The Colosseum Underground Reopens (Again)

Colosseum underground reopen for Easter
The hypogeum of the Colosseum reopens this Saturday, April 7th. After being closed for nearly six months due to flooding, it's practically an Easter miracle!

(And yes, officials announced today that it will be open in two days. Welcome to Rome).

If you didn't even know that the Colosseum underground was closed, I don't blame you. Lots of tour operators were still selling the underground as if it was. But rest assured: It was.

For more on the Colosseum underground, check out my previous posts. This post looks at the three major ways you can visit the Colosseum underground (all are tours). I also have a guide to how to book the Colosseum underground and a post highlighting what the Colosseum underground is really like.

Happy underground-ing, and Buona Pasqua!

Continue Reading

The Colosseum Underground, Now Open Through December

Colosseum underground open thru December

The Colosseum has just announced—already!—that it's keeping the underground and third tier open through December.

That's particularly surprising news (in a good way), since some of us, myself included, thought they'd close the underground over the winter, as they did last year. Or close the areas temporarily while they started restoration work. But no… which is good news for all of those excited to see the hypogeum and third level!

[Latest update, April 5 2012: After being closed due to floods, Colosseum officials just announced that the underground will reopen this Saturday, April 7. Update, Nov. 2011: I spoke too soon. Please see this Nov. 27 post about the closure of the Colosseum underground from Nov. 27 2011 for a full update.]

The new details:

From Oct. 30-Dec. 31, English tours will run at 9:40am, 12:40pm, 1pm, and 2:20pm. If you go with a tour with an official Colosseum guide (a 2-hour tour that includes only the Colosseum, with the underground and third level), the price is €21.50, including the €1.50 booking fee. The maximum group size for each tour is 25 people. Call +39 06 39967700 to book; here's a Q&A on how to book with the Colosseum and what the underground tour includes.

Since the Colosseum guides can be quite dry, remember that you also have other options, including underground Colosseum tours with livelier guides from Walks of Italy or a tour with Dark Rome.

Any questions? Ask away in the comments!    

You might also like:

Where to Eat in Rome's Most Touristy Areas (Colosseum Included)

Twelve of My Favorite Churches in Rome

On Fridays Through Fall, See the Vatican Under the Stars

Continue Reading

Confirmed: The Colosseum Underground and Third Tier Are Open Through October

Update, October 2011: The Colosseum has just announced that the underground and third level will remain open through… Dec. 31!

After weeks of wondering whether the Colosseum underground and third level would be open in October, good news: They are. Colosseum management Pierreci just confirmed the hypogeum and third tier opening through the month.

As before, these areas are open only to those on specified tours, and must be booked in advance. (The official, Colosseum-run tour, which is one of several options that I explain in the next link, is about an hour long. It includes only these new areas, although the guide will of course be talking about the Colosseum in general, and you'll be left in the Colosseum itself afterwards to explore the rest on your own). Here is more information on the different tours available of the Colosseum underground; here are some photos of what to expect of the Colosseum's underground and top tier.

I'll be updating this post with more information as it comes in—such as whether the areas will be open in November—so keep checking back here.

 

Continue Reading

Confirmed: The Colosseum’s Underground Is Open Through September

Colosseum underground and third level now open thru September

Hot off the press: The Colosseum's underground and third levels will be open… through September!

After that, though, there's not only no confirmation that those newly-restored areas will be open — but it seems likely they might close, at least temporarily. That's because September is when Rome plans to start a $35 million restoration (paid for by the Tod's shoe company!), and with work going on, who knows what will be open.

Then again, it's Italy, so who knows if the restoration will really begin in September, either.

For more information, check out my post on the three best ways to see and to book the Colosseum's underground; what the new areas of the Colosseum look like; and a step-by-step guide to booking the Colosseum through the Pierreci phone number.

Continue Reading

The Colosseum’s Underground: More Good News

Underground of the Colosseum, now open through July

Everyone’s still excited about the opening (and then re-opening) of the Colosseum’s hypogeum and third levels. Now, there’s more news. And it’s especially exciting for travelers hoping to get into the underground this summer.

First, Colosseum has confirmed that it’ll be running tours of those newly-opened areas through July, rather than ending in June, as previously announced.* And, although it’s not confirmed, rumor has it that the hypogeum and third levels will proooobably also be open through October.

*Addendum, April 5: After being closed due to floods, Colosseum officials just announced that the underground will reopen this Saturday, April 7.

*Addendum, Oct. 20: The Colosseum hypogeum and third tier will be open through December.

*Addendum, Sep. 25: The Colosseum underground will be open through the end of October.

Second, before, the Colosseum only was allowing access to the hypogeum and third level via its own tours, given by official Colosseum guides. (Even tour agencies selling the Colosseum underground hand their clients over to official Colosseum guides for the underground part of the tour). But that’s changed. Now, one agency, Walks of Italy, is using its own guides for the hypogeum and third level on the VIP Colosseum underground tour. And, although I’m obviously a bit biased (full disclosure: I used to work for these guys), I think this is an alternative to consider.

Why? Well, even though the official Colosseum guides know their stuff, they can also be a bit, erm, dry. (Your spiel would start to sound dull, too, if you’d been repeating it five times a day for the past 10 years). And not all of them speak that great of English.

So, from what I can see, there are now three main ways to get into the Colosseum’s underground.

Here they are:

Colosseum tour only, with a Colosseum guide. I outlined how to book this tour in an earlier post about booking the Colosseum’s underground. The cheapest way is to book by phone, at least if you have Skype’s Skype-to-phone set up or a great long-distance plan. Otherwise, you can book by using a website like Omniticket, but these sites charge a premium for the convenience. (And all they’re selling you is the official Colosseum tour that you’d get by calling Pierreci).

The facts: Costs €21.50 (if you book directly over the phone). Takes about 1 hour. Only covers the Colosseum and its underground. You use an official Colosseum guide (not always a good thing). Maximum group size is 25.

The complete ancient city tour, but where you’re handed over to a Colosseum guide. This option would be Dark Rome’s Colosseum underground, forum and Palatine tour. They’re one of the only agencies I can see that offers access to the underground as part of a bigger ancient city tour (i.e., not just the Colosseum), but they don’t do the Colosseum underground part with their own guides.

The facts: Costs €92. Takes 3.5 hours. Includes the Colosseum and its underground, along with forum and Palatine. For the Colosseum part of the tour, you’re handed over to an official Colosseum guide; for the rest of it, you use a Dark Rome guide. Maximum group size is 10; for the Colosseum part, it’s 25 (since you’re put onto the bigger group).

The complete ancient city tour, with your own guide throughout. So far, only offered by Walks of Italy on its VIP Colosseum Underground Tour with Roman Forum & Palatine Hill tour.

The facts: Costs €79. Takes 3 hours 15 minutes. Includes the Colosseum and its underground, along with the forum and Palatine. For the Colosseum part of the tour, you get to keep your own Walks of Italy guide. Maximum group size is 12, throughout the whole tour (since you get to keep your guide).

Options galore!

You might also like:

The New Areas of the Colosseum: What They’re Really Like

(Fun!) Books for Readin’ Up on Rome

Rome’s Best Archaeological Museum: Have You Been?

 

Continue Reading

The Colosseum’s Hypogeum: An Update

Hypogeum of Colosseum Lots of people are still asking (and Googling) about the underground level of the Colosseum, which I blogged about when it first opened back in October (including this Q&A on how to book, and this story on what it's really like).

Here's the bad news: As they said when they first opened the hypogeum, third level, and Porta Libitina, the tours ended on Nov. 30.

Here's the good news: I'm still fairly certain that there's no way they could have undertaken a €1 million restoration to those areas without planning on opening them ever again.

So if you're planning a spring or summer 2011 trip to Rome, hang tight. As anyone who's been to Italy once knows, that a reopening date hasn't been announced yet has absolutely no bearing on whether it will happen. And my guess is that, once the tourist season kicks back up, it will.

Stay tuned.

March 2011, update to the update: This theory turned out to be… true! As of Monday, March 14, the Colosseum is once again taking reservations for the arena, hypogeum and third level. Since some things have changed, make sure to check out the newest update by clicking the link above.

June 2011, update to the updated update: The Colosseum's now confirmed open through July, and you no longer need to use an official guide to get in.

October 2011, even more updates: The Colosseum underground is now open through December.

Want more tips for the very best of what to do and see in Rome? Check out The Revealed Rome Handbook: Tips and Tricks for Exploring the Eternal City, available for purchase on Amazon, below, or through my site here!


Continue Reading

Underground at the Colosseum: How Do You Get There?

DSC_0104_004 I've gotten a lot of messages asking more about how to access the subterranean and third levels of the Colosseum, which officially opened to the public today.

Well, I've been there, done that (I was actually lucky enough to be on the very first public tour of the newly-unveiled areas at 9:40am this morning!), so I'm happy to share!

Update, April 5 2012: After being closed due to floods, Colosseum officials just announced that the underground will reopen this Saturday, April 7.

Update, October 2011: The Colosseum underground and 3rd tier will be open until Dec. 31.

Update, September 2011: After months of keeping mum, officials finally have confirmed that the Colosseum underground will be open through October.

Update, July 2011: It's been confirmed that the Colosseum's underground is now open through September… but possibly no later! Click the link for info on the three major (and only) ways to get to the Colosseum underground. (The post below gives you info on how to book by taking a tour with the Colosseum directly — but that's not necessarily, or always, the best way).

Update, March 2011: The Colosseum's underground has reopened! Some things, including the exact price and the ability to pay in cash on the day of, have changed. Click the link for more info.

Why is this special? It's the first time since antiquity that the hypogeum and third levels have been officially, safely open to the public. (Actually, even better than that, since even in antiquity the hypogeum would not have been open to the public). And it's the first time the arena has been open to the public during the daytime.

Do I have to book in advance to see the hypogeum and third levels? Yes, you must book in advance. 

But why? Because the areas are archaeologically sensitive, they don't want the Colosseum's 19,000 or so daily visitors clambering around on their own. Instead, the Colosseum's official guides are taking groups to those areas, with a maximum of 25 people per group.

How do I book? The best (and, I think, so far only) way to book is to call Rome's cultural association, Pierreci, directly. Their phone number is +39 06 39967700. Websites might start cropping up soon, if they haven't already, offering to sell you these tickets online; they'll charge you a surcharge for this, so just call Pierreci instead. 

Do they speak English? Yes, they should. If you can't follow the rapid-fire Italian for your options through the automated system, press 0 the first time you're asked a question, 3 the second time. (Assuming, of course, you're an individual booking for a group tour). That should bring you to an operator. Once you speak to someone, if you just ask, "Parla inglese?", you should be able to communicate with them in English fine. They are, after all, offering English guided tours!

The first group on the Colosseum's third level

But I don't want to make an international call. That's expensive. Download Skype (www.skype.com). It's a free voice-over-internet program and takes thirty seconds to download. It's intuitive, it's easy, and you can call phones internationally for much less than what most phone cards would cost you. Plus, calling Skype to Skype is free.

How much is it? It costs €12 (the normal entrance price, which includes your entrance to the Forum and Palatine), plus €8 for the guided tour, plus a €1.50 reservation fee. You do not pay in advance.

What times are the tours? I don't know, and I'm not sure there's a regular schedule. But it seems like lots of tours in both Italian and English (perhaps other languages, too) are being given. The operator will give you a list of times that you can choose.

Should I book now, or wait till I get to Rome and have more of an idea of my schedule? Book now. Seriously, everyone and their mother will want to do this. You need to get a slot as soon as possible.

How long are they doing this for? So far, till November 30. But I can't imagine they won't continue it after that.

 So I have my reservation number, and I'm in Rome. Now what? When you go to the Colosseum, you'll see a long line on your right. Don't stand in it–that's for people without reservations. You also might see a long line on your left. Don't stand in that one, either, which is for big group tours. Instead, go down the middle. When a guard asks you for your ticket, say you have a reservation. He'll let you through to the ticket windows at the end. Get in the line for reservations ("prenotazioni"), which should be very, very short. At the window, present your reservation code. You're then given your ticket, plus a little sticker saying you're one of the chosen few for the tour. The meeting point is currently in front of the elevator, but that may change (like everything does!), so make sure to ask.

What if I have a RomaPass? If you tell the person at the reservation window that you already have a ticket to the Colosseum, you can pay just the reservation and tour fee and use your pass.

Can I use my ticket for something else? Yes. It's a normal, combined Colosseum ticket, so you can use it for entrance to the Forum and Palatine for the rest of the day and the following day (the deadline will be printed on your ticket).

What does the tour cover? The tour includes the hypogeum (subterranean area), arena, Porta Libitina, and third level.

How long is the tour? This morning, it took us an hour and a half to get through it all. I don't know if that's how long they'll all be.

Can I sightsee more around the Colosseum after the tour? The tour ends inside, so yes.

Is it worth it? Yes. It's incredible. And this is absolutely how the Colosseum is meant to be seen. Once you see the Colosseum from its almost-top, and peer up at the seating from where gladiators and animals would have waited for their turn, and walk through the gate where gladiators' dead bodies were taken out, you'll feel badly for those who "only" got to see the Colosseum's first and second levels.

Whew! I hope that covers everything, but let me know if I left anything out!

Worker unlocking the door for the third level of the Colosseum A guard allowing us up to the third level of the Colosseum.

Continue Reading