Visiting the Colosseum
A Short Introduction
The Colosseum is one of the most iconic symbols of Rome, likely the most recognisable monument in Italy. The Colosseum is visited by more than 6 million people a year, a number comparable to that of the British Museum in London or the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. In Italy, to make a comparison, the buried city of Pompeii does about 2-3 million visits per year. The Vatican Museums sold 5.8 million tickets in 2015.
Reservation requests have increased much in the past years, especially after the release, in 2001, of the movie The Gladiator with Russell Crowe, directed by Ridley Scott. Before then, it was still possible to visit the Colosseum without paying an entry fee. It seems incredible today, but you could just simply walk in at your pleasure!
Tour Operators in Rome
Tour operators have, since then, been designing all kind of itineraries and tours of the Colosseum, often including the nearby Roman Forum and Palatine Hill. For this reason, finding Colosseum tickets have become increasingly difficult to find. Also, there are now many kind of tickets you need in order to see different areas of the Archaeological park of the Colosseum. Keep reading to find out all the options you have to explore the Colosseum and its many sections.
The Archaeological Area of the Colosseum
The Archaeological Park of the Colosseum comprises the Colosseum (Flavian Amphitheater), Roman Forum, Palatine Hill, Meta Sudans and Nero's Palace (Domus Aurea). This kind of partition has less to do with tourism than archaeology.
Some areas are free to walk through, some are not - and you need a different kind of ticket and reservation to enter. So it is good to know what you want to do, or at least to have a vague idea. You would need one or another ticket to visit different areas.
The scientific care and supervision of the Flavian amphitheater is responsibility of the The Ministry of Cultural Heritage, Activities and Tourism (Ministero dei Beni e delle attività culturali e del turismo.) Together with Roman Forum and Palatine Hill, the Colosseum form one of the largest and richest archeological areas in the world. But while the administration of the Colosseum is directly depending on the Italian Ministry for Cultural Heritage and Activities and for Tourism, the sales of Colosseum tickets and of the other related sites has been outsourced to a private company (Coopculture) that establishes prices, availability, allotment of time slots to tour operators; and all that is related to sales.
The ministry manages all things related to the Colosseum through a dedicated office called Soprintendenza Archeologica Special. However, the sale of the tickets and everything that is connected to it has been exclusively assigned to a private company called Coopculture since 1997. The contract has expired in 2011 and the law requires a new public and transparent call for proposals. But because of the political instability, or maybe out of negligence, none of the ministries who have since then taken the seat, has initiated a new competition to assign the job. Thus Coopculture has continued to operate, and still operates, within a sort of regimen of extension that, while legally impeccable, could be detrimental for the good functioning of a system as complex as the one comprising the Colosseum and the archeological area of the Palatine Hill and Roman Forum. The lack of transparency and — tour operators and tour guides complain — efficiency in the management of the Colosseum has raised discontent and several requests of clarification, even by members of the Italian parliament.