When Jase and I walked into the Colosseum, I had no idea how overwhelming it would be. I mean, I should have known- just the thought of the Colosseum is powerful enough, but I had no idea just how much it would impact me. I had goosebumps from head to toe, and stood there- mouth agape- in absolute awe. Jase felt just as moved - and that is saying something (this is a man who can sit through Marley & Me and not shed a tear- he does not get moved easily, trust me!)
We booked our tickets on the phone from Sydney- and boy, that's an experience I'll never forget! There is no option to book online- you have to call up during operating hours in Rome and speak to an Italian operator. "Sure- I can easily do that". Well- let me tell you, I think my operator was on her first day (as lovely as she was), and had never spoken English a day in her life. She lived in Italy- why should she have to, I guess!? I just assumed being such a major tourist attraction it wouldn't be a problem- but I ended up having to talk so S-L-O-W-L-Y that Jase was staring at me the whole conversation, wondering if I had lost my marbles. After I hung up, he told me I sounded like a very patronizing (albeit drunk) primary school teacher. Now that's not a good mix in any scenario! Back to the tickets- to even receive them- let alone with the correct date, time AND spelling (at one point she repeated my name as DELIMDA)- was a miracle in itself. Actually now I think of it, I wonder if she charged the correct credit card as I haven’t seen that on my statement yet- I guess there is an upside to everything! (Wonder who got that bill? Sorry Mr Jones in Dubbo!)
Our tour guide was the complete opposite of the phone operator- perfect English, absolute wealth of information, full of humour and added so much enjoyment to our tour. I could have stayed there all day. There was a lovely group of 15 (the tour company guarantees it won’t be larger than 20 people), who all got along really well.
A few interesting bits of information that may (or may not?) be of interest to you:
The Romans were absolute perfectionists- especially when it came to numbers. Events in the Colosseum were planned meticulously, months in advance. Every person (from women and commoners seated on the top tier, to the wealthiest on the lower tier) all had a ticket with a row and seat number. Just imagine the organization involved in that alone. All done by hand- seriously impressive!
There were public executions- for criminals- held at the Colosseum. This was done a number of ways (a common way was being savaged to death by animals – shudder). This was done at lunchtime so any ladies or squirmish folk could leave (coffee and snack?) and return later. Just horrific to know what went on just where we were standing. A gruesome bunch, to say the least.
Giraffes, elephants, lions, bears and jaguars were brought in from miles away to put on performances. The Romans also used to flood the arena with water, so they could sail ships on the floor of the Colosseum floor and have theatrical naval battles. It was all about word of mouth and “wowing” the spectators- which in turn got the community talking and promoting the events. After all, no facebook!
There was only one entrance in for the gladiators, and one exit out (a lot of the time they wouldn't actually "see" the way out, for obvious reasons). Because we booked an underground tour, we got to visit the tunnels the gladiators would walk before fighting. Can you even begin to imagine the nerves?
The marble and iron clamps from the Colosseum were unfortunately stolen and used in other buildings around Rome. One thing I had not realised- the Colosseum was originally white all over, every inch being covered in travertine and marble.
If anyone is interested in this tour- firstly, GOOD LUCK ON THE PHONE- secondly it's worth every minute of hassle. It was AMAZING- a true highlight of our European trip. This is the official website with all the information: www.coopculture.it/en/colosseo-e-shop.cfm
*And yes, it goes without saying we have watched gladiator since we returned!
All photos by Belinda- www.outoftheoffice.com.au