DAY 2: Coliseum at Dark

1 July – Coliseum Night Tour

(Guide – The Roman Guy)

Any reasonable person would decide that after 19 hours of travel, one would rest and start anew the next day. We did rest, but only for a few hours, and then three of our party of four walked down to the Coliseum (or Colosseum) at sunset for a night tour of the ancient Roman icon.

Alexander, Sara, and I arrived for our tour of the Coliseum at sunset.

The Curse of the Sampietrini

On the way there we walked across one of Rome’s classic features that many tourists tend to ignore:  the cobblestone walk and roadways.

Two things to note about this particular type of cobblestone roadway. First, it’s not of ancient Rome design or origin. The Pope in the 16th century is credited with demanding that Rome’s streets be fixed and the Vatican selected workers who created the design and method of repaving the streets. The term for this cobblestone is “sampietrini“.

The second fact about the sampietrini streets is that residents of Rome hate them. When wet they are extremely slick and dangerous for any vehicle, especially bicycles and mopeds. It didn’t rain while we were in Rome…or any other time while we were on the Mediterranean, so I have no personal knowledge of their curse. 

The Fall of the Coliseum

The night tour was a great way to explore the Coliseum as it was cooler. It also revealed subtleties in the structure that might not have been apparent in daylight. One thing that is not subtle is the holes in the structure and the damage that is visible as one walks around or through it.

The cause of the damage and neglect can be traced back to 1)  the Fall of Rome, 2) earthquakes, 3) apathy and dislike of pagan structures by the Catholic Church (and the anger of the abuse of Christians in Coliseum events), 4) theft for building materials, and, 5) neglect and abuse by squatters.

Many may think that the holes that are evident around the Coliseum are from bullets and shells during World War II. That is not true. The joints between the blocks were reinforced with a metal clip. Those pieces of metal became highly valued for tools and weapons and were dug out. In the same way that abandoned houses are raided for their copper, today, the Coliseum was raided for its metal.   

Location and Purpose of the Coliseum

The Coliseum is the most visible part of Rome’s ancient city center. Unlike the Parthenon on the Acropolis that dominates Athen’s skyline, the Coliseum sits in a valley between Palatine Hill (the hill of the Imperial palaces), Caelian Hill (to the south), and, Esquiline Hill (to the north). It is; however, the most recognizable structure in Rome, and roadways border three sides of the structure.

Inside the Coliseum at night – the floor of the amphitheater sat on a maze of corridors and chambers below.

It was built to be an amphitheater, or two theatres placed together to form a circular or oval stage space. Unlike Roman theatres (for drama, music, or dance), stadiums (for athletic events), or circuses (for horse or chariot racing), the amphitheater was built for the presentation of blood sports. 

Exterior Views of the Coliseum

Understage Level Images

Stage Level

Roman Public Walkways Inside

Ruins Immediately East of the Coliseum

Temple of Venus and Roma (west of the Coliseum)