The top two levels of the 52-meter (171-foot) high Colosseum, so far closed to the public, are scheduled to open for guided visits starting November 1.
The top level (the fifth) is the one with the best views over the Colosseum itself, as well as over the nearby Roman Forum and Palatine Hill, and the rest of Rome. In ancient Rome, the seats on the fifth level were assigned to the poorest class, the plebeians, because they were the farthest from the ‘show’. They watched the gladiators fight under an arcade with protected them from rain and sunlight, and often picnicked from there – the combats were an all-day affair, so people brought food.
The fourth level, also opening on November 1, was reserved for merchants and shopkeepers; groups of 25 people will be led up to both levels and will also walk along a hallway open to tourists for the first time, which is preserved as it originally was, plastered white with crown marks, brought to light by restoration work.
“It is an incredible sight, which visitors will not forget,” Italy’s Culture Minister, Dario Franceschini, said at the press preview for the opening of the fourth and fifth levels.
This completes the itinerary of the visit inside the Colosseum, which includes, among the openings in recent years, the underground area, where the gladiators got ready before fights and animals were kept.
The Roman emperor and his senators sat on marble benches on the first level of the Colosseum (the plebeians sat on wooden benches instead); imperial functionaries occupied the second level, and the middle-class was on the third.
The Colosseum is one of Italy’s most popular monuments, with approximately six million visitors a year; only the Pantheon, also in Rome, is said to get more visitors, estimated at about 7 million (entering for free, but that may change in the new year).