Tour the Colosseum Underground in a small group. How small, it is up to you to decide! Scroll down to choose your preferred option.
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Colosseum Tours with Underground and Gladiators’ Arena
Colosseum Tour options
On this tour you will descend into the dark heart of the Colosseum. Here the gladiators could hear the cheering of the crowd awaiting them, or the roar of a lion about to be lifted from the dungeons underneath the floor to the blinding light of the Arena. Here, perfectly synchronized scenery changes were engineered by the best minds of the time to offer the excited crowd the best possible show in the whole Roman Empire. Today, we want to offer you the best possible Colosseum tour in Rome!
We created two tour options so that you can decide if you want to join a small group tour of Rome ancient city with max 12 people, or a larger group tour of 24. In making your choice please consider that even with a tour of max 12 in the archaeological area of Roman Forum and palatine hill, we join another small group inside the Colosseum. So, just inside the Colosseum we will always be max 24. If you choose a group of 24 to start, you will be with 24 people all along the your tour, even in the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill. Go back to the top of the page to choose your preferred tour option!
The Colosseum Underground
It was here, in the Colosseum Underground that the exciting and yet horrific shows that would take place in the Colosseum arena, were planned out, prepared and put up with the utmost attention. During this special Colosseum underground tour you will be able to see a newly constructed elevator, recreated by experts, which demonstrates how the Romans hoisted animals up to the arena level. There were twenty-eight of these elevators in the Colosseum, each powered by eight slaves. After exploring the dark tunnels of the Colosseum Underground, we will raise again to the street level to enter the actual arena, the stage where the show took place and blood was spilt.
Here the gladiators fought for their lives against animals and humans as well. On the second level you will have the chance to admire a beautiful exhibit on the history of the Colosseum and many archaeological findings of great interest to visualize what really was going on inside and around the Colosseum. From here you also have quite a beautiful view over the Arch of Constantine and the Roman Forum: a truly unforgettable experience! Don’t forget your camera! From here you take some great pictures of Rome and the ancient city. After* visiting the Colosseum (itinerary may vary, as at times we might visit the Colosseum at the end of the tour, not the beginning — but usually it is the beginning), we’ll proceed on our tour to explore the Roman Forum and the Palatine Hill.
Roman Forum and Palatine Hill
The Roman Forum was the city center of ancient Rome and this was the place where, like in any major city today, you could find the most important public areas and buildings: the marketplace, the Senate, the different temples, the House of the Vestals — virgins who had the honor and the responsibility to keep the eternal flame of Rome alive, ensuring its fortune and glory. Off the Via Sacra, we’ll visit the altar where Caesar was cremated. We’ll also visit two magnificent arches: the white marble Arch of Septimius Severus and the Arch of Constantine. Finally, we will climb up the Palatine Hill and admire the sites where the She-Wolf, La Lupa, nursed the twin founders of Rome: Romulus and Remus. It is the oldest part of Rome and the one favoured by Rome’s richest and most powerful families, including the imperial ones. It is here where they built their vast and luxurious palaces — and the English words “palace” harks back to the Palatine.
The Flavian amphitheatre
Despite much damage by fire, earthquakes and looting this stunning amphitheater has survived the centuries and it is still impressive today for its colossal size, inferior in no aspect to any modern stadium. The Colosseum could accommodate from 50,000 up to 80,000 thousand spectators, all coming to watch their favorite gladiators risking their lives on the arena in various and different ways: sword fights, animal hunts and even naval battles! The Colosseum was indeed an amazing architectural and engineering enterprise. Its whole system was so complex that it could be flooded in order to allow moke naval battle to take place inside. But many don’t know that the original name of the Colosseum was not actually “Colosseum;” it was Amphiteatrum Flavium.
The name of the Colosseum
The current name started to become popular during the Middle Ages because the building was located by a colossal statue of Nero, more than 20 meters high (66 feet). At the time of Nero this building still did not exist. On the very site where now stands the Colosseum, Emperor Nero had previously built a sort of artificial private lake. Some historians think that the decision of the next emperor, Vespesian, to build the famous amphitheater in that very place was a political move to return a private area impounded by Nero to the Roman people, who greatly appreciated the gift. The Colosseum was inaugurated by Vespasian’s son, Titus, in 80 AD and the occasion was marked by festive games that lasted 100 days during which thousands of people and animals were killed for the entertainment of the crowd. The building has four stories and each of the three lower floors consists of eighty arcades. Poles to hold the awning that could be stretched over the arena when necessary were put in place to protect spectators from the sun and the rain. The whole system required hundreds of expert sailors to be maneuvered! Our expert guide will tell you everything about the games on the arena, during our Colosseum underground tour! The last known games were held under the reign of the Barbarian king Theodoric (AD 473 – 526). The Western Roman Empire finished in AD 476 with the dead of the last Roman emperor, a teenager boy ironically named Romulus Augustulus, that is, respectively, the names of the first king and the first emperor of Rome.
Rome will stand as long as the Colosseum stands. If the Colosseum falls, Rome will fall and if Rome perishes the world will end.
(St Bede, AD 672-735)
Colosseum Tickets… in Ancient Rome
Access to the Colosseum was regulated by a sophisticated system that included tickets, numbered entrances and exits. VIP access was reserved to senators, knights and higher classes. All the other archways were numbered so that spectators with a matching number on their tickets (tesserae) could easily find a way to their seat and leave the stadium in good order after the fun. The entrance to the auditorium was free but the levels were allotted to distinct groups of the population in accordance with the class structure of Ancient Rome. Members of the senatorial class sat directly in front of the arena with seats of honour at the axes for the emperor and his family, officers of state, the Vestal Virgins and the priests. The second level was for knights and the last two levels, the third level and the fourth, were for all the other classes. A curious note: the top level was reserved for women.
What’s the Colosseum Made Of?
This last level also was not made of stone, like the others, but wood. The basement was made of wooden planks and contained al the equipment necessary fro the games: dressing rooms, stage machinery, cages for the wild beasts and, of course, the weapons. With the aid of a system of pulleys and counterweights, all kind of scenery could be lifted up into the Colosseum arena from the underground, over sloping ramps, so that a landscape setting could be created for animal hunts or different kind of reenactments. You will have the unique opportunity to see all this during our Colosseum underground tour, and your guide will recount how the scenography inside was built and used. Unfortunately, during the Middle Ages the Colosseum laid abandoned. However, curiously enough, plants whose seeds were brought in Rome with the animals imported from Africa for the games, grew inside the Colosseum creating a sort of exotic greenhouse that would have been very interesting to see. Later, the building was turned into a fortress by the Frangipane family and then made into a memorial to Christian martyrs in 1744. A bronze cross was erected on one of the sides of the elliptical stage and this preserved the Colosseum from further depredations. This is certainly one of reasons why we are still able to see this marvel of Ancient Rome still today!
Shape of the Colosseum
The amphitheatre, as an architectural concept, is one of Roman origin. The Greeks did not have anything comparable to it. The Greek theater differed from the Roman amphitheater not only in shape, but most importantly in functions. The Greek theater was used for theatrical acting, like for tragedies and other kinds of fictional representations. The Roman amphitheater was used for hunts and gladiatorial games. The shape of the Roman amphitheater — not perfectly round, but elliptical, often in a proportion of 1.2/1.3 between the short and the long side — must have thus derived from the first fights, sponsored by private citizens. These events usually took place in public spaces, like in squares or in the forum. People would gather spontaneously around the fighters in a circular shape. The first possible gladiatorial games recorded were held in Rome in 264 BC, for the funerals of a man called Bruto Pero. His two sons had three couples of slaves fighting in the Forum Boarium, a cattle market not far from the Tiberine Island, on the South bank of the Tiber river.
Since then, we have records of fights between slaves again in 216 BC (as 22 couples fought in the occasion of Marco Antonio Lepido’s funeral, in the Roman Forum); and again, in 200 BC, with 25 fighting couples. In 183 BC, in the occasion of the funeral of High Pontiff Licinio Crasso, 60 couples of gladiators were involved. In the year 65 BC there was a show in the Roman Forum with 320 couple of gladiators fighting. The dramatic increase in demand for gladiatorial games made it more and more necessary to build dedicated edifices. The Roman Forum was no longer able to host all the people gathering on occasion of the fights. But gladiatorial games were not the only show going on in Roman Amphitheaters. Romans actually had a real passion for hunts of exotic animals. The origin of such practice dates back to the year 252 BC, when the general Quintus Caecilius Metellus, after a successful war campaign against the Carthaginians, brought back to Rome an unusual and curious booty of 142 elephants. Romans, however, did not know how to employ these elephants in battle or for other purposes. So at the end of the day, it was very expensive to feed and keep huge animals like these. Thus it was decided to put up a show in the Circus Maximus, where the elephants became unfortunate targets for hunting archers, who were supposed to kill them with their arrows. People, apparently, enjoyed the spectacle a great deal. And since then, Romans always loved exotic animal hunts. Once the Flavian amphitheater was finished, animals were kept in cages in the Colosseum underground, and released on the arena through dedicated elevators and sophisticated machinery.
The Ancient City of Rome
Our Tour of the Colosseum underground does not end* in the Colosseum! The itinerary continues into the Roman Forum and the Palatine Hill. The Via Sacra (sacred way), on which we will walk, was used for religious and triumphal processions and led to the so-called Forum Romanum, the center of political, religious, commercial and judicial life. Originally a marshy valley of no economic use in which the dead were buried, it soon became the natural focal point of the city for its central position, when the surrounding hills had been settled. The fifth king of Rome, Taquinius Priscus, is said to have erected several public buildings in this valley and most importantly to have installed an extensive drainage system to draw the water off the swamps. We talk about centuries before the birth of Christ. The northern part of this new area contained the Comitium, where the political meetings were held and popular festival celebrated. The Curia, where the senators met, and the so-called Rostra, the platform from which the orators spoke, were built next to it already in the 5th century BC. Further south was the actual market where farmers and tradesmen sold their products and all kind of artisans offered their services. This was the so-called Roman Forum. This was also a place where the Gods were worshiped: next to the many temples that soon were built in this part of the city, it could also be found the house of the Vestal Virgins, and the Regia, the residence of the High Priest (pontifex maximus).
* Itinerary may vary: at times we might visit the Colosseum at the end of the tour, not the beginning — but usually, it is the beginning. This depends
The Arch of Constantine and Maxentius’ Basilica
Urban architecture began to flourish in the 2nd century when Rome rose to become the first world power. The face of the city changed. Imposing basilicas were built as law courts and marketplaces. In the first century BC, it was built also the Tabularium, the state archive, whose building is today the actual seat of the Mayor of Rome. In the following decades, Augustus transformed the Roman Republic into what was now an empire. Rome was now a monarchy and its rulers expanded the Roman Forum in every direction, building new temples and erecting triumphal arches and basilicas that made the city center of Rome a marvel of that time, a marvel that attracted visitors and tourists from all over the world, coming to admire the beauty and the glory of this incredible city. The Imperial Forum and the Roman Forum kept expanding during the centuries, at least until Constantine transferred the capital of the Empire to Byzantium, then called Constantinople. Two of the last imperial buildings of Ancient Rome that we see during our Roman Forum tour, are the Arch of Constantinople and the Basilica of Maxentius, Constantine’s fiercest enemy. The two came to a final battle in AD 312 by Ponte Milvio, a bridge on the Tiber, just outside Rome. Constantine won under the signs of the Christian God and from this moment on history took a completely different direction. To celebrate his victory the Emperor built a triumphal arch just by the Colosseum, that goes under his name: The Arch of Constantine. It was one of the last important monuments of what we could today call the center of the world, Rome, the Eternal City.
Our Colosseum Underground Tours
Skip the line tickets are included in your purchase with Roma Experience!
The Colosseum and Roman Forum are ancient sites and not wheelchair friendly because of steep stairs and uneven ground. Because of extensive walk, little opportunity to sit and rest, we encourage those with mobility issues (with or without wheelchair) to take a Private Tour of the Colosseum instead, so that the tour guide can adapt the pace to their needs.
Meeting Time: 8:30am
Meeting Point: Central Location in Rome (Full details provided after booking)
* Itinerary might vary at times, depending on the Colosseum Administration.
** Backpacks and large bags are not allowed inside the Colosseum!! — NB* There is no cloakroom service at the Colosseum.
***Please don’t forget to wear comfortable shoe. Bring a hat, sunscreen lotion, and water bottles that you will be able to refill in the fountains along the path.
**** Please notice that the Colosseum Administration, which depends on the Ministry of Cultural Assets and Activities has the faculty to close the Colosseum, or parts of it, with or without notice, for events, strikes, heavy rain, or any other reason. In which case, we might offer an alternative itinerary as it seems fit.