Discover ancient Rome with behind-the-scenes access usually granted only to emperors. Italy with Us’ exclusive Colosseum, Dungeons and Ancient Rome tour allows you to fully experience the bucket-list sites as well as spots usually off limits to the public. In short, ancient Rome’s bouncers – the Praetorian Guards – have your name on the list.
Thanks to your engaging guide, you’ll watch ancient Rome rise from the ruins. Italy with Us’ guides are verbal Old Masters, painting with words (and scholars’ renderings) the missing columns and frescoed walls. You’ll envision the first-century BC ornate Basilica Julia, which housed the civil courts and shops. With some imagination, you just might be able to hear the latest gossip that would spread like wildfire in this bustling gathering spot.
Marvel at the nearby Senate House, relatively intact since it was converted into church and thus protected from looting during the Middle Ages. That’s when the forum (and Colosseum) became a sort of quarry, supplying precious materials for St. Peter’s Basilica and other churches. Don’t miss the triple triumphal Arch of Septimius Severus and the Arch of Titus. Long before press releases and Twitter, the Roman Empire bragged about its conquests in such marble arches.
The war spoils undoubtedly arrived at the next destination: Palantine Hill, ancient Rome’s most exclusive address and the home of the emperors. From what remains of their luxurious, hilltop palaces, your guide will fill in the blanks – for example, extrapolating that the marble ruin of gigantic pinkie toe was part of a 12-metres-tall statue! Wander also in the 16th century Farnese Gardens, which offers postcard views of the Roman Forum.
A final, must-see in the forum is the Basilica of Maxentius and Constantine with its towering concrete barrel vaults. The mind-boggling, fourth-century AD construction features honeycomb-like, octagonal ceiling coffers used to reduce the structure’s weight, an example of Roman architectural and engineering ingenuity.
Nowhere is that better displayed than at the Colosseum. Note the hallmark arches and similar barrel vaults that have kept this stadium standing for 2000 years. You’ll enter through one of the exits, the arched Porta Libitinaria. This was the exit door for the losers – aka corpses. Alive and kicking, head in and get the extraordinary opportunity to stand on the arena’s stage, just like a gladiator.
Next, descend below the stage to the dungeon, or backstage area, seen only by reservation. Dark, dank corridors are lined with pens that once held the lions, leopards, you name it, brought here from every corner of the Roman Empire. Check out a replica of one of some 60 lifts that hoisted the beasts and gladiators onto the stage through trap doors.