Hi Frugalistas! It was over 30 years since I’d been to Rome. Mr frugalfirstclass had never visited. Spending three days in Rome it was therefore quite appropriate that we decided to focus on the popular Roman tourist sites. The Vatican, Trevi Fountain and the Colosseum were all on our list, so when the team at Take Walks invited us on the Gladiator’s Gate: Special Access Colosseum Tour with Arena Floor tour we were definitely up for becoming gladiators at the Colosseum. Add in the Roman Forum and the Palatine Hill and it was certainly a Roman tour we were looking forward to.
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Joining our Take Walks tour
Despite it being October it was still a hot afternoon on the day of our tour. When we arrived at the Colosseum it was clear it was very busy. Opposite the Colosseum outside the metro station it was chaos – a tangled mass of tour guides and tourists trying to find each other. Fortunately, Take Walks had given us excellent instructions to find our tour opposite a cafe on a street on the hill above the Colosseum, so we knew we could keep walking.
We soon found the Take Walks representative who ticked us off and gave us a coloured sticker for our tour. We were invited to wait in the shade in a park well out of the sun. It was obvious there were multiple Take Walks Colosseum tours in addition to our Colosseum arena tour – hence the stickers.
Our guide Sarah soon arrived and after a check of headsets for our audio tour of the Colosseum Rome we were off.
No gladiators at the Colosseum just yet
To start our tour Sarah explained how the Colosseum was originally built as a political propaganda piece by the Romans and explained a bit about the building. Taking only 8 years to build it had originally had a retractable roof – who knew? And just like modern stadia each entry door was numbered; something that was only discovered during cleaning that was undertaken in 2016.
Then it was off to visit the Roman Forum and the Palatine Hill before our timed entry visit to the Colosseum later in the afternoon. As we headed off Sarah warned us of the need to be careful of pickpockets at the Colosseum and on the walk to the Forum. While Rome is a safe city, like most big European cities there are pickpockets in Rome.
Because we had needed to queue in the sun for security at the Roman Forum we were all grateful that Sarah made sure she found us some shade as she orientated us to the Forum.
As we walked Sarah painted a picture of life in Ancient Rome and taught us how to “read” the ruins and the buildings we were looking at. Because layers and layers of buildings and city life had been piled one on top of the other over hundreds of years it was fun to understand what exactly we were looking at.
I’d never visited the Forum before and while the sun was quite hot, Sarah was able to find us shade and bring the Roman streets to life. Heading up to the Palatine Hill we refilled water bottles before the long climb up the stairs. At the top of the steps we were rewarded with a 360 degree view of the city and a shady park.
Sensing we would want to take in the scene and take photos, Sarah let us explore the Palatine Hill ourselves and took photos for us. It was fun to identify the spires, domes and other landmarks we could see.
Becoming spectators and gladiators in the Colosseum
As we entered the Colosseum, Sarah invited us to become both spectators and gladiators, and imagine what it would have been like to attend a spectacle.
After a quick comfort stop it was time to visit the Colosseum arena. The arena area is not open to the general public or on all Colosseum tours, so we needed to go through a separate internal entrance to access the arena.
Arriving at the entrance of the tunnel leading to the arena, Sarah went into full public announcer role – setting the scene with a full house of Romans, waiting for us, the heroes of the show – the gladiators – to enter the arena. It really was quite exciting walking behind Sarah with her arms raised like a rock star. After all, weren’t the gladiators the rock stars of the show?
Inside the arena area itself, Sarah painted a picture of life in the arena for both animals and humans. Spectacles were held infrequently, but lasted all day. Bringing them to life was a massive feat of logistics. We peered down into the area underneath the arena and imagined what it would have been like with no light and little fresh air.
Next it was up even more step stairs up into the tiers of the audience seating to be the spectators. Seating was very organised with tickets and assigned seating. As we discovered through artefacts found in the Colosseum, women would bring their sewing and other crafts. While attending the Colosseum was a democratic process that all citizens could enjoy, the important people got the best seats and women sat separately.
What we thought of this tour
Sarah promised us a tour of Roman Colosseum gladiators and spectators alike and that was exactly what we got. Visiting the Colosseum arena was a real highlight which helped us appreciate just how vast the arena is. Looking down into area underneath the floor you could feel the darkness and lack of air. Sarah’s guiding brought the Colosseum to life – I could almost hear the crowds cheering. In the Forum, where we walked in the steps of the Romans she brought the streets to life.
Sarah was a great storyteller. She was excellent at finding us shady spots to stop. She knew exactly where we would want to take photos and was generous in taking photos of everyone who wanted one.
Had we not already had a reservation for dinner that night, her suggestions for apperitivo and dinner would have been gratefully accepted.
Take Walks offers a range of Colosseum tours, including Colosseum by night tours when available, but take the afternoon or morning tour to the Colosseum Arena and the Forum instead. You won’t regret it – it is best Colosseum tour available at the moment I suspect.
What you need to know about the Gladiator’s Gate: Special Access Colosseum Tour with Arena Floor
Because you are literally walking in the footsteps of Romans there are a lot of uneven surfaces on this tour. Sensible shoes with a good solid sole are essential. Stairs inside the Colosseum are step and, as you would imagine, very worn in parts, making this tour inappropriate for little ones in strollers and those with mobility issues.
Even in mid October the temperature was over 30 Celcius and with the heat reflecting off the stonework I’m sure it was even hotter. Plenty of sunscreen, a hat and full water bottle are essentials. There is opportunity to refill water bottles in the Forum, so make sure you take advantage of that.
Mr Frugalfirstclass and I were guests of Take Walks. All opinions are our own.