Rome was the last stop on my Italian journey of May 2015. There are many great things to see and do in this beautiful city – St. Peter’s Basilica and the Vatican Museum to name but two – but if you only have one day here then there is an obvious choice: the Colosseum.
The best way to get to the Colosseum is via the metro. Head to Colosseo station on Line B and you literally cannot miss it. In fact, the metro station is my favourite way to get here precisely because of the wow factor you get when turning the corner to exit the metro station and seeing the amphitheatre standing there in all of its (weatherworn) glory. Prepare yourself as you cross the road into the hubbub of activity going on around the building. Several people will ask you if you want to go on a tour (priced at €25-30) and then another few will ask whether you want to buy a selfie stick. Unlike other selfie stick sellers on the streets of Rome, these ones stalk you and stare you out while you’re standing around. Don’t stand around, then, you say? Easier said than done in tourist season, as queues outside the Coliseum can be gigantic.
While I’m on the subject of queuing, here’s the deal: there’s one small(er) queue for people with pre-booked tickets and one massive queue for people turning up unprepared. Tour company employees will scour this longer queue looking for people who want to get in quicker and who are willing to pay more than double the standard entrance fee. If you are travelling with a smartphone/tablet, or if you like planning your trip in advance, you can visit the Colosseum website and book your tickets for €14 each (€2 more than the standard, queue-for-miles price (prices correct as at May 2015)). This gets you into the shorter queue, where the people checking pre-booked tickets will tell you to go to a certain ticket counter number. You don’t need a print-out, you just need to be able to show them your email receipt. The queue that we were sent to was one of the only empty ones, so we felt quite smug as we sauntered past people who had either queued for much longer than us or paid around double what we had. Equally, I’ve since seen discussions on Internet fora that suggest you can buy tickets in cash from the Palatine Hill entrance as you only need one ticket for this site, the Roman Forum and the Colosseum.
On entering the Colosseum itself, you will find an exhibition featuring a number of artefacts. It’s definitely worth a look, especially if you like Roman history. The best part for me, though, was walking around two floors of the actual arena and trying to picture what it would have been like back in Ancient Rome. If you look down, you can see the intricate maze of the underground where gladiators would have been held and released to potentially meet their maker. Certain tours are allowed down there with a guide, which you need to book in advance, as the authorities don’t want stampedes of tourists down there for obvious reasons.
The Roman Forum – the hub of Ancient Roman public life with ruins that include a number of temples – and Palatine Hill are both a few minutes’ walk from the Colosseum itself. These areas contain a plethora of fascinating ruins and are a remarkable sight. It’s definitely worth taking a stroll through here straight after seeing the Colosseum. If you’re travelling in summer, it may be worth doing the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill in the morning when it isn’t too hot as these areas are out in the open. Either way you decide to do it, be sure to take plenty of water and sun block!
When it comes to food and drink, we had no luck with walking around and picking out restaurants. It seemed like even if we tried to venture away from the herd of tourists, we still ended up eating in restaurants that were geared too much towards tourists and that I would in no way recommend. Do your research into restaurants before you go and have a few options available. There are a few good suggestions here.
Have you been to Rome recently? Do you have anything to add? Comment below!