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Walks of Italy: The Colosseum at Night

by Penny Sadler

Walks of Italy Night tour of the Colosseum @PennySadler 2013

It took five years, six trips to Rome, and a tour with Walks of Italy get me inside the Colosseum.

I think the reason I had not previously gone inside was that I felt I’d already seen it: on television, in movies and guide books, and on websites. You’d have to have been living under a rock buried deep in the dirt not to recognize an image of the Colosseum.

The persuasion? I was taking the Colosseum VIP Night Tour which includes the recently opened underground areas where the animals were kept, and the arena area. Best of all, there are no crowds or lines at night! Obviously, I was not going to pass up a chance to experience the atmosphere of the Colosseum at night and to have access to areas that you can only see with a guide.

Walks of Italy VIP Night tour Colosseum @PennySadler 2013

The Colosseum by day and from the exterior is impressive even by today’s standards, but seeing it at night and having access to all these previously inaccessible areas made it all the more special. Our guide, Jeanette, really brought the history of the Colosseum to life – and somehow with all the juicy details she gave us, it wasn’t as creepy being there at night as I thought it would be.

What did I learn about the Colosseum? For starters, it was not always called the Colosseum, but was previously known as the Flavian Amphitheater. It took 100,000 slaves something like ten years to build, and it was constructed over a pond, requiring some pretty advanced engineering skills. Those ancient Roman engineers were very sophisticated.

The Colosseum is the model for arenas as we know them today. There were seating tiers (just like today), and running water. They didn’t have elevators, but used a system of pulleys and ropes to accomplish the same tasks.

Though admission was free, you still had to have a ticket to get in, and the wealthy of Rome occupied the seats closest to the arena floor, while the general public occupied the nose bleed sections above. Seems to me that not much has changed.

Walks of Italy VIP night tour Colosseum, @PennySadler 2013

The Colosseum was an active arena for 500 years before it closed and became a sort of quarry for the city of Rome to salvage the marble it was built from.

Now let’s get on with the really interesting bits
: lions and tigers and bears and…gladiators.

I’ve often wondered how Romans could be so bloodthirsty. Were these friendly people I’ve met on my travels really descendants of the same people who willingly witnessed (and cheered on) these cruel and violent events? As it turns out, it wasn’t all about blood and guts.

Imagine you couldn’t book a safari in Africa, or sit in the comfort of your living room and watch elephants, lions, and zebras run across the screen on the Discovery Channel. Witnessing the games at the Colosseum was the one chance for thousands of citizens, wealthy and poor alike, to see exotic animals never seen by anyone in the civilized world before.

Somehow this makes me feel a little better about it all…at least it wasn’t 100% about blood and violence.

What about the gladiators? Jeanette explained that there were actually worse things than being a gladiator. They were kind of the rock stars of their time. People had their favorites and dying on a stage in front of 50,000 cheering and screaming fans must have been preferable to hanging out in the hypogeum with the animals, slaves, and accompanying smells. The chances of dying down there were just as great as if going to battle with another gladiator or an animal. And there was no glory in it!

Walks of Italy VIP Night Tour of the Colosseum, @PennySadler 2013

Being a gladiator wasn’t just about brute physical strength. The gladiators had never seen these animals before, either. Can you picture an ostrich running at you – full speed? Or a lion who’s been starved for several days being unleashed on you? Not only did a gladiator have to be strong and quick on his feet to overpower the animal, he had to out think the animal, as well.

The victor was led out of the Colosseum for a “victory shower.” Waiting for them outside would often be the wives of the wealthy and powerful citizens of Rome. Just like rock stars, gladiators got the girls after the gig.

Walks of Italy VIP Night Tour Colosseum @PennySadler 2013

“victory shower area”

I can honestly say I felt like I had experienced something really special on this tour and left with a better understanding of the people and times of ancient Rome.

Walks of Italy VIP Night Tour of the Colosseum. @PennySadler 2013

The VIP tour of the Colosseum was with Walks of Italy. All comments and opinions are my own.

©PennySadler 2013. All rights reserved.

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14 comments

www.lovely-travel.com June 14, 2014 at 4:28 am

i never even imagined the Colosseum could have looked that beautiful at night! marvelous shot Penny dear

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Terry at Overnight New York December 6, 2013 at 2:14 pm

Penny — Yikes — I read my comment after I sent it and didn’t clean up the misspellings. Could you strike that entry and use the one below? Thanks!

I had no idea gladiators were often seeing beasts like lions and tigers for the first time when they entered the ring. But ancient Rome wasn’t known for its zoos. The Colosseum at night sounds magical.

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Terry at Overnight New York December 6, 2013 at 2:09 pm

I had no idea the gladiators were often seen beasts like lions and tigers for the first time, but it makes sense. Ancient Rome wasn’t known for its zoos. The Colosseum at night sounds magical.

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Annie@GreenTravelReviews December 6, 2013 at 5:18 am

So much here I didn’t know. I wasn’t aware of the gladiators not knowing many of the animals they faced. Or that the chances of dying in the hypogeum was equal to fighting in the ring… Thanks for sharing you pictures and knowledge, great post!

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Larissa December 5, 2013 at 1:22 am

A visit to the Colosseum many years ago awakened in me a fascination with Roman ruins. Now I seek them out everywhere. I’ve never been to the underground portion, but I think I’d love it!

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Penny Sadler December 7, 2013 at 11:18 am

You would!

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Larissa December 5, 2013 at 1:20 am

A visit to the Colosseum many years ago awakened in me a fascination with Roman ruins. I’ve never been down to the underground areas, and I think I would love it!

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Cat of Sunshine and Siestas December 2, 2013 at 3:13 am

As a 15 year old in Europe, I was far from impressed with the Colosseum. I think I’d love having another go!

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Penny Sadler December 2, 2013 at 9:02 am

Interesting. Let me know if you go back!

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gabi (the nomadic family) December 1, 2013 at 6:52 pm

penny my love. you are killing me! gladiators- will i see mr.crowe there? omg. the history, the richness, the sheer energy of those architectural masterpieces is unreal. thank you for sharing. gabi

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Jeff Gordon November 18, 2013 at 8:31 pm

My wife and I were in Rome in September and we loved the Colosseum’s night tour. It looks so different than in the day. To walk through the Colosseum with a small group and a guide with no crowds was wonderful. We did several tours with Walks of Italy and had a great time on all of them.

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Penny Sadler November 20, 2013 at 10:46 pm

It is different. I loved it because of the lack of crowds!

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Patti November 17, 2013 at 7:31 pm

I’m going to put this night tour on my bucket list for when the day comes and we visit Rome. I love tours that take me behind the scenes!

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Penny Sadler November 17, 2013 at 7:40 pm

Hi Patti
So glad to hear that. Hope you make it soon!

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