The area around the world-famous Colosseum in Rome is not actually a neighbourhood. It extends into different parts of three rioni or city-centre districts: Campitelli, Ripa and Sant’Angelo. The tourist area around the Colosseum is a small part of the city nestled between Via di San Gregorio, Via del Fori Impreiali, the Circus Maximus and Via del Teatro di Mercello.
It is one of the central areas with the least residents and a great deal of heritage, which is why you’ll always find tourists there.
Clearly, the reason why people go there is to visit the world’s most famous amphitheatre. It was built during the reign of Emperor Vespasian (72 AD) and became the core of entertainment for the people of Rome. It was where fights between men and wild animals, naval battles and gladiator games were held. It could seat 50,000 people and, even though a large part of its façade has been lost, its size and classic elegance continue to impress visitors from around the world.
After you’ve seen the Colosseum, it’s worth going to the Roman Forum and taking a walk around the ruins. It will help you to imagine what the roads and buildings in the very heart of the Roman Empire would have been like. Decorative arches such as the Arch of Septimius Severus and the Arch of Titus are physical reminders of some of the era’s achievements. The Romans’ impressive building skills are very clear to see in the spectacular Basilica of Maxentius, the Circus Maximus and Trajan Market.
The elegance of Rome that came during the early modern period is also very evident in the area around the Colosseum. For example, Piazza del Campidoglio, which was redesigned by Michelangelo Buonarroti when Pope Paul III commissioned him to do the work. You will find the Capitoline Museums there. Their many incredibly interesting artefacts include the ‘Capitoline Wolf’, the animal that Roman mythology claims suckled Romulus and Remus, the founders of Rome.
The breathtaking Victor Emmanuel II Monument is right next to the square. When you see it, you will understand why its construction was so polemic at the time. Its impact on the surrounding area is clear to see. The people of Rome had no trouble mocking the huge white marble building and it has been given nicknames such as ‘the typewriter’ and ‘the wedding cake’.
Before you leave the very heart of ancient Rome, don’t forget to do one of the things that all visitors to the city must do: put your hand inside the Boca della Verità or Mouth of Truth. According to tradition, if you’re prone to lying, then this rather curious sculpture will bite off your hand. Fancy taking the risk?