You can’t imagine visit Rome without imagining the giant Colosseum and ancient Roman Ruins. Towering over Rome, it’s the central place people think of when they want to visit the ancient city. I visited back in 2002 when I was a young backpacking twenty year old, but my husband had never been to the ancient wonder. Now that we were visiting the famous city we made to sure to not only see the famous sites, but get a tour to make sure that we had the knowledge to truly remember our visit.
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When I was young and poor, my best friend and I wandered the Roman Colosseum and the Roman Forum with nothing more than a guidebook and quirky optimism that we could figure out what we were looking at. Being older, wiser, and with more funds, I decided that we needed a guide to take us through these two key pieces of history. My husband had been dreaming of seeing the Colosseum since he was a kid, I didn’t want his first experience to be less than amazing. We used Get Your Guide to book a guided tour with timed entry tickets through both Roman Classics.
Get Your Guide made it really easy to book the tour. We were able to pick the times we wanted, the size group, and the length, then it directed us to the tour group that would best meet our needs. We chose to have a 3-hour tour with up to 30 people on a Friday afternoon after my husband’s conference was done. The tour was booked with Show Me Italy, and we were instructed to meet at a small alley near their headquarters 15 minutes before the start of our tour. We grabbed some gelato then headed over.
At first I was a little nervous when I looked and saw the crowd gathering in that tight alley. There were way more than 30 people! But my fears were quickly subsided when the tour guide announced we would be breaking into three groups, and to find the tour guide with your colored sticker. We had white so we found our tour guide who started handing out the lovely ear piece transmitters you see on all people on guided tours in Rome. While I hate wearing the ear pieces, I will say it’s so much more efficient than trying to get as close as possible to your tour guide so you can hear.
Then we started walking to the Colosseum and our guide was walking as if the floor underneath him was a on fire. I wanted to stop and take some pictures but I had trouble just keeping up. Later I learned that each tour group gets an assigned 30 minute window to enter the Colosseum and if you miss the window they won’t let the whole group in. Gulp! I see why he made us rush. We went through the various levels of security and finally, we were in the Colosseum.
We entered under the pedestrian arches, and gathered in the shade to get some history on the Colosseum. Completed in 80 AD, the Colosseum is the largest ancient amphitheater ever built and the largest that remains standing. At it’s height it could hold 50,000 spectators, and it could be filled and emptied in 15 minutes. Each person’s ticket had a series of numbers and you found your seat entering in the right numbered arches. We stood under those same arches then walked up the same stairs the ancients did, but then went to a roped off area for tour groups, and were in overlooking the grand stadium.
Today you look down and see a labyrinth of hallways and compartments. But back in the days of gladiator fights, there was a floor covering this area and you realize how massive this arena was. Here is where having a tour guide helped. The tour guide was able to get us into an area of the Colosseum that is not open to those without a tour group. We were able to get better pictures with less people in them. In addition, the tour guide talked us through what we were looking at. He was able to point out where the stands were, the elevator that brought animals from below ground up to the stadium, and the history of how the Colosseum was able to stand for so long. He even pointed out the ancient bathroom and unfortunately told us how people cleaned themselves. Things I rather wish I didn’t learn….
However, as is always the case with tours, your time in the Colosseum is limited and it was time to move on to the Roman Forum. We left the Colosseum and walked next door to the massive Roman Forum and Palatine Hill. The Roman Forum was really a large plaza that was surrounded by several important buildings of ancient Rome. This was the center of Roman Life.
We started by going straight to the top of Palatine Hill. It was quite a hike up, and my out of shape body was huffing and puffing by the time we got to the top. But once up there, I understood why our tour guide started there. From here you could see all of the Roman Forum. It was an amazing view, and his explanation helped ground us in what we were seeing. When I was a young 20-something backpacker, we never made it to this view. I learned that the first Popes of Rome (who were actually high roman priests, NOT Christians) lived in the massive buildings we passed and looked over the town from this high point. I finally saw the forum, the actual road, as opposed to just a collection of ruins. And I learned about the layers of history in Rome, actually visible in the buildings built on top of each other.
After our introduction to the Forum, we walked down and learned about Arch of Titus build by Emperor Domitian shortly after the death of his older brother Titus, the beautiful Temple of Divus Lulius that the Christians tried to tear down (the evidence still in the columns) and then turned into a church. And we finished with seeing the grave of Julius Caesar, which people still bring flowers to. Then it was done. We handed in our ear sets back to our guide, thanked him for the wonderful job he did, and he left us to enjoy the rest of the Roman Forum on our own.
After the three hours, and five days of hard tourist-ing and a business conference, we were pretty exhausted by the end. We took a few photos, but decided to wander back to our hotel. We were tired, but we had to stop on our way back and admire the view of the Forum and the Colosseum. Here in the US, we think that something 200 years old is amazing, but this history is thousands of years old. It’s amazing to see how much was created and stood the test of time. Looking at it makes us appreciate it and how far we have come that much more.
If you are interested in any other guided tours by Get Your Guide, check out the selection below.
* Starred Photos taken by Atma Photography
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