One of the modern wonders of the world is the Flavian Amphitheatre, also known as the Colosseum in Italy. Built around 2000 years ago, it’s estimated that around 65,000 spectators would attend shows here during the Roman Empire right through to the Middle Ages, when it was damaged by an earthquake.

The performances put on during the Roman Empire were nothing if not spectacular. Gladiators would fight battles to the death, and wild and exotic animals from all corners of the empire would be released into forest scenes made from real trees and bushes, either to be hunted or to chase prisoners who had been condemned. There is even evidence that the arena could be flooded to stage mock sea battles using real boats. Once the Roman Empire declined, the Colosseum was used as housing, workshops, a fort and a cemetery before eventually becoming a symbol of the power of Rome and a tourist attraction.

Buy a ticket online in advance to skip the queues and get the cheapest price. There are audioguides for the main arena, but you need to book a guided tour to go into the underground passages, dungeons and animal cages below the arena floor. This is well worth it to see “backstage” and understand the incredible engineering that went into providing such dazzling and brutal entertainment to the citizens of Rome.

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Read more on Rome below with flight options, current weather, maps, and activities to try while you are there.

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