Wanderlust Travel Magazine (UK) - - Travel Secrets -

You know… The Colos­seum, Rome, Italy

The restora­tion work on Rome’s Colos­seum has re­vealed how the arena would have looked back in 80 AD – not that any­one re­quires a rea­son to see this icon, as its queues at­test. While tricks to beat the crowds do ex­ist (night vis­its or guided tours of the oth­er­wise off-lim­its ar­eas are good ideas), it re­ally is very busy…

But what about… El Jem, Tu­nisia

The Ro­mans built am­phithe­atres across the an­cient world. From France (Ar­les, Nimes) to Croa­tia (Pula), they stretched far and wide, though just a half-dozen still stand. Of these, Tu­nisia’s El Jem is per­haps the grand­est: a vast arena di­rectly mod­elled on Rome’s orig­i­nal but built some 150 years later to host glad­i­a­tor con­tests and char­iot races.

Back then, the am­phithe­atre’s stalls held some 50,000 spec­ta­tors – more than twice the cur­rent pop­u­la­tion of the city of El Jem – and to­day it makes for an in­con­gru­ous sight, tow­er­ing over the low-rise mod­ern build­ings that sur­round it. Yet as tourism trick­les back to Tu­nisia (the UK only dropped its travel ban last year), it can still be savoured in peace, as you stroll the arena floor imag­in­ing the roar of the crowd… and the lions.

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