In the heart of the city of Rome in Italy lies the icon of the city, the Colosseum which is the biggest amphitheatre ever built in the world. With its history dating back to 2000 years, this magnificent monument was given the status of one of the seven wonders of the modern world on 7th July 2007.
The place attracts 6 million tourists every year. Visiting this remarkable place, travellers feel transported from century to century listening with awe to the stories of this seemingly timeless monument. Standing still in its glory, this monument has faced devastation several times by fire, earthquakes and vandalism over the years.
Inaugurated in A.D. 80 by Emperor Titus, the place was known as Flavian Amphitheater, the name “Flavian”, deriving from the name of the Flavian dynasty who built this as a gift to people of Rome. The name Colosseum was later on named after the huge Colossus of Nero which stood nearby.
Apart from being a tourist attraction, this monument also has a link with the Roman Catholic Church. On the day of Good Friday every year, thousands join the “Way of Cross” procession which starts from the area around the Colosseum with the Pope leading it with a torch lit.
The place also symbolises the international campaign against capital punishment. As a gesture against death sentences, the local authority changes the colour of night illumination of Colosseum from white to golden whenever a person condemned to death gets a release or gets death sentence waived off.
How to Reach Colosseum
Rome has two airports — the main airport Leonardo da Vinci International Airport at Fiumicino and another the Ciampino airport.
1. By Train: To reach Colosseum from Fiumicino airport, which is 27.6 km away, there is a train which runs every 15 minutes and takes the passengers to Tiburtina Station in 40 minutes. From there, passengers need to take the subway line B and get off at the Colosseum stop.
2. By Bus: There is also an hourly bus from the airport to Colosseum which reaches in approximately 55 minutes.
At a distance of 14.5 km from Colosseum is the other airport, the Ciampino airport.
3. By Bus: There are hourly bus services which take passengers to Subaugusta and Cinecitta stations for taking line.
4. By Metro: A metro which goes till Laurentina station to take line B metro. Both metro line A & B goes up to the Colosseum.
Other than the public transports, both airports have buses which take passengers to the centre of Rome and from there, shuttles and taxi services to the Colosseum.
Best Time to Visit Colosseum
Although the Colosseum is open to the public for the whole year, it is pleasant to walk through it during the winter season. The mildly cold weather from November to March makes it easier to explore the place. Remember, the place is closed on 1st January and 25th December.
However, you should be aware of the rush of visitors during Christmas and Easter holidays. Also, it is better to avoid the peak summer season which is infamous for humidity. The best time of the day is right at the opening at 8:30 am as it takes around 3 hours to cover the entire place along with a guide. Those who wish to see the undergrounds as well, need to spend 3.5 hours. If one wants to enjoy the beauty of the place by moonlight, special guided tours are available at a premium price.
What Not to Miss at Colosseum
1. Arch of Constantine — Located in between the Colosseum and the Palantine Hill is the largest Arch of Constantine. This arch was built by the Roman senate in 315 AD to celebrate Emperor Constantine’s victory. Travellers often love to enjoy the beauty of this place at night.
2. Ludus Magnus — Located just opposite to the Colosseum is the Ludus Magnus, the ruins of gladiatorial training school of ancient Rome. Only a small part of the place is visible while most of it is still hidden underground.
3. Palatine Hill — Since 1000 BC, the Palantine Hill has been inhabited and known to be the birthplace of the Italian capital. The most central of the seven hills of Rome, the place has several attractions such as Domus Flavia, House of Livia, House of Augustus, Farnese Gardens, Hippodrome of Domitian and also Palatine museum.
4. Roman Forum — This place is the hub of political and social activities of the Romans. A must-visit is a walk around the Forum. The place currently is worth a visit for the various places to see such as Via Sacra, Arch of Titus, Arch of Septimius Severus, Temple of Antoninus and Faustina, Basilica of Maxentius and Constantine and so on.
5. Basilica Di San Pietro in Vincoli — This place was built during 15th century to house the relics of Saint Peter’s chains during his imprisonment in Jerusalem. The house is famous for the Michelangelo’s statue of Moses.
6. Basilica Di San Clemente — This is a minor basilica which was dedicated to Pope Clement I. This beautiful building is made of three layers. Records the history of Rome from the beginning of Christianity up until the Middle Ages is present in this temple.
Other Essential Information About Colosseum
1. Location: The Colosseum is located at Piazza del Colosseo in Rome, Italy. It is located at the heart of the city just east of Roman Forum.
2. Opening Hours: It is open to the visitors on all days from 8:30 am and closes one hour before sunset between 4:30 to 7:15 depending on the time of sunset. The Colosseum is closed on 1st January and 25th December every year.
3. Tickets: The entry to the Colosseum is free for anyone below 18 years. Those belonging to European Union members and aged between 18 and 25 years have to pay €2.00. The box office tickets prices have several categories starting from €16.00.
4. Distance from Airport: The distance between the Fiumicino Airport and the Colosseum is 27.6 km and from Ciampino Airport, it is 14.5 km.
Origins of the Colosseum
The origin of this place dates back to the time of the Great Fire of Rome after which Emperor Nero had seized the land and had built his palace at this very place. The palace had an artificial lake surrounded by pavilions and gardens. The gigantic bronze Colossus of Nero stood near the entrance of the palace.
This statue was later on remodelled to the likeness of Sun God and the head of Nero was replaced several times with heads of succeeding Emperors. When Emperor Vespasian started the construction in A.D. 70-72, his intention was to give back the area to the people of Rome after the suffering they had at the hand of Nero and his successors.
During construction, the artificial lake was filled in and the whole place along with surrounding gardens and pavilions were used for the construction of the amphitheater.The supporting buildings were constructed in the area where Nero’s palace once stood. The construction continued till A.D. 80 when his son, Emperor Titus inaugurated the place.
Emperor Domitian, Vespasian’s younger son, further modified the place between A.D. 81 to 96. Domitian added the hypogeum, a series of underground tunnels. He also increased the seating capacity by adding a gallery to the top of the amphitheatre.
History of the Colosseum
Emperor Titus had inaugurated the place in A.D. 80 with a festival which continued for 100 days with various games. The amphitheatre could host 50,000 to a maximum capacity of 87,000 spectators a day. An average of 65,000 spectators would gather on a day to watch gladiatorial combats, hunts, wild animal fights, enactments of famous battles and later, dramas from classical mythologies.
Over the centuries, the place was ruined and restored several times. The place caught fire in 217 and was repaired between 240 and 320, again suffered an earthquake in 443 and restored. In between, the place became a regular hunt for stone robbers and thieves who made further damages.
Initially created for entertainment, in the 12th century, the amphitheatre was used as a fortress by the Frangipani family and a part was converted into housing and workshops. In 1349, the place suffered another earthquake and was badly damaged and again restored and restructured.
Later on, between 14th to 17th century, it was converted into a sacred site by Christians and in 1749, the place became a Christian Shrine. In recent years, a major restoration program was done between 1993 and 2000 and the place was converted into a tourist attraction.
Architecture of the Colosseum
The basic interior and exterior architecture of the amphitheatre is like two roman theatres standing back to back. It is a freestanding structure and elliptical in plan. With a length of 189 meters and a width of 156 meters, the place is spread across 24,000 square meters(6 acres) with a height of 48 meters and a perimeter of 545 meters.
The central arena is oval having an 87 meters length and 55 meters width. There is a 5 meters wall surrounding the arena from which seating arises in tiers. The central arena is a wooden floor covered with sand. Beneath the floor is the hypogeum which is the underground series of tunnels earlier used for housing animals and slaves.
There are 3 tiers of seating having arched entrances from eight sides.There are four decorated axials at four sides of the colosseum. The axial, at the main entrance, is named as Arch of Constantine, in memory of Constantine’s history over Maxentius at Pons Milvus.
Each of the stories contains columns of different styles with simple Doric style at bottom, Ionic in middle and ornate Corinthian order at the top. Each tier is divided into sections by curved passages and low walls. Also, the arches of the second and third-tier arcade had framed statues.
Tips for visiting Colosseum
1. On every 1st Sunday of the month, the Colosseum is open to the public for free and has up to 30,000 visitors on those days.
2. In the Colosseum, heavy backpacks or suitcase/trolleys are not allowed although small backpacks are allowed. All bags are checked with metal detectors before enteringTip 3:Three wheelchairs are available on the 1st floor and five at the main entrance if anyone needs them.
3. The Colosseum only allows 3000 people at the same time due to security reason.
4. Since there is a long walk involved, visitors need to wear comfortable shoes and also carry hats or caps to cover the head especially during summer