a stone walkway with a circular building

There’s no shortage of fanfare when a well known megastar sits court side at the Lakers, or when a team on the verge of glory is about to take the arena, with an eerie calm under the tunnels of a packed stadium. While the aromas in the Colosseum of Rome were likely quite different, the vibe was very much the same.

In fact, not much has changed over the last 2000 years. The political and social elite of Roman times sat on ornate marble benches nearest the brooding action, just like a Jay Z or Jennifer Aniston does today on something perhaps far more comfortable, but less museum worthy.

After some 1900 years of renovation, a mammoth project to let Colosseum visitors in on even more of the experience is now somewhat complete, and your next tour in this stunning city will show you more of the arena underground than ever before.

a stone road leading to a circular building

Public Colosseum Underground Tours

When I toured the Colosseum in February of 2019, you could pay a bit extra to get access to an upper deck and a brief peek downstairs into the gladiators hidden tunnels where sporting theatre was effectively created. Now, it’s all open and to everyone too.

Trap doors using modern leverage were everywhere in these dark underground cellars and it didn’t take a wild imagination to picture the lions or tigers being hoisted by total surprise up onto the arena floor.

This was where the Roman gladiators came to terms with their highly uncertain futures, where every liquid known to man ended up spilling, and where many – many lives were cut short.

an archway leading to an ancient building

I loved just being in the Colosseum – and even just around it – but going underground and seeing the “backstage” area was something else. Tod’s, the Italian fashion house, funded a massive wave of renovations which allow public access to the underground.

There’s 80 elevators or trapdoors to be seen, among hidden passageways, gladiator hangouts and the rest. What’s perhaps most astonishing though, is the natural light which makes its way through little keyholes and corridors as you go. Yes, Ridley Scott really got it right with Gladiator.

Read as: if you’ve long dreamed of visiting the Colosseum, the experience is better now than ever before. There’s more to see and do and you don’t need some ultra VIP tour to see it!

Between the heat, crowds and general mania around the Colosseum, an early morning tour is always advisable. In fact, it’s one of our 11 essential tips to visiting Rome. Tickets can be purchased in advance, which can help save on walk up costs and uncertainty.

Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

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  1. Just did this tour yesterday… 1 hour guided tour from official colosseum site. Full access pass includes this tour and access to Palatine Hill and Roman forum about €22. Great stuff

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