There are literally tons of things you can do with kids in Rome. But at the top of my list was the Colosseum.
For major tourist sites, my parents have two different views. My mom likes to book tickets in advance because she’s always afraid things will sell out. My dad prefers not to because he likes to keep the schedule flexible. We went to Rome in September which is supposedly “shoulder season,” and there are supposed to be less tourists. BUT NOT AT THE COLOSSEUM.
If you want to go to the Colosseum, book your tickets in advance. It is virtually required and impossible to get tickets at the last minute. My mom tried to get tickets a couple of weeks before we went to Rome, and she was too late. Everything was sold out. Even third-party ticket vendors were sold out for every tour. We were told by booking agents that these tours were sold out months in advance. I was really disappointed because that meant we would only get to see the outside of the Colosseum. Lame!
There was one company called Walks of Italy that took names in case of cancellations. The day before we left for Rome, my mom called them and put our family’s name on the wait list. We flew overnight from Salt Lake City to Rome. We arrived in Rome at about 2:00 PM the next day and my mom had a message on her phone that Walks of Italy had a cancellation for their “VIP Colosseum at Night Tour with Underground and Arena Floor,” and that we could have those spots. It started at 6:00 PM, so we only had four hours to get from the airport to our hotel and to the meeting point at Piazza Venezia.
We met our guide on the steps of the Piazza Venezia and he gave us all a portable pack with headphones so we could hear him as we walked to the Colosseum and saw many sites along the way including Capitoline Hill, Piazza del Campidoglio, and the Roman Forum.
When we got to the Colosseum, it was TOTALLY AMAZING. It is huge. In Roman times it was covered with marble, and there are giant holes all over in the stones where the marble used to be attached. All the marble was taken from the Colosseum to build St. Peter’s Cathedral later.
Because the Colosseum was closed to the public, there were hardly any people there at all. There were only 24 of us on our tour, and we were the only ones admitted into the Colosseum at our time slot. It was so cool going in there with it almost totally empty. We got to stand on the edge of the staging area and look across to the Emperor’s Box. The floor of the Colosseum was made of wood in the olden days, and it doesn’t exist anymore, so you can look down at all the holding rooms that are under the arena.
Then we got to go underground and see the holding rooms for the lions and tigers and bears (oh my!) and gladiators. There are literally hundreds of rooms down there. In one place, they have rebuilt an elevator like the ones that would have been used in olden times to get the animals from their holding rooms up to the arena floor. Our guide said the most dangerous job, other than fighting these raging, hungry animals, was being the one to lure the animals from their cage to the elevator. Not a job I would like to have had.
Our guide also said there was once a “sea battle” at held at the Colosseum when they filled it up with water like a big swimming pool and had a bunch of ships fight it out. We got to see the room that was built to hold the ships. It was still there even thought it was only used once for that reason.
It is kind of spooky being at the Colosseum when it is so quiet and so empty. But it was REALLY cool! The next day, we took a bus tour of Rome that took us back to the Colosseum and it was MOBBED with people. There were literally hundreds and hundreds of people outside, and you could see that there were hundreds more inside. After that, I was so glad that we went at night with a small group because we got to ask the guide questions, and I think he took more time telling us awesome scary stories. It was also hot during the day, and when we went at night the temperature was nice and cool and way more comfortable.