A surreal visit to the Colosseum

There were a lot of things I was excited to see in Rome, and right at the top of the list was the Colosseum.    We decided for a later afternoon visit and were rewarded with a far less crowded experience.   This site can be overrun with people, but holding off visiting until later in the day made for a very peaceful experience and plenty of room to move around.   Armed with a Rick Steves podcast for a self-guided tour, we made our way inside the amphitheater to the most prime seats reserved for royalty back in the day.  Walking into the seating section was definitely one of those “wow” life moments as the stadium opened up into full view:


I’ve seen countless pictures of the Colosseum, but there’s nothing that compares to the feeling of seeing something like this in person.    There’s the initial moments where the immensity of the place washes over you – all of your senses overcome at once with what you are seeing combined with some disbelief that you’re actually “here”.   Then, you start to pick out some of the finer details.  Like in the picture of us below, the size of the Colosseum starts coming into focus as you see how small the people look on the other side, or you start to notice the perfection of the arches that let light into the structure, or the presence and complexity of what would have been the below stage tunnels accommodating gladiators, stage pieces, animals and entry and exit of the VIPs.

Us in the Roman Colosseum

I was excited to see the Colosseum for two reasons.  First, it’s widely regarded as one of the most important architectural and engineering marvels of the Roman empire.   Standing inside an almost 2,000 year old structure, it was hard to fathom how this was even constructed.

Roman Colosseum

The second reason I was excited to explore the Colosseum was to imagine what is was like to attend sporting events in Roman times.   That feeling of sitting in a stadium for a live match and letting your eyes take in the crowd and the architecture of the stadium is something I enjoy and try to make part of my travels whenever I can (like the soccer match in Rome the day we arrived!)  With that in mind, I particularly enjoyed taking in the views of the Colosseum from the upper reaches.  I spent a minute or two imagining this place being filled with nearly 80,000 people and sitting up here with the peasant class in the cheap seats two thousand years ago.

Roman Colosseum

Leaving the upper seating bowl area, there is a spectacular view out over the Roman Forum and the Arch of Constantine from the outer mezzanine and hallways of the Colosseum.  I could imagine standing here with a drink and a snack during an intermission.

Arch of Constantine

Back in side the seating bowl of the Colossuem, another advantage of our late day visit was the stunning and dramatic light from the late day sun.  The contrast of the shadows and strong sunlight amplified the beauty of this structure.

Roman Colosseum

From the outside you can see the largely intact inner wall and a portion of the original outer wall (on the left of the picture below).   It also gives a great perspective on the three level seating bowl design.  Standing here, it started to sink in how much of this two thousand year old design is still present in modern day soccer, football and hockey arenas around the world.

Roman Colosseum

Finishing up our “pinch me, I must be dreaming” visit, we picked up our traditional European snack – paprika chips (why can’t we get these easily in Canada?), an orange Fanta for my wife, and a local beer for me and grabbed a seat on a ledge with this million dollar view.  Not a bad way to end a great afternoon in Rome…

Roman Colosseum


2 thoughts on “A surreal visit to the Colosseum

  1. Pingback: Looking back on 2014 | Bluenose Traveler

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