city sightseeing, driving through gorgeous Italian countryside and discovering culinary Italy by trying out all the delicious Italian dishes. Nearly every day we were on the move, making the visit incredibly interesting and varied, but oh so tiring. Up until Rome, we had been exploring Turin, Bologna, Venice, Florence and Cinque Terre on our own, and we felt it was time to take off the pressure, and join a group tour to lead us around one of the most impressive sights in the capital city: The Colosseum.
Being one of the most iconic structures of Rome, the Colosseum and its fascinating history, makes it a must visit. We joined the Colosseum evening tour by City Wonders, where you also have exclusive access to the underground levels of the building, previously not accessible to the public. Being able to visit the Colosseum in the evening, after the normal opening hours and seeing a part of the building that not many people have seen before, made this tour stand out from all the other Colosseum tours.
Our meeting point was at Trajan’s column at 7pm. Trajan’s column marks one of the 5 forums near the Colosseum. The summer sun was still blazing hot, so we all tried to find a little shade while waiting for everyone to arrive. We were given headphones and an audio guide so we could hear our guide even if we were meters away. Most tours have this feature and I love it. It gives you the freedom to stop at a certain place and take photos, instead of feeling rushed and trying to keep up with the group.
The tour started on time, and we were led around the Roman forum. Our guide explained we would be walking around the forum and the Capitoline hill, before making our way to the Colosseum. She was great and very knowledgeable and gave us plenty of opportunities to take photos.
Because the Roman Forum is closed at the time of the tour, our guide took us to the Capitoline hill from where you are treated to some great views of the Roman Forum and the Palatine Hill. On this spot, our guide gave us more information about the history of the forum and the Palatine Hill.
The forum was the heart of Roman life, the commercial, social and political centre where public speeches were held as well as Gladiator matches and elections. Excavations started in the 18th and 19th century, and continue today.
An hour later, we arrived at the Colosseum. The lighting was perfect for taking gorgeous photos. It was 30 minutes before sunset, the sky was blue with hints of orange and purple illuminating the streaks of clouds above us. We entered the grand structure from a side entrance and were treated to some epic arches that go around the entire Colosseum.
After a quick toilet visit, we entered the main arena, and were guided to the makeshift platform on one side of the Colosseum. It’s a great spot to take in the huge building. All around you, you can see the seating area, and below, you can see the maze of hallways where the gladiators and the animals prepared for the fight.
The Colosseum’s construction began in 72AD and was completed in 80AD and could hold between 50000 and 80000 visitors. The events held at the biggest amphitheatre in the world were gladiator battles, executions, fake sea battles and animal hunts.
Soon, we made our way down the stairs to the underground levels of the Colosseum. This was the moment I had been waiting for, walking through the passageways where the gladiators walked almost 2000 years ago. The sun had already set, and it was quickly growing darker, which made the experience even more interesting and dramatic. Our guide explained the purpose of this level and who worked here in dire circumstances.
We were given a little bit of time to take some photos, and I took some time to linger around a little bit longer after the group had left to properly take in the place. Only a small part is accessible to the public, as they are still excavating the rest of the underground levels.
The underground network
The Hypogeum, as the underground area was called, consisted of two levels of tunnels, animal cages and vertical shafts with access to the arena which were used to instantly transport animals or scenery into the arena. The crowd loved diversity, and several trapdoors were used for ‘special effects’.
As we made our way to the first level, we walked up the stairs the public had used to make their way to their seats 2 centuries ago. The 1st level has a wealth of information on the building, the animals used in the fights based on archaeological finds and how life was during the time. It’s basically a small museum, and you can spend some time here exploring and reading the wealth of information on display.
The sun had completely set by the time we went back outside the 1st level. A gorgeous night view of the Colosseum arena opened up in front of us, and soon I was snapping away again. There are plenty of spots where you can rest your camera to take a long exposure photo, but a tripod would have worked a little better.
The end of the tour was approaching, and we made our way to the outside ring of the Colosseum on the 1st level, where our guide explained more about the surrounding area before saying goodbye and sending us off into the Roman night.
My Thoughts On The Tour
I really enjoyed this tour, as it showed me a part of the Colosseum I had never seen before and is not accessible to the general public.
I found the first part of the tour a little long, as we walked around the Forum and Capitoline Hill, but it gave me plenty of time to take photos around the area.
The time of the day is also perfect for capturing beautiful sunset images, and the audioset gives you the opportunity to do just that, while still being able to listen and take in all the information the guide is providing you.
Being able to walk around the Colosseum with almost no one there (there were a few other group tours, but we only encountered 1 group while leaving the underground level) is a big plus.
Be prepared for night time photography, as it will be dark when you’re in the Colosseum!