The Colosseum was one of the biggest draws for us when we visited Rome this winter. While it was without a doubt worth seeing, I wish I would have known how ticketing worked, or why there were so many cats hanging around. Here’s what I wish I would have known before visiting, so you can avoid the mistakes I made.
1. Buy your tickets online through the Colosseum’s website, or through the city of Rome so that you don’t get swindled. Ticket scalpers tricked us into buying fraudulent tickets so we could “skip the line”, but we ended up having to wait in the long line anyway, after being kindly yet firmly told that we had purchased fake tickets by the Colosseum’s attendants.
2. Speaking of long lines, the Colosseum is busiest in the afternoon between 12-4pm and the wait time can exceed an hour if you haven’t purchased tickets online. We went about two hours before it closed and had plenty of time to get our tickets and see everything on our own. If you want to take one of the tours, plan an extra 30-45 minutes.
4. While we were at the Colosseum, we purchased the Roma Pass which gave us access to a number of attractions like the Musei Capitolini, National Gallery of Modern Art, Castel Sant’Angelo and many others, as well as free use of public transportation and discounts at dozens of other attractions around the city for only €38. This was super convenient, because we didn’t have to try to always wait in lines nor did we have to worry about being scammed again. Had we known about this ahead of time, it would’ve saved us a lot of trouble.
5. Don’t pet or feed the cats wandering around the Colosseum, even if they come up to you. They aren’t strays, they’re “employees” of the Colosseum that hunt and eat rats living in the Colosseum to keep rodent populations at bay. We didn’t see a single rat during our visit, but we did see more than a dozen cats running around.
6. Don’t touch anything, or the attendants will yell at you. The oils from our fingers are acidic and after decades and decades of people touching things, parts of the Colosseum that are within arms reach are being worn smooth by tourists, and in order to preserve the ruins for as long as possible, look with your eyes, not your hands.
7. Plan to visit the gift shop at the top of the Colosseum. It’s filled with really interesting books about the ruins, and unique souvenirs we didn’t see anywhere else in the city.
8. If you’re unable to climb stairs, the Colosseum will be difficult to access, because it was built long before accessibility was considered a priority. While it is possible to see some of the Colosseum, many parts will be inaccessible if you or someone in your party is unable to climb several flights of stairs.
9. While the ruins are really cool and exciting to see, remember that people were forced to fight for their lives and kill other people here. We overheard a guide asking people to speak softly and say a prayer for the slaves, gladiators, and wildlife that had been murdered here. We saw a couple of people get thrown out because they were being disrespectful and obnoxious. It’s not exactly a memorial, but it is important to understand what the Colosseum was used for.
10. The lines for the bathroom are really long, and the bathrooms were filthy and cramped, so go before you go, if you know what I mean. The Colosseo Metro Caffe is right across the street from the entrance of the Colosseum and if you buy a coffee or something, they will let you use their much nicer restroom.
If you have anything you wish you would’ve known before visiting the Colosseum, be sure to drop your tip in the comments below!
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