We spent a week in Rome recently and everyday we walked past one of the world’s most iconic sites. The Colosseum is perhaps one of the most globally recognised structures and sits in the heart of a bustling metropolitan city yet still retains its majesty and beauty. It makes up a huge part of what has been preserved as Ancient Rome and definitely one of Rome’s most prolific tourist attractions. It was top of our list of things to do in Rome with kids. When buying a Colosseum ticket it also gives you access to the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill. You can either go to all three sites on the same day or the ticket allows you to enter each site once only on two consecutive days.
Having seen first hand the queues to buy tickets at the actual Colosseum – over four hours long in some cases – we decided to get to the ticket office at Palatine Hill for opening at 8:30am on the morning we’d planned to visit. Once the gates opened the queue moved quite quickly and when it was our turn we decided to buy the best available ticket that allowed access to newly opened areas of Palatine Hill and the Forum – SUPER7 – that house special audio/visual exhibits, bringing each exhibit to life. At €18 for adults and the children going free, this is an absolute bargain. Entrance is apparently free on the first Sunday of each month but queues are long as there’s no way of reserving tickets online.
Compared to guided tours that tour operators will sell you we saved a fortune. Don’t be fooled by people around the Colosseum wearing tabards that say ‘Staff’ on them – they don’t work for Co-Op Culture, the company in charge of the historic sites, they want to sell you massively inflated Colosseum tours that will cost you ten times the entrance price. You can also use the Roma Pass but we thought it was better value for money navigating Rome’s attractions by ourselves. All Colosseum tickets skip the line – so don’t think you need a special skip the line ticket either. Some tours do however go to parts of the Colosseum that a general admittance ticket doesn’t allow, subject to availability and these must be booked through the Co-Op Culture website or a tour operator usually months in advance – they were sold out for two months after our visit.
Audio guides for all three sites are available for a few euros and this lets you go at your own pace. The children aren’t keen on audio tours so we made use of some family friendly guide books instead and went at the children’s pace.
When we bought the tickets we were given a time slot to enter the Colosseum in just under an hours time. It was just before 10am so this suited us perfectly with time to take in the outside of the arena before it got too busy. We found an entrance by the massive exterior queue for reservations and were shown in straight to an airport security and X-ray scanner. The Police Officers on duty were friendly, chatting to the children and happy to see everyone. We felt perfectly safe and made our way into the secure area. Seeing the huge main queue continuing inside the building we were so glad we’d purchased tickets from Palatine Hill instead!
After a toilet stop, we followed the signs and went up ancient steps to the first floor where we found interesting artefacts that were discovered during the many excavations and restorations of the Colosseum through its two millennia history. There are models of how various Emperors and Popes saw it being used, many of them going no further than the drawing board. Ancient busts of historical rulers and figures adorn display cabinets amongst stories and tales about the Colosseum.
Once we had taken in all we could from the exhibition, we made our way into what was once the seating area for the Colosseum arena. Much of it is now in ruin, but part of the arena floor has been recreated with dungeons and cells visible below, where prisoners and animals were once kept before they met in combat. We made our way around the arena and had breathtaking views of the whole place along with the Forum and the Arch of Constantine which sits proudly between the two. Photo opportunities were plentiful, but as it is constantly being preserved for future generations it is covered in scaffolding in places.
When we were ready we found a gift shop before following the exit signs. This lead to an additional area to explore with closer views of the arena floor and of efforts to preserve the dungeons below the covering. No preservation work was going on when we visited, but it was a weekend and you could see tools that were being used to carry out the excavations. The whole Colosseum experience is a great way to bring history to life and is a must see on the bucket list of life and pretty compulsory on any trip to Rome.
The next day we used our entrance ticket to visit the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill. We used a very quiet entrance tucked away towards the back of the Forum and had no issues with the friendly staff – this is definitely the best place to enter the sites as everywhere else seemed to have queues throughout the day.
We picked up a map and explored at our leisure, reading the signs that interested us with graphics that recreated the ancient ruins. As we meandered around we found a few water fountains and even vending machines and toilets.
We came across the entrance to the SUPER7 area and went straight in. The light and audio shows inside were an awesome way of bringing the beautiful, ancient frescos to life, with each change of lighting bringing a different part of the walls to life, keeping our attention. The SUPER7 area also led us up a huge corridor that only Emperors would have used, more than two thousand years ago. It was like a different world and led to the top of the Forum with stunning views across the city.
After spending some time admiring the view, we made our way onto Palatine Hill, an area that palaces and houses of the rich were once built upon. Most are now ruins but many sections are very well preserved, and give great views of Circus Maximus to one side, right in the heart of Ancient Rome. There is also a museum on the hill with collections form the area, which is included as part of the SUPER7 ticket. We did a lot of walking around the ruins, but with so much to see, we didn’t notice how far we had walked and there are plenty of shaded areas to rest and just soak up the atmosphere.
To go to Rome and not see the three sites would be such a shame and for just €18 an adult there’s no excuse not to. These three sites were a favourite part of our break and really helped us feel like we had experienced the world that the Romans would have lived in. The Rome Colosseum was probably the highlight of the trip for the children. It was fantastic.