WANDER ROMAN WONDERS
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.