Last December, doing the Colosseum Underground tour was the first thing Joanne and I did when we arrived (well, the day after we arrived). It was December 26th - a public holiday in Australia but business as usual in Rome. Kind of. We walked from our hotel near the Trevi Fountain, down Via dei Fori Imperiali and to the Colosseum - straight in - and booked a tour.

Colosseum from Via dei Fori Imperiali - taken at about 7.30am, winter, December 2012

Lucky for us it was winter and essentially 'off season' which was why it was so easy to get tickets for a tour that is often booked out months ahead.

Business as usual? Yes, but slow and far less frantic than my earlier visit in September 2012. The Colosseum is one of those places you could visit 150 times but never fail to be humbled by its sheer size and the monstrously difficult job it must have been to construct it. On top of what remained of the artificial lake Nero constructed for his Domus Aurea.

All they want is "Bread and circuses" - said the poet Juevenal of the Ancient Romans. Well after over two thousand years, the circus is still standing.
Here are some photos of the underground tour.

This is the view from the wooden stage area - look carefully in the distance and you'll see the crowds on the regular access areas of the Colosseum. The wooden stage where this shot was taken is visible in the photo taken from the third tier (below)

Underground (below) - see the supports for the wooden stage area

Underground - these tunnels are where the caged animals were kept for the beast hunts

Tunnel entrances where gladiators arrived (above)

Passages where workers would move around, hauling exotic animals to their deaths via an intricate system of pulleys and platforms. The area above here was a wooden floor covered in sand. The sand was there to absorb the blood and would be swept away between 'acts'.

View from the third tier (above). The other photos were taken from underneath the wooden stage area you can see in the centre back of the shot

View from the third tier looking along Via dei Fori Imperial - December 2012

And as it was Christmas - here is one of Rome's many giant Christmas trees (this was taken from the top of the Spanish Steps but there was one outside the Colosseum as well).
Buon Natale!

UPDATE - I did this tour again in October 2013. At the time the Underground portion of the tour was closed due to safety issues. I believe it has since re-opened. There are a few new additions - the tour takes you around the Museum on the second level which has some excellent artefacts including animal bones found on site and the meeting point for the tour is now clearly marked. Two thirds of the Colosseum is currently under scaffold and restoration works are set to continue for a couple of years. See photos:

This is how the Colosseum looked in late October 2013 - view is from Via de Fori Imperiale. Compare with my shot taken in December 2012 from an almost identical spot.

Look for a signpost like this when meeting your tour - it is about 50 metres past the ticket barrier

The very steep stairs that lead up to the third level

EDIT - October 2014 - The Colosseum's external restoration continues  with the scaffold still in place, however that classic view along Via dei Fori Imperiali has been cleaned and the scaffold removed. This is how it looks as at late October 2014.


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