The top levels of Rome’s Colosseum haven’t been open to the public for 40 years.
With the Colosseum being one of the world’s busiest landmarks, Rome sees more than six million tourists each year flocking for the chance to circle the world’s largest amphitheater, where they try to imagine how it would have felt to watch gladiators battle lions for the amusement of Ancient Rome’s citizens. However for the last 40 years, the highest levels of the amphitheater—the nosebleeds, if you will—have been off limits.
Following a major restoration funded by fellow Italian cultural institution Tod’s, guests will now be able to also wander through the upper level, which, at 130 feet above the pit, has spectacular views not only of the arena below but the city outside, including the Forum, Arch of Constantine, and Palatine Hill in the distance. Tod’s CEO Diego Della Valle told Condé Nast Traveler last January in an extensive interview that once he heard the Colosseum was looking for a sponsor, he felt as an Italian company that he had no choice but to sign up.
Unfortunately, the top seats are no longer the cheap option they once were. The price of visiting the new levels will be an additional €9 ($10.50) on top of the regular entrance fee of €12 ($14) and only possible in small, pre-reserved groups of 25.
The five-year restoration has involved extensive cleaning, surface mapping, grouting, and the removal of old, failing parts—imagine fixing up a New York City apartment, except it’s the size of a stadium. The project has been a gift to historians as well as tourists, with the work continually revealing previously hidden stories. While it was known, for example, that the powerful Frangipani family used the Colosseum as a fortress during the medieval period, the recent work has uncovered the remnants of a raised, wooden walkway, assumed to be a lookout for the family’s soldiers on guard for attacks from rival dynasties. By the 1600s, the Italian heritage site was in a sorry state, over-run by nature—so much so that a new exhibition based on the renovation will reveal how a micro-climate was created within the distinctive arches, enabling more than 400 species of plants to blossom in an untamed botanical garden.