For the first time in modern history, the below-ground tunnels of Rome's Colosseum, where the gladiators tied up their sandals and prayed to their gods before entering the arena, have been opened to the public. The hallways and holding areas, and even the workings of the wooden elevator platforms that would hoist the wild animals, slaves, soldiers, and prisoners up to the floor of the arena for mortal combat, are on view following a $700,000 restoration.
Also restored and reopened for the first time since the 1970s is the third tier of the Colosseum from which Rome’s middle class watched the monumental pageants and battles. The Guardian reports, “This level boasts heart-stopping views of Rome, from Palatine Hill to the distant Vittorio Emanuele monument. And, at about 115ft in the air, you're still more than 70ft below where the highest seats would have been.”
The guided tours, open to 25 visitors at a time, must be booked in advance. Call Pierreci, the cooperative that handles ticket sales and tours at the Colosseum, at +39 06 3996 7700, to book the €20 tickets.
Ann Shields in an online senior editor at Travel + Leisure.
Photo courtesy of the Rome Cavalieri Hilton's Gladiator Training Program, which has nothing to do with the Colosseum tour but was too good not to use.