When you mention Rome most people usually picture the Colosseum. This ancient Roman amphitheater is a dominating presence in the city, as well as one of the top tourist attractions. However, we broke with tradition and saved this humongous architectural wonder until our very last day in Rome. It turned out to be a very fitting end to our week of exploring Rome as we started at the Roman Forum and wound our way through Palatine Hill to finish up with a tour inside of the Colosseum. There is no better way to imagine life in ancient Rome then to follow this circuit marveling at temples, palaces, and of course the largest amphitheater in the Roman empire. However, as previously mentioned this section of the city is a major tourist attraction so, below we have listed our tips for enjoying your look back at ancient Rome with out letting the modern day crowds drive you crazy.
The Roman Forum
The Roman Forum was a big open area of the ancient city surrounded by temples, government buildings, and shops. Today much of the forum is in ruins making its glory a little hard to imagine. In addition there is very little shade in the area making it a very crowded and hot destination during the warmer months. Since the boys were a little bored of ruins by this point in our trip we let them hang out on the fringes and play while Five of Hearts and Five String viewed the ruins more thoroughly. While the Roman Forum is impressive we all found the ruins of Ostia Antica a lot more accessible and a lot less crowded. It was much easier to get a picture of Ancient Rome in Ostia Antica then it was in the Roman Forum with large tour guides bustling through the site.
From the Roman Forum you are in great position to walk up one of the seven hills of Rome. Palentine Hill is the most central hill and as such it was home to to many temples and palaces. It is also the suppossed birth place of the two famous twins, Romulous and Remus. The Younger Fives immediately fell in love with Palatine hill and had a blast running up and down the shaded paths as we explored the ruins of ancient palaces as well as the gardens and fountains. At the very top of the hill we found a shaded area with wonderful views of the city. We settled on the benches for a picnic lunch and would have been content to stay all day if we didn’t have more on the agenda. The only negative aspect of Palatine Hill is that the ruins are not well signed at all. If you are truly interested in exploring this area in depth you might want to pick up a good guide book and map before you visit.
After tearing ourselves away from our picnic spot we didn’t have a long walk at all to reach the Colosseum, in fact it was all downhill. Since we had already purchased our tickets at the Roman Forum we didn’t have to wait in line and we breezed right into the massive structure. The museum style exhibits on the second floor were well done and they kept the kids interested. However, it was hard not to rush through them in order to get our first view of the inside of the amphitheater. Even though the structure was built 72 A.D. and the seats and floor are gone it is still a staggeringly impressive site. However, after taking the view from several different angles there isn’t a lot more that the site offers, especially for kids. We found that the attraction of visiting the Colosseum is more about being able to appreciate the scale of the building and how well it has held up overtime. Upon returning home from our visit we had the kids watch a few documentaries on the Colosseum including the BBC product A Gladiator’s Story. This combined with the visit helped everyone get a better picture of the importance of the amphitheater in Ancient Rome.
Five’s Tips for visiting the Colosseum area:
– Buy your tickets at the Roman Forum and skip the lines at the Colosseum. We purchased ours at the entrance off of Via dei Fori Imperiali and had less than a 5 minute wait. Kids enter for free but you do have to request the “free tickets” for them in order to get through the gates.
– Pack a picnic to enjoy on Palatine Hill. The garden and shades are lovely as well as the view and the crowds thin out the farther from the Forum that you get.
– Be prepared for for the Forum and the Colosseum to be crowded. We visited in the off season it is was still packed with tour groups. Street salesmen, tour promoters, and men dressed up as gladiators will all be vying for your money as you walk through this very touristy area.
– If you want to see the the lower or upper levels of the Colosseum you need to spend the money on a tour. These areas aren’t covered by the general admission ticket.
– Your ticket covers one entrance to the Colosseum and to Palatine Hill/Roman Forum. The ticket is good for 2 days so you can split up the sites. However, if you leave the Forum to grab lunch you won’t be able to enter again without buying another ticket. You should plan to visit the Forum and Palatine Hill together.
– There are bathrooms and water fountains at the Roman Forum entrance on Via dei Fori Imperiali as well as at the Palatine Hill Entrance on Via di S. Gregorio. The map also showed restrooms at the Palatine Hill museum and at the Colosseum making this whole area a very friendly place for kids with small bladders 🙂