As we approached the Vittorio Emmanuele monument in Piazza Venezia we came across some sort of public ceremony in progress. Camera crews were in attendance, soldiers were standing to attention and war veterans were on parade with their medals. My parents had come across a similar occasion on a recent trip to Amsterdam and by hanging around, had been rewarded with a glimpse of Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands greeting a visiting Head of State.
We never did find out what was going on but eventually we moved on to climb the steps to the Capitoline Museum and were rewarded with a fabulous view over the Forum, with poppies and spring flowers blooming among the Roman ruins.
You should be warned, that you are now moving into tourist-trap-land and should be well stocked up with snacks, drinks and anything else you might need. From this point on you will find mainly overpriced drink and souvenir stands which I discovered to my cost when I spent €3.50 on a bottle of electric blue Powerade for my son, to revive his flagging energy levels.
We skirted round the Forum, descending to the Via dei Fiori Impiriali which leads to the Colisseum. It was here that I started to feel as if I was being swept along by a crowd on their way to the big game of the season, or perhaps to a major gladiatorial contest at the local stadium. Everyone was heading one way, intent on ticking off one of the must-sees for every visitor to Rome.
Luckily we remembered the guidebook tip to buy our tickets at the Forum ticket office along the way, where the queue was much shorter than that at the Colisseum itself. A ticket cost €11 and gave combined entry to the Colisseum, Forum and Palatine – children and seniors were free, so we only had to pay for one ticket.
At the Colisseum itself the queues for tickets stretched into the distance, but as we had ours we only had to queue to pass through security. I paid €4 for an audio-guide but although the commentary was interesting, the map to locate where to press each button was confusing and there were no signs at each spot to guide you. I wished I hadn’t bothered, although I think a real guide would have enhanced the visit.
By this time my son felt he’d had enough of the crowds and queues and opted out of the Colisseum experience, deciding instead to sit on a fallen column in the shade and read his book. Eventually he revived sufficiently to climb to the first floor from where we got a great view not only into the arena but out towards the Arch of Constantine and the Palatine.
After that we wandered back through the Forum which was pleasant but we had no energy left to look at anything in detail, so we treated it like a pleasant stroll in the park.
My recommendation, especially to those of you travelling with children, is to make the Colisseum your first stop of the day before the crowds build up and take a taxi or bus to get there early. I’d hate to think what it’s like there in the heat of summer.