If you’re planning a trip to Rome, visiting the Colosseum is probably high on your must-see list. It’s one of the most famous sights in Europe, and it’s incredibly impressive and packed with history. Because of this, it’s also one of the most visited sights, which means long lines and huge crowds. Andy and I took an exclusive access, skip-the-line tour of the Roman Forum and the Colosseum the last time we traveled to Rome, and it was one of the best decisions we made. Here’s what you can expect on the tour.
Exploring the Roman Forum
The Roman Forum sits next to the Colosseum and was the center of Roman life thousands of years ago. Archeologists are constantly excavating the site and finding out more about this ancient civilization. Our guide even pointed out a section that was still buried about 20 years ago, which means when I first visited as a teenager, I wouldn’t have seen this area. How many other sights are constantly changing like that? Not many!
Obviously much of the Forum is in ruins due to age. But we learned on the tour that the buildings were taken apart, stone by stone, by people who were building other structures like churches. Centuries ago, people just didn’t think about preserving history the way we do now, so it seemed reasonable to them to remove stones and marble to reuse someplace else. But if a building in the Forum was declared a church, it could not be dismantled.
Our guide told us stories about Julius Caesar and other Roman emperors while we walked through the areas they once did. We also walked through Palatine Hill, which was one of the original Seven Hills of Rome and where Roman emperors and the elite once lived.
Skipping the line at the Colosseum
After exploring and learning about the Roman Forum, we went to the Colosseum. As you can imagine, the line was unbearably long. Luckily, because of our tour, we were able to completely bypass the line and go right in. I kind of felt like a rockstar.
Since this was a behind the scenes tour, our guide took us to several places that the general public does not have access to. First we went to the arena floor where we could see the Colosseum all around us. And since it was only our group, we didn’t feel crowded by any other tourists.
Underneath the Colosseum
Next we got to visit the underground level of the Colosseum, another area off limits to visitors with normal tickets. This is where the gladiators prepared and waited until it was their turn to go out onto the main floor. We learned that everything was choreographed to make sure the schedule went as planned, which was even more tricky than you might think since it was so dark in there.
We also learned that the gladiators, despite basically being prisoners, received excellent medical treatment after the shows because they didn’t want every single one of them to die each time. If too many men died, they’d have to be replaced, and the new ones would have to be trained. It made more sense for the shows to make sure only a few died each time. Still pretty gruesome and cruel to think about, but it was interesting to learn some details I hadn’t heard before.
Top level of the Colosseum
The last place our guide took us was to the third tier, the top level of the Colosseum. Again, we were only allowed up there because we were on this exclusive access tour. From that high, we had excellent views of the rest of the Colosseum, the Roman Forum, and parts of the city. And since no other tourists were around, the experience was much more relaxed and enjoyable.
If you look towards the middle of this next photo, you’ll see an empty platform in a half-circle shape. That’s the arena floor section where we got to go earlier in the Colosseum.
Preparing for the Underground Colosseum Tour
The tour groups are intentionally small, which I always think makes for a better experience. But be aware that the Colosseum has its own regulations, and two groups are combined for the Colosseum portion of the tour. It still didn’t feel like an overly large group though, especially since we were almost always in areas that are off limits to other tourists, so it wasn’t a big deal.
Since the tour is outdoors and almost entirely in areas without shade, make sure you bring lots of water and wear sunscreen. This is especially important if you’re visiting in the summer.
There’s a morning and an afternoon option, so you can choose whichever one works best for your schedule. The tour includes entrance tickets for the Forum and the Colosseum. The tour ends inside the Colosseum, so if you want to explore more of it after the tour, you can.
Why you should take the Underground Colosseum Tour
This is exactly the type of tour we think is worth booking. You get to skip the long lines at the Colosseum, which saves you lots of time and reduces the stress and hassle of waiting around. The tour takes you to several areas you can’t reach without a tour, or even on many other normal tours. It’s a small group, which makes for a more personal experience.
Throughout the tour, we heard countless stories and interesting facts that made it much more enjoyable to see this historical sight. I don’t always remember all the details after taking tours, but I love hearing the information while I’m there. It heightens the experience, and this Colosseum tour was no exception.
I highly recommend this tour. I think the Colosseum is one of the most impressive and important sights to see in Rome, and I can’t imagine experiencing it without the tour, the skip-the-lines access, and all the behind the scenes sections we got to see.
Find more helpful info to plan your trip to Italy:
- Which Food Tour in Rome Should You Take?
- Simple Italy Itinerary with ideas for planning one week in Italy
- Local tips for finding the hidden gems in Italy
- Travel Planning Resources I Love
- Or check out the full Italy section here