Are you in Rome? Would you like to know what to and which are the best restaurants near the Colosseum? If so, keep reading this article.

A little bit of history: the Colosseum

The site chosen was a flat area on the floor of a low valley between the Caelian, Esquiline and Palatine Hills, through which a canalized stream ran. Gladiatorial schools and other support buildings were constructed nearby within the former grounds of the Domus Aurea. In contrast to many other amphitheaters, which were located on the outskirts of a city, the Colosseum was constructed in the city center; in effect, placing it both symbolically and precisely at the heart of Rome.

Construction of the Colosseum began under the rule of Vespasian in around 70–72 AD (73-75 AD according to some sources)The Colosseum had been completed up to the third story by the time of Vespasian’s death in 79. The top-level was finished by his son, Titus, in 80, and the inaugural games were held in A.D. 80 or 81. Dio Cassius recounts that over 9,000 wild animals were killed during the inaugural games of the amphitheater. Commemorative coinage was issued celebrating the inauguration. The building was remodeled further under Vespasian’s younger son, the newly designated Emperor Domitian, who constructed the hypogeum, a series of underground tunnels used to house animals and slaves. He also added a gallery to the top of the Colosseum to increase its seating capacity.

In 217, the Colosseum was badly damaged by a major fire (caused by lightning, according to Dio Cassius) which destroyed the wooden upper levels of the amphitheater’s interior. It was not fully repaired until about 240 and underwent further repairs in 250 or 252 and again in 320. Gladiatorial fights are last mentioned around 435. An inscription records the restoration of various parts of the Colosseum under Theodosius II and Valentinian III (reigned 425–455), possibly to repair damage caused by a major earthquake in 443; more work followed in 484 and 508. The arena continued to be used for contests well into the 6th century. Animal hunts continued until at least 523, when Anicius Maximus celebrated his consulship with some venationes, criticized by King Theodoric the Great for their high cost.

The Colosseum underwent several radical changes of use during the medieval period. By the late 6th century a small chapel had been built into the structure of the amphitheater, though this apparently did not confer any particular religious significance on the building as a whole. The arena was converted into a cemetery. The numerous vaulted spaces in the arcades under the seating were converted into housing and workshops, and are recorded as still being rented out as late as the 12th century. Around 1200 the Frangipani family took over the Colosseum and fortified it, apparently using it as a castle.

During the 16th and 17th century, Church officials sought a productive role for the Colosseum. Pope Sixtus V (1585–1590) planned to turn the building into a wool factory to provide employment for Rome’s prostitutes, though this proposal fell through with his premature death. In 1671 Cardinal Altieri authorized its use for bullfights; a public outcry caused the idea to be hastily abandoned.

In 1749, Pope Benedict XIV endorsed the view that the Colosseum was a sacred site where early Christians had been martyred. He forbade the use of the Colosseum as a quarry and consecrated the building to the Passion of Christ and installed Stations of the Cross, declaring it sanctified by the blood of the Christian martyrs who perished there. However, there is no historical evidence to support Benedict’s claim, nor is there even any evidence that anyone prior to the 16th century suggested this might be the case; the Catholic Encyclopedia concludes that there are no historical grounds for the supposition, other than the reasonably plausible conjecture that some of the many martyrs may well have been.

The Colosseum is today one of Rome’s most popular tourist attractions, receiving millions of visitors annually.  In recent years the Colosseum has become a symbol of the international campaign against capital punishment, which was abolished in Italy in 1948. Several anti-death penalty demonstrations took place in front of the Colosseum in 2000. Since that time, as a gesture against the death penalty, the local authorities of Rome change the color of the Colosseum’s night time illumination from white to gold whenever a person condemned to the death penalty anywhere in the world gets their sentence commuted or is released, or if a jurisdiction abolishes the death penalty. Most recently, the Colosseum was illuminated in gold in November 2012 following the abolishment of capital punishment in the American state of Connecticut on April 2012.

Because of the ruined state of the interior, it is impractical to use the Colosseum to host large events; only a few hundred spectators can be accommodated in temporary seating. However, much larger concerts have been held just outside, using the Colosseum as a backdrop. Performers who have played at the Colosseum in recent years have included Ray Charles (May 2002), Paul McCartney (May 2003), Elton John (September 2005), and Billy Joel (July 2006).

When to go

The best period to visit the Colosseum is, in my opinion, spring (from April to the end of May), the reason is that in summer is way too crowded and busy and since you can visit the inside of the amphitheater, it’s better to do it without thousands of people around, even though for security reason they don’t let more than 3000 people in at the same time. Spring is the best period even because the Colosseum is one of the highlights in Rome that you should see both with the daylight than at night, so if you come in winter maybe it’s too cold to go for a walk at midnight, but spring has the perfect temperature to do it.

The Colosseum is opened every day from 8.30 am till 4:30 pm in winter and from 8:30 am till 7 pm in summer.

What and where to eat: restaurants near Colosseum

This is one of the most suggestive and romantic areas of Rome, so my advice is, at least once, to have dinner here, even if probably it will cost a little bit more than other areas. There are three amazing restaurants (and not too expensive), just few steps from the Colosseum: Le Terme del Colosseo (Via del Cardello 13), where you can have a lovely dinner with entertainment, because sometimes they have singers or bands playing music at dinner time; Hostaria Isidoro al Colosseo (Via di San Giovanni in Laterano 59/A), one of the most famous restaurant in Rome where you can taste the real roman culinary  tradition in all the recipes; Naumachia (Via Celimontana 7), a very nice place famous for their pizza and their antipasti (you should try the supplì or the eggplants!).

As always, since you’re going to be in the most famous country in the world for gelato and caffè, I have advice even for some bars and gelaterie.

Oppio Caffè (Via delle Terme di Tito 72) is one of the best places around the Colosseum for aperitif, and they have some tables outside just in front of the Colosseum itself, so you even have an amazing view; please always remember that when you sit outside, especially in front of monuments or big squares, you may pay an extra; the two best gelaterie of the district are: La Dolce Vita (Via Cavour 306), try their wild fruits and yogurt and Cremeria Don Pepe (Via di San Giovanni in Laterano 40).

How to reach it

Getting to the Colosseum is very easy, you can arrive here with the subway (the B line, the blue line), or by bus: 75, 81, 673, 175, 204.

Contact us

Any inquiry about this article? Write to Federica at love@gourmetaly.com. Federica is a local foodie and insider, she was born in Rome and studied foreign languages. Meet Federica and join one of our events.