The Colosseum and Roman Forum

Exploring Rome's Colosseum exterior at night in Italy, Rome

Quick Facts

  • Construction of the Colosseum started in the year 72AD and was completed in 80AD.
  • Nearly 6 million tourists visit this historical site each year.
  • The original name was the “Flavian Amphitheater” which is a lot less catchy.
  • It is believed the modern name, the Colosseum, comes from “the Colossus of Nero” a 35-metre tall statue that stood outside the amphitheatre.
Colosseum exterior at night in Italy, Rome

The Colosseum

When I came to Rome, I knew what the first thing I would visit would be. For as long as I could remember I had been fascinated with the Colosseum. Ever since reading Terry Deary’s “Rotten Romans” book from the Horrible Histories book series. I had read that book cover to cover repeatedly until it was falling apart. After arriving in Rome by train and settling into my hotel room, I picked a direction and went for a stroll around the city. Since exploring Rome’s Colosseum was such a priority for me, I had picked my hotel due to its proximity. But rather than follow Google maps and take the direct route, I just wandered off in the general direction I thought it would be to see what I could find along the way.

After a walk through a beautiful park and down some side streets, I started to see the Colosseum come into view. I made my way down to the base and walked around the exterior to get some shots on my camera. I had been incredibly excited to see this historical piece of architecture. Unfortunately, the experience doesn’t live up to how you think it would be. It’s not the Colosseum’s fault at all, in fact, it’s a staggeringly beautiful place.

Pickpockets, Scams and Street Sellers

What ruins it for me was the constant harassment from street sellers, every few seconds one would notice me alone and see me as their next potential victim. They would approach with their wares, and try to force me to wear one of their bracelets claiming it as a “gift” and then would harass me for money in return. Or worse was the one selling fluorescent selfie sticks, Yes I am a solo traveller but I don’t feel the need to announce that to the world waving one of those around every few seconds.

You should be especially careful in this area as it’s a known hotspot for pickpockets. Keep aware of your bags and items at all times. You should make sure you aren’t carrying everything with you at once, otherwise you are stuffed if it gets stolen. I always leave a spare card and some cash back in my room as backups.

After the fifth time they approached me, I gave up and headed back to my room for a nap. I told myself I had enough photos and I was happy with my shot. But the truth was I was just sick of being harassed by the street sellers. I wasn’t able to get a tour this time as I was due to meet my friend later that day.

So I started to walk back up the path circling the Colosseum, about halfway I heard a commotion and turned around to see a group of around twenty of the street sellers shouting and sprinting in my direction. Naturally, I panicked and ran as fast as I could until I felt safe. It wasn’t until later I realised that they were running from the Police who had come to move them on. They weren’t, as I originally thought, chasing me. So had I stayed for a bit longer I could have taken my photos in peace.

Exploring Rome's Colosseum in Italy

Returning to the Colosseum

I didn’t return until a couple of days later to explore Rome’s Colosseum. The queue was long but I was patient, at least today there was less street sellers. Just at the point that I really regretted my decision to not pay for an official guided tour, the pay booths came into sight. Eventually I made it through security and inside the monument. There are a lot of facts and information points about the Colosseum for those who enjoy history. For those that want some snaps there are plenty of viewpoints top get some great interior shots.

Surviving earthquakes and tourists

Building started in the year 72AD and finished in the year 80AD. It was the largest even amphitheatre ever built and is still remains the largest standing today. In it’s prime it saw active usage for over 500 years, with the last recorded games taking place in the 6th century. Today it stands as one of Rome’s most popular tourist attractions. Nearly 6 million tourists flock to this site every year to admire the monument.

Since its construction the Colosseum has endured over the years. In 1349 the Colosseum was hit by a devastating earthquake which caused the South side to collapse. This is what caused its iconic look today that we all know and love. In more recent years it has faced a new threat, idiot tourists. These are people who think its fine to carve their intials into walls or make engravings. So when travelling don’t be like these people.

Exploring Rome's Colosseum interior in Italy.Rome.

Exploring Rome’s Colosseum

I spent the next hour or so photographing the ruins. I must admit, I feel a tad disappointed with my visit. Once again I still think it’s a thing of beauty and a must-see for any visitor to Rome. But I think after years of building it up in my head it couldn’t possibly live up to the expectation. So I was left feeling a little underwhelmed by the visit. The street sellers harassing tourists outside did bring the experience down. Still I do look backon my time exploring Rome’s Colosseum with fondness, and would return when I visit Rome again.

But no visit to Rome is complete without visiting this icon. I popped into the gift shop (I love a gift shop) to find some tourist tat as a souvenir. I settled on a pencil because everything else looked like stuff I would instantly lose the second I got home, and if I lost a pencil I wouldn’t care so much.

The Roman Forum

Monuments in Rome, Italy

Included in your ticket is the entrance to the Roman Forum. This is the area where Romans would go about their day-to-day life. Over its lifetime it has seen all manner of public gatherings, from gladiatorial combat to elections and trials. I loved walking here, it is incredibly beautiful and peaceful too. I was fortunate to have a sunny day, granting me clear views all the way.

History of the Roman Forum

The majority of tourists pay for the experience of exploring Rome’s Colosseum and then skip on the forum. But by doing so miss out on an amazing piece of history. You can visit the Arch of Titus, a stunning monument built to commemorate the victory of the Roman general Titus in the Jewish war. Titus later became emperor, and the arch itself was constructed in 81 AD shortly after Emperor Titus’ death.

You can even see the Lapis Niger (the black stone), a large slab of black marble that supposedly covers the entrance. The purpose of this stone is contentious, but many believe it was built by Julius Caesar, whilst others believe it is the tomb of one of Rome’s founders Romulus.

The Roman Forum is beautiful and definitely worth a visit. I am all about making the most of your money when you travel so if an experience is bundled in then absolutely give it a try. The two sites are next to one another, so in the event, you decide you aren’t enjoying it (which is highly unlikely) you haven’t lost any time and can quickly head elsewhere.

Do and Don'ts Guide in Rome, Italy

Colosseum and Roman Forum FAQ’s

Do I need to book in advance?

Its not needed but you can book an organised tour to skip the queue. I have attached a booking link below with Get Your Guide to help. Going with a tour also means you have an expert with you when exploring Rome’s Colosseum. By booking through the link you won’t be charged any extra, but I may receive a commission which helps me continue to create content.

What time is best to go?

I recommend either being the first to arrive or visiting nearer the end of the day. It can get really busy and there’s nothing worse than queuing in the sun.

Where should I go next?

There are a lot of destinations nearby. Rome is easy to travel across. The Trevi Fountain is an easy walk away. Or a little further away you have the Vatican City.

Can I get a discount?

Yes! If you are an EU citizen aged between 18-25 you can get a discount when visiting.

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