Stepping back in time to Ancient Rome

One of the highlights of a trip to Rome is to visit the Colosseum, Palatine Hill and the Roman Fora.

On the first Sunday of every month, you can visit the three famous sites for free. We happened to be in Rome for this, but the queues were massive, and you couldn’t stand still for 10 seconds without being hassled by touts offering ‘skip the line’ tickets and guided tours for around 24 euros each. Realising that we were never going to get in, we decided to buy the tickets online and come back another day.

Tickets for the next day were sold out, but we managed to get them for Tuesday. The tickets include all three sites and cost 12 euros each plus a two euro booking fee (prices correct October 2018).

Travel tip: book tickets online and in advance for all the major sites in Italy otherwise you face huge queues and disappointment!

To whet our appetite, we found a free archaeological walk around some recent excavations close to the Colosseum. It was so amazing to be walking around buildings that had been there for two millennia! I absolutely loved it.

The free archaeological walk near the Colosseum

You can get to the Colosseum easily by Metro, alighting at Colosseo. We dodged the ticket touts to make our way to the admission queue, which was much lighter than we had seen on previous days. It was a very hot day, with little shade, so I used a scarf to protect my head and shoulders while we queued for around 20 minutes. Every couple of minutes someone tried to sell us something: water, or a hat, or a glass cube with a picture of the Colosseum etched on to it, which got really irritating after a while. Once through security and the metal detectors, we had to queue again to get our actual tickets! We then queued again for the toilets before eventually entering the arena.

It was worth all the queuing! The Colosseum is magnificent. In the centre of the stadium, you could see all the underground cages and tunnels where the gladiators and the animals emerged from. The seating is in three tiers: the emperor and the senators sat on the ground level; the middle level was for the nobles; and the ‘plebs’ and the women stood at the top level. It was very atmospheric; you could feel the history seeping through the stones, and you could certainly imagine what it must have been like 2,000 years ago. When I got home, I watched the film, Gladiator, which reimagines the Colosseum in all its glory but it’s not the same as actually standing on the same stones as the Ancient Romans!

The interior of the Colosseum

Like everywhere in Rome, the Colosseum was busy but as visitors are restricted to 3,000 at any one time, it didn’t feel too crowded. The stadium was very well preserved, but I think, if I’m being honest, I preferred the Roman Fora which we visited the next day.

You enter both Palatine Hill and the Roman Fora via the Arc de Tito, using the same ticket as the Colosseum. The queue wasn’t too bad, maybe 20 minutes, but it was another hot day and there was no shade. The complex is huge! I had totally underestimated how much there was to see, and you could easily spend a couple of days there, examining everything in great detail.

The Roman fora

Palatine Hill is where the Emperor lived and you can explore the ruins of his palace, the bath areas and the gardens, admiring the views and the statues. Down below, is the market area and the temples, including the temple of the Vestal Virgins. Walking around, you could really picture what it must have felt like in Ancient Rome. If anything, I found it more impressive than the Colosseum and certainly less busy. Unfortunately, the beating sun did make sightseeing pretty tiring, so we called it a day after about three hours.

Palatine Hill

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