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Colosseum Arena Floor & Vatican Afternoon Tour

  • Group Size:
    Group Size: Max 12
  • Language:
    Language: English
  • Duration:
    Duration: 6 hrs
  • Start:
    Start: 9:00 AM
  • Price:
    Price: From 199 €
  • Cancelation:
    Including: Skip the line tickets

Tour Overview

***For logistical reasons, this itinerary is currently unavailable.***

 

Meet your 5-star Rome expert at the Colosseum and prepare for a 3-hour exploration of the Colosseum with the coveted Arena Floor, Roman Forum, and Palatine Hill. After parting ways for lunch, reunite with us as we take you on another 3-hour journey through the Vatican Museums with major highlights including the Sistine Chapel, Raphael Rooms, St. Peter’s Basilica, and much more. All off-limits access or skip the line.


Tour Highlights

  • Colosseum
  • Arena Floor
  • Arch of Constantine
  • Roman Forum
  • Arch of Titus
  • Palatine Hill
  • Sistine Chapel
  • Belvedere Apollo
  • Laocoön and His Sons
  • Belvedere Torso
  • Gallery of the Tapestries
  • Gallery of Maps
  • Raphael Rooms
  • St. Peter’s Square
  • St. Peter’s Basilica
  • Michelangelo’s Pietà
  • Bernini’s Baldachin

What's included

  • Skip-the-line access to all sites
  • Expert English-speaking tour guide
  • Small groups of 12 or fewer
  • All tickets and reservations
  • Headsets to hear the guide clearly

What you’ll See Along the Way

Colosseum

Located in the heart of Piazza del Colosseo is the magnificent Colosseum or, as it was formerly known, The Flavian Amphitheater. The jaw-dropping 1st century arena was constructed under the rule of the Flavian Dynasty, hence its name, with construction initiated in 72 AD by Emperor Vespasian and completed in 80 AD by his son, Titus. The games and circuses, which included exotic animal hunts, naval battles, and gladiatorial combats, welcomed up to 55,000 spectators at a time. Visitors were divided into tier-level seating based on their social and political classes – VIPs like emperors and senators had lower level seats while slaves and women were reserved to the “nosebleeds”.

Arena Floor

At its peak, the arena was the focal point of a wide range of entertainment and shows in ancient Rome. A show day often began with an early dawn production featuring dwarves, fighting women and acrobats. Next, a barbaric hunt of wild beasts amused an overzealous crowd. By noon, the most ferocious of the shows featured brutal gladiatorial re-enactments, which represented Rome’s wars with Greece and offered extreme, high-octane, adrenaline-charged entertainment for the throngs of bloodthirsty spectators; it was the most popular form of diversion second only to chariot races at the Circus Maximus.

Arch of Constantine

The largest surviving triumphal arch of Ancient Rome is that of Constantine. The 4th century arch stands formidably between the Colosseum and Roman Forum along the triumphal route that Emperors and soldiers would take upon their victorious return from battle. It was erected in 315 BC to commemorate the Roman Emperor Constantine’s victory over Maxentius at the Battle of the Milvian Bridge in 312 BC. It is most unique as it was made up of recycled 1st and 2nd century sculptures from Imperial Rome, most notably the eight white Luna marble medallions which were taken from the Arch of Marcus Aurelius.

Roman Forum

The Roman Forum was once the bustling city center for Ancient Romans, nestled between the Palatine and Capitoline hills. Religious basilicas and temples were scattered between political houses and markets and, fortunately for us, many of these structures still remain. The 2nd century Temple of Antoninus and Faustina and 3rd century Arch of Titus are two examples that have withstood the test of time almost flawlessly. While some ruins, like those of the Temple of Saturn, Basilica of Maxentius, Palace of Domitian, Temple of Vesta and Temple of Caesar, are not as complete, they still manage to offer an insightful glimpse at the spectacular monuments that once stood in their place.

Arch of Titus

In 66 AD Vespasian was sent to Israel to suppress a revolt against the Roman occupation but, when he became emperor he was called to return to Rome, so his son Titus took his place overseas. In 70 AD Titus captured Jerusalem and in 79 AD he himself became emperor. Upon his death in 81 AD, the Roman Senate deified him and his brother Domitian, the third member of the Flavian Dynasty, took over as emperor. Emperor Domitian had the Arch of Titus constructed in the same year, commemorating Vespasian and Titus’ victory in the Jewish War with triumphal depictions. Today, it is the oldest standing Roman Arch.

Palatine Hill

According to Roman mythology, the Palatine Hill was the birthplace of Romulus and Remus, the twin-brothers who were suckled by a she-wolf and later became the founders of Rome. Literary sources imply that the city Romulus founded was confined primarily to this hill, where Romulus dwelt in a hut in the south-west corner, which was continually restored in his honor. Embrace the mesmerizing panoramic views and architectural remnants of this once mystical site now overtaken with lush vegetation, and take a journey through the vestiges of history to imagine the splendor and vivacity of this ancient settlement.

Sistine Chapel

The Sistine Chapel was named after Pope Sixtus IV who had it restored between 1477 and 1480. Sixtus IV was responsible for commissioning the group of Renaissance masters that frescoed the sidewalls to depict the Life of Moses and the Life of Christ. This all-star team included artists like Sandro Botticelli, Pietro Perugino, Pinturicchio, Domenico Ghirlandaio and Cosimo Roselli. However, it was Pope Julius II, Sixtus IV’s nephew, who commissioned the great Michelangelo to paint the chapel ceiling. Michelangelo worked painstakingly from 1508 to 1512 perfecting his technique and creating what would become his most renowned masterpiece. It was not until 1535 - over 20 years later - that he returned upon the request of Pope Clement VII and Pope Paul III to paint the Last judgment on the altar wall.

Belvedere Apollo

The 2nd century sculpture of Apollo once belonged to the private collection of Cardinal Giuliano della Rovere. The statue was transferred to the Vatican in 1503, when Rovere was elected Pope and changed his title to Julius II, and it has remained as a highlight of the collection ever since. The marble statue, which is slightly less than less sized, depicts Apollo as having just released an arrow from his bow, allowing the static figure to evoke a sense of movement. Many consider the subject not only to be the finest example of Greek art, but also to set the benchmark for what an ideal man should look like.

Laocoön and His Sons

The stunning 1st century sculpture of Laocoon and his Sons was unearthed from Rome’s Esquiline Hill in 1506. It immediately captured the attention of artists, like Michelangelo, and art lovers, like Pope Julius II, who bought it and had it displayed in the Vatican Museum’s Courtyard of the Statues, where it remains today. The nearly life-sized marble work depicts Trojan priest Laocoon and his two sons, Antiphantes and Thymbraeus, being attacked by sea serpents. The sculpture, made in collaboration by Greek sculptors Agesander, Athenodoros, and Polydorus, is widely respected for its advanced approach to counter balancing and distribution of weight amongst the three figures, in addition to its anatomical precision.

Belvedere Torso

The 1st century marble sculpture of a headless, armless, and legless man, brought to the Vatican in 1523 by Pope Clement VII, sits in the center of the Room of the Muses. While the 2nd century sculpted women that line the border of the room are said to be the true muses, the Belvedere Torso has inspired many great artists throughout the centuries. In fact, Michelangelo himself based many figures of his Sistine Chapel ceiling frescoes on this very sculpture. He even went so far as to borrowing the Torso and keeping it in his personal studio where he spent countless hours admiring the figure, making sketches, and pondering its astonishingly accurate anatomy.

Gallery of the Tapestries

The magnificent Gallery of the Tapestries runs 75 meters long and boasts a stunning vaulted ceiling, painted in 1789, that showcases the impressive “trompe l'oeil” style. Literally translating to “deceive the eye” in French, the style is named after its illusory technique to paint things so realistically that they appear to be three-dimensional. So, while the ceiling appears to be textured, it is only paint. The massive tapestries that line the walls were made in Brussels by Pieter Van Aelst’s School, but were based on drawings by students of Raphael. They were commissioned by Pope Clement VII to adorn the walls of the Sistine Chapel, where they remained from 1531 to 1838

Gallery of Maps

The 120-meter-long Gallery of Maps appears to glisten and sparkle as light beams shine in through the windows onto its golden interior. 40 frescoed maps adorn the walls, hence the name, representing the Italian regions and Papal properties that existed during the papacy of Gregory XIII from 1572 to 1585. A masterful and highly advanced geographer of the time, Ignazio Danti, designed the topographical maps, which would be painted into the plaster of the gallery walls between 1580 and 1585. Considering the time in which they were made (before airplanes, drones, and satellites) it is quite impressive, indeed, that the maps are said to be about 80% accurate.

Raphael Rooms

On the third floor of the Papal apartments, overlooking the southern end of the Belvedere Courtyard, the Raphael Rooms, or “stanze”, can be found. In 1508 Pope Julius II, the pope responsible for commissioning Michelangelo to paint the Sistine Chapel ceiling, commissioned Raphael Sanzio and his studio to fresco the walls of his papal apartment. Julius died in 1513, leaving Pope Leo X to continue the program. Of the four rooms, Raphael physically contributed to the frescoes of the Room of Heliodorus, the Room of the Signatura, and the Room of the Fire in the Borgo, while his assistants were left to finish the Hall of Constantine after Raphael’s death in 1520.

St. Peter’s Square

St Peter’s Square spans an impressive 320 meters long and 240 meters wide, giving it the capacity to host more than 250,000 people at a time. Famous Italian artist Gian Lorenzo Bernini headed its construction from 1656 to 1667 by commission of Pope Alexander XII. 284 massive white columns, divided into 4 rows, flank the square boasting 140 statues of saints on top that overlook the plaza from nearly every direction. At its center, an Ancient Egyptian obelisk stands at nearly 25 meters high with stunning fountains on either side. From above, the piazza resembles the shape of a keyhole, which makes reference to the keys handed to Peter by Christ: the Key to the Church and the Key to Heaven.

St. Peter’s Basilica

Italy’s largest, richest, and holiest church rests on a plot where an earlier 4th century basilica once stood. In the mid 15th century, a plan was set to replace Constantine’s 349 AD church with a bigger, better version. After 120 years of construction, St Peter’s Basilica was completed in 1626. Its lavish interior contains masterful works of art such as Michelangelo’s iconic “La Pietà” sculpture and Gian Lorenzo Bernini’s bronze Baldachin, which towers over the high altar beneath the basilica’s dome. The dome, designed in part by Michelangelo, reaches an impressive height of 119 meters and can be reached by scaling 551 steps.

Michelangelo's Pietà

Michelangelo’s hauntingly beautiful marble depiction of “La Pietà” is indeed one of the most iconic and recognizable images in Catholicism. His chiseled masterpiece features the post-crucifixion body of Christ resting lifelessly across his mother’s lap. Layers of fabric drape over Mary as she mourns the death of her only child. When Michelangelo was questioned about his decision to make Mary look so young (far too young to be the mother of a 30 year old man), he explained that her complexion remained youthful due to her purity in mind, body, and spirit. Michelangelo was said to have considered this to be his life’s greatest work. In fact, he was so proud of it that he even carved his name across Mary’s sash, ensuring that no one else would ever receive credit for it.

Bernini's Baldachin

The 95-foot-tall bronze Baldachin stands directly beneath Michelangelo’s cupola at the church’s main altar, marking St Peter’s Tomb below. Baroque artist Gian Lorenzo Bernini was only 25 years old when Pope Urban VIII called upon him to design the massive canopy. From 1624 to 1633 Bernini depended on both sculptural and architectural skills to realize the masterpiece that we see today. Sturdy marble platforms boast four spiraling bronze pillars that corkscrew upwards and support an elaborate canopy of wood gilded in bronze. After its inauguration in 1633, Bernini was commissioned to take on other works for the church, including the design for St Peter’s Square.

Tour Summary Get in the Know

Head Back to Ancient Rome the Colosseum & Roman Forum

There’s no better place to begin your full-day adventure of Rome than where it all began – at the Colosseum! Let this Ancient Roman amphitheater dazzle and amaze you with its sheer size, rich history, and truly majestic presence as you walk in the footsteps of emperors, senators, and gladiators… directly onto the Arena Floor.

Stand in the tiers where more than 55,000 spectators once fled to watch the famous “circuses” and gladiatorial combats while your official guide debunks myths from legends. Get insider knowledge about the Flavian Dynasty and the reason they chose to build the Colosseum on this very spot. Discuss the underground hypogeum, with its advanced trap doors and pulley systems, and the ancient “retractable roof” that once covered the crowds on hot summer days – some of the most remarkable examples of Ancient Roman engineering.

Then venture past the Arch of Constantine and through the gates to the Roman Forum. Explore the vast area of the Palatine Hill that was once covered by the Palace of Emperor Domitian, with remnants of heated mosaic floors and courtyards to admire. Stand before the remarkably preserved Arches of Titus and Septimius Severus and the imposing Basilica of Maxentius and Temple of Antoninus and Faustina. Translate the Latin inscription at the Temple of Julius Caesar and find out how the Vestal Virgins lived and tended to the Temple of Vesta. See a full list of sights visited below.

See the Treasures of the Vatican Museums with a Rome Expert

After a break for lunch, rest your feet at the What a Life Tours office, located just steps away from the Vatican’s doors. Get the best stories and anecdotes from your charismatic guide. Our team is comprised of the most experienced and highly rated guides in Rome, so we can confidently guarantee an enlightening experience for you and your travel partners. Discover hidden details and insider secrets as you make your way through the vast collection of the museums in the Gallery of the Maps, Gallery of the Tapestries, and Gallery of the Candelabra.

Take a breath of fresh air in the Courtyard of Statues and Pinecone Courtyard. Marvel at ancient gems in the Greek Cross Hall and the Round Room. And, of course, take some time to admire the top Vatican highlights, such as Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel ceiling and the Raphael Rooms.

Best of the Vatican the Sistine Chapel, Raphael Rooms & St. Peter’s Basilica

Stand in awe of the finest examples of High Renaissance art in the Sistine Chapel and Raphael Rooms. Make your way through the four fully frescoed rooms of Raphael Sanzio, examining the intricately painted walls from every angle. Then turn your head upwards to admire Michelangelo’s 16th century Sistine Chapel ceiling frescoes, considered to be the pinnacle of all western art, and ponder its symbolic themes. Let your cicerone transport you back in time to paint a bigger picture, where you can discover the relations and rivalries between these contemporaries who realized these, their greatest works, simultaneously. Find out how Michelangelo was forced against his will to complete his ceiling frescos by a persistent pope, and hear stories of Raphael sneaking into the Sistine Chapel and copying his technique.

A Vatican visit simply would not be complete without a thorough look at Rome’s shining gem, St Peter’s Basilica. Experience beauty and grandiosity that it difficult to put into words between the towering marble walls that support St Peter’s iconic dome. Light beams in through windows illuminating enormous walls of mosaic and golden trim that line the church. Marvel at Michelangelo’s iconic sculpture of “La Pietà” and find out why he broke into the church and carved his name across Mary’s sash. Stand at the high altar and get an up-close look at Bernini’s stunning bronze Baldachin before making your way to admire his largest contribution to Rome: St Peter’s Square. Stand in the footsteps of saints, martyrs, and pontiffs while you take in the beauty of the colonnades, sculptures, and fountains that adorn the plaza. Then, take a break for lunch and meet back with us at the Colosseum!

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REVIEWS

Vatican & Colosseum Combo

What our Customers say...

Fantastic!

Mario toured us through the Vatican and the Colosseum and was amazing. He is highly knowledgeable and tailored his tour for his audience perfectly. He was funny and informed and knew how to time everything, highly engaging. We would recommend him for sure!”

AMAZING - Thanks Anna

Anna was our guide and she was very knowledgeable, entertaining and enjoyable to listen to. She keep our interest and informed us about the little things that normally would be missed on a tour. Other tour companies should take note of What A Life Tours is doing and use it as a model of how their tours should be.”

Beyond expectations!

We could not be more pleased - both guides were above and beyond our expectations. When we arrived, we were greeted and promptly fed breakfast & coffee. Everyone was highly organized and very pleasant. We first toured the Vatican with Elaine and then the Colosseum with Vincenzo in the afternoon. Both guides were extremely engaging when giving the tours. They shared such a wealth of knowledge about the Vatican & Colosseum and we left each tour highly satisfied. We highly recommend anyone going to Rome to book a tour with this company. It was very beneficial to wake up early and see the Vatican before the crowds.”

Early Morning Vatican and Afternoon Colosseum

Both Angela (Vatican and Sistine Chapel) and Mario (Colosseum) were amazingly interesting, knowledgeable and professional. A big thank you for not leaving us behind for the early more beat the crowds tour when we got lost and arrived late. Everybody from the company was exceptional. Thanks for a great couple of days in Rome!”

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